Halloween Bird Hats!

Blackburnian Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Blackburnian Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Blackburnian Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Blackburnian Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Blackburnian Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Blackburnian Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Kentucky Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Kentucky Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Kentucky Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Kentucky Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Kentucky Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Kentucky Warbler Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

This is the sixth year that I’ve made Halloween costumes for one or both kids. I guess they really haven’t been costumes so much as hats. One drawback is that the kids have to spend a lot of time explaining what they are. Last year Kelly’s Kingfisher was primarily mistaken for an Angry Bird and a “jay” but also for a “robin” and a “blue bird.” At least Timmy’s Ivory-billed woodpecker was mostly identified as some sort of woodpecker, although its grumpy look made a few people guess Angry Bird as well. The most entertaining suggestion was pterodactyl. Tonight we’ll see what people guess for this year’s hats.

I always feel pressure to beat the previous year’s efforts. My wife, Liesl, got me to start these earlier this year. That is good and bad. These projects are like a gas… they expand to take up any space they are given. The good news is that for the first time I finished the day before Halloween!

This time I gave the kids one limit when they were selecting their bird of choice: They had to agree on the same basic bird type so I could use the same armature for both. This would streamline my production time… in theory. They ended up choosing to be warblers: a Kentucky and a Blackburnian.

Now for the questions I always get…

How long did those take? 
This is pretty much the first question everyone asks when they see these. They are probably evaluating just how crazy I am. Well, the quick answer is, “I really don’t know!” That’s probably for the best, since they get worn for a short period of time. On the other hand, I don’t do much sculptural work anymore, other than 3D on computer, so this keeps some old skills in use.  That being said, the hats take a ton of time and could probably be used as evidence that I’m certifiably nuts if my wife ever wanted to have me institutionalized. I think she has a pretty extensive list compiled somewhere. Come to think of it, building an eight-foot tall trebuchet “for the kids” a few years back probably didn’t help my cause.

What are they made of?
The bird hats are made of sheet craft foam, hot glue and acrylic paint. The color choices of the foam are pretty limited for a project like this, so I paint the sheets before cutting them to size (and shape).

Below are previous years’ efforts. You can see how the hats have gotten more complicated with time. At the end are a few shots of them during construction.

Belted Kingfisher Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Belted Kingfisher Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Belted Kingfisher Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Belted Kingfisher Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Belted Kingfisher Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Belted Kingfisher Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Hat (Sheet Craft Foam and Acrylic Paint)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Hat (Sheet Craft Foam)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Hat (Sheet Craft Foam)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Hat (Sheet Craft Foam)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Hat (Sheet Craft Foam)

Barn Owl Hat (Sheet Craft Foam)

Barn Owl Hat (Sheet Craft Foam)

Barn Owl Hat (Sheet Craft Foam)

Barn Owl Hat (Sheet Craft Foam)

Great Blue Heron and Great Egret Hats (Sheet Craft Foam)

Great Blue Heron and Great Egret Hats (Sheet Craft Foam)

Keel-Billed Toucan (Sheet Craft Foam)

Keel-Billed Toucan (Sheet Craft Foam)

Toco Toucan (Sheet Craft Foam)

Toco Toucan (Sheet Craft Foam)

Beginning framework for Kingfisher

Beginning framework for Kingfisher

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Framework

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Framework

Partially Built Hummingbird

Partially Built Hummingbird

15 comments to Halloween Bird Hats!

  • Nancy Carter

    You are amazing! I hope your kids appreciate what a talented dad they have. You want to adopt me? What do you do with them after halloween?

  • Thanks Nancy! We have saved all of the old hats and have a stockpile in the kid’s rooms. So far they have held up really well.

  • Nancy Carter

    I would love to see them. Being an avid birder, I am amazed and appreciate your detail. Don’t see you in person any more since Andrew and Ryan (Bean) stopped taking karate. I also never managed to work out a time for a visit from you at scout – our loss. Keep up the great work. N

  • Thanks Nancy, I miss seeing you and the rest of the “Bean Crew.” I hope everyone is doing great!

  • Elizabeth W

    Hi Matt and family,

    We all loved the bird hats. It was also fun to see the kids growing up through the years.

  • […] these hats, I’m sharing his post instead of writing a new one. You can find the original at Bohan Art, along with several of his paintings, sketches and step-by-step watercolor […]

  • […] The hats were made with sheet craft foam, acrylic paint, hot glue, burned fingers and lots of time. You can have a peek at previous Halloween Hats I’ve made here. […]

  • Robin C.

    Wow. I think you might have solved a major problem I have–constructing a Zazu puppet for a middle school production of The Lion King. I do have one question, though. How sturdy is the foam frame work? Would it hold up to being manipulated as a puppet? I am thinking specifically of the head and beak, because that is where I have been struggling for ideas.
    Thanks!

  • The foam gets stronger with layers and with the added hot glue. As far as making a puppet, I think it could work. A lot would depend on how you make the points that need to articulate. The foam has a lot of drag against more foam. Maybe if you put disks of slippery plastic like #2 milk jug material at contact points where it won’t be seen it would allow it to slip better. It would be worth test or two. There are also a variety of thicknesses of foam available to experiment with. The bigger hats like the Ivory-billed Woodpecker get pretty ungainly as they get larger. That one even had some styrofoam (expanded polystyrene) as support beams inside it. I’ll reply directly in case you have other questions. Best of luck!!!!
    Matt

  • I would pay big bucks for that hummingbird hat.

  • Ha! Thanks for the compliment, Carole. That hat was fun to make, but wouldn’t fit many adults since it was created for my son when he was seven. Although the parts used to make it are inexpensive, the time put into sculpting them is incredibly high.

  • Anais

    you should do an exhibit, these are beautiful, unique and so wonderfully true to the species…congratulations!! as a parent its so hard to find the time to really do projects like these, they are fantastic. I am hoping to make a toucan hat for a kids theater play that we are setting up…i will try to use some of your ideas with foam, though i know my result is going to be anticlimatic to say the least!

  • Thanks for compliment. Good luck with your toucan hat for the plat. I bet it turns out great! The foam takes acrylic paint quite well if you need to add a customized color.

  • Misty

    So silly question. My daughter has to do this project where she decorated a pumpkin like a book character. She’s chosen Little Green which is a hummingbird. I think she and I make attempt create something like this and hot glue to the pumpkin. Think that will work?

  • I think it is definitely worth a try. The worst that can happen is that you two end up spending time together trying something new! You can get all the supplies you’d need at Hobby Lobby or a similar store. They are made of sheet craft foam and hot glue. If you want, you can get into acrylic paint to match colors more closely, but that might be overkill. They do have some nice glittery green and red foam that I’ve used for humming birds in the past. Unfortunately it is thinner than they other foam sheets. In the previous responses on the blog are some comments about how the hats were made. You can always keep the design simple, with a flatter approach, rather than full 3d… sometimes “less is more” and has a charm to it!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>