How to Make a Plaster Hat–Part I: The Plaster base

People often ask me how I got started making hats. The answer usually surprises people: my first hats were made out of plaster. Why on earth would you want a plaster hat you may ask? Why for Halloween of course! Rather than dress up as something for Halloween, I approach costuming as a form of wearable art. Plaster hats are sculpture for your head! As I make my costume for this year, I will break down the steps for you so you too enjoy the fun of plaster hats.

plaster infused cloth

There are two basic parts to making a plaster hat: making the plaster base, and decorating and embellishing. Today I will cover the first step.

The base of a plaster hat is essentially a plaster mold of your head.

You will need:

1. Plaster infused cloth. You can get this at Micheal’s or other craft stores.
2. Vaseline
3. Scissors
4. swim cap
5. Bucket of warm water
6. drop cloth or lots of newspaper

Scissors and swim cap after being used for plaster hats

Optional:

7. plastic wrap
8. a friend
Make sure the scissors and swim cap are ones that you don’t particularly care about. Once something is used for plaster it generally isn’t good for anything else. This is an incredibly messy project, hence the drop cloth. You’ll want to be wearing old clothes for this.

First, lay down your drop cloth, or cover your work space in newspaper. Fill the bucket with warm water. Cut the plaster infused cloth into strips about 2-4 inches wide. I like to have a variety of widths and sizes cut as different sizes are useful. You can cut more as you work, but be careful not to get the roll of plaster wet. Put on the swim cap, trying to cover as much of your hair as possible. If you can’t cover all of your hair, you can tape a sheet of plastic wrap to the end of the swim cap to cover the rest of it. Liberally smear Vaseline in your eyebrows, along the edge of the swim cap, and anywhere there is hair showing. Its gross, but it will keep you from having to yank the hair out when you take the mold off.

Swim cap with plastic wrap

Dip the plaster strips in the warm water and then lay them across your head, rubbing them until the little holes disappear. You can do this yourself, but it is much easier to have a friend do it for you, since they can see all of your head. You want to cover enough of your head to make a base for your hat. You could probably just do a plaster headband if you wanted to, although I have never tried that. You want to make sure you don’t cover so much of your head that you can’t get it off though. For this one, I wanted the plaster to go down all the way under my brow ridge, so I was careful not to bring the plaster down over the curve of my skull in the back. Two to three layers of plaster strips should be enough, although you may want to reinforce the edges a bit. Too many layers will make your hat extremely heavy. Keep in mind that you may be adding more plaster when you get to the decorating stage.

head covered in plaster

Now you get to sit patiently and wait for it to dry. Plaster will warm up as it hardens. Tapping the hat periodically will give you a sense of how hard it is, plus it will sound neat. You do not need to wait for it to dry completely, but you want to make sure it is hard enough that it won’t get misshapen when you pull it off. I usually give it 10-15 minutes. When you are ready to pull it off, take some time to wiggle your head muscles and pull gently on the skin along the edge of the hat. This will loosen it for you. Then gently pull the hat off, and set it somewhere safe to dry overnight. Congratulations! You know have a plaster mold of your head!

Finished plaster base
Plaster mold of my head

The plaster mold will have the wrinkles of the swim cap. Not to worry! We can smooth those out as part of the decoration and embellishment process.

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