On a crisp fall bike ride through a nearby neighborhood just before Halloween, I stopped in my tracks, staring the most unique decorations I had ever seen. Floating eerily in front of a house were life-sized, translucent, faceless human figures with full tattered skirts. I was mesmerized.
I biked home as fast as I could and did a little research: tape sculptures. I had no idea there was such a thing. I found the Storker Project online and was instantly inspired to make tape babies.
The results were as creepy as I’d hoped. My husband was a little nervous about hanging disturbing, full-sized, featureless infants over our rosebushes, especially after I added a slowly pulsating green and orange strobe light. Amazing!
So when it was time for this year’s spring book fair, what could be better than recreating the Roswell crash with life-sized tape aliens? Answer: nothing!
The process is time-consuming, but remarkably easy. Try it, you’ll be astounded by the results.
- Good-quality clear packing tape – I used Duck Tape
- Kitchen plastic wrap
- Craft knife
- For babies:
- Use a doll. Try Walmart or your local thrift store. Or if you have children, appropriate a doll. With their permission.
- For aliens:
- Pick a person. Ideally someone who doesn’t have long hair. Hair and Duck Tape are a bad combination.
- A Styrofoam head. Check a beauty supply shop. I found them at Sally Beauty Supply for $5.00.
- Bubble wrap to pad out the head and make it more alien-looking
- Lights for inside its body. I used LED String lights 33ft, 100 lights bright green
How to make them:
The process is the same for aliens and babies.
First, wrap your subject in plastic wrap. Of course, if you are wrapping a person, stop at their neck. Good heavens. Do not wrap their head. They will die. You will be wrapping the Styrofoam head separately and will attach it to the body later. I’ll show those head pictures after the body shots. When you are wrapping with plastic wrap, make sure not to leave any holes, or the tape will stick to the subject.
One of our brave first-grade volunteers, wrapped in plastic.
Next, wrap the packing tape all around the subject, covering the plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and cover completely. The more layers, the more solid it will be.
My friend, Mr. Reming tapes while I take the picture.
When the person or object is completely covered with a solid layer of tape, make a cut carefully down its back. If your subject is a person, use small scissors and start at the neck. Push your finger ahead of the scissors so you aren’t cutting any clothing or pinching any skin! Cut down to the lower back. Cut along the backs of the arms and legs. Gently extract the person. Same for tape babies: start at the crown of the head with a craft knife or scissors and cut down the back and backs of arms and legs. Extract the doll.
Like a snake skin.
Now, gently pull out any excess plastic wrap from inside your sculpture. You may need scissors to cut out some bits.
Finish your sculptures by closing them back up with more tape. Align the seams as closely as possible and tape them shut. This step is probably the most time-consuming part.
If you are making a baby, you are done at this point!
If you are making a person, you have completed the body. Now, make the head.
I folded up some pieces of bubble wrap and taped them to the temples and top of the head to give the bulbous alien head look. I also added some to the chin to make it slightly elongated.
When your head is shaped the way you want it, follow the same process: wrap in plastic wrap. Cover it in packing tape. Cut and release the head. Pull out extra plastic wrap. Tape up the seam.
Tape your head to the body. You may have to free-form a little bit of upper shoulders with tape. No problem.
You did it!
If you want to go full-out alien, reopen the seam in the upper back, giving enough space to put your hand in. Get your LED fairy lights and insert them into the body. Feed the lights down into the arms and legs as far as you can reach. Also place some inside the head: You may need to secure the head lights with a little piece of tape. Leave enough space for the cord to come out of the back, and re-tape the back.
You can modify these sculptures any way you like. Consider adding flashing eyeballs: Try making a tape sculpture of a plastic Easter egg or small curved object. Cut it in half and add flashing LED balloon lights (wrapped in a light layer of plastic wrap to disguise the metallic part). Tape to the faces.
Tape sculptures make highly dramatic and eerie props. They have an unsettling quality because they are humanoid, yet lack defined facial features. You will receive many compliments (accompanied by many strange looks). And, everyone will want to know how to make these. Now you do! Have fun!