In the middle of September, it was still boiling hot here in Israel and I was hiding inside in the air conditioning, working on my website. My neighbor stopped by and told me she was planning a big, fancy 40th birthday party for herself, with an Alice in Wonderland theme, Fun! She hired me to make four GIANT (3′, 4.5′, 6′ and 7.5′ tall) mushrooms as decorations for the party. I’d never made giant paper mâché mushrooms before, but when I had my store, we made lots of big props, so I was confident that I could do it. I went shopping at a hardware store and a fencing shop for supplies.
Each mushroom was made with chicken wire, masking tape, electrical tape, sewing boning, newspapers, golf umbrellas, sheer fabric, twinkle lights, paint and varnish.
It was important that the base of each stem was wider than top part. This stem had to be reinforced with 2 broom sticks and a big flower pot after it was finished because the weight of the cap started to make the chicken wire buckle.
The mushroom caps proved to be the most challenging part to build. Because each cap was built on an umbrella, many paper balls were needed to fill in the spaces between the umbrella wires, or each cap ended up looking exactly like an umbrella!
Many layers of paper mâché were needed for the cap to keep it’s rounded shape; the caps became very heavy in the end. The dried, paper mâché cap shapes were pulled off the umbrella before the cap was put on top of the stem.
I started working on the mushrooms early in the morning so that the first layer of paper mâché would dry and I could apply at least one more layer that day.
I started working on the mushrooms mid September and by the end of October, the weather each evening was very humid. I carefully carried each mushroom piece into my house so the layers of paper mâché would dry completely.
Sometimes people would be walking by our garden as we were coming in our out of the gate. They would stop and stare at the mushrooms and ask why we had giant mushrooms in our garden. It was quite a site to see as each mushroom “came to life”.
I had envisioned the mushrooms looking very geometric, but in the end they were all different sizes and shapes and not so perfect. I liked the way each mushroom was a different shape and the imperfections took on an organic/realistic feel.
My neighbor wanted the mushrooms to be psychedelic. I used tie-dyed looking fabric for two of the smaller ones, the tallest one was red and yellow and the 6′ mushroom was painted in natural colors. At the party, the mushrooms colors couldn’t be seen because they were set up in a dark corner 🙁 but the twinkle lights that I put inside the gills were beautiful and the best part of the mushrooms.
The small, delicate layers under a mushroom are called gills. I made gills for each mushroom from sheer, gathered fabric. I gathered about 5 to 6 meters of fabric for each section of the gills. The gills for the biggest mushroom took about 20 meters of fabric!
I thought the mushroom gills were beautiful; it took a long time to gather and sew the gills. I made the gills from sheer fabric so the twinkle lights could easily be seen through it.
It was getting very near party time, December 18th. By this time, I’d been working on the mushrooms for 3 months. Every morning I would carry them outside and every evening, I’d carry them inside so the dew wouldn’t make them soggy.
By the first week of December, the mushrooms were almost finished and I had pneumonia. I did a little more work putting the twinkle lights inside the gills and putting wool around the bottoms of the stems. The girls posed with the mushroom so you can see their scale.
I wasn’t able to attend the Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party to see my mushrooms twinkling in the background, but I know they were wonderful!
I’ve been asked how to make the giant mushrooms, so I’ve included a tutorial at the end of this post. Continue reading “Fairytale Mushrooms and Tutorial”