Making a Scarecrow Costume
The best way to do a scarecrow is to create a soft sculpture, with the theme
of "scarecrow." The the scarecrow is associated with the fall season and the
Halloween holiday—but you may want to do one for both. You can construct a
scarecrow that is suitable for both a traditional farmyard function and at the
same time with enough individual character to qualify as a well-designed work
of art and as a Halloween disguise.
It Helps To Understand What Scarecrows Were Used For
Most everyone knows exactly what a scarecrow is and what it is intended to
do, but most people living in urban areas rarely, if ever, see a functional
scarecrow. This lack of firsthand experience may actually be beneficial, as it
requires the artist to create the image from what he or she imagines a
scarecrow to be and not what some other person has established as a
"scarecrow." The variations of styles for scarecrow construction are infinite.
The origin of the scarecrow can be traced to Greek and Roman mythology. A
distant relative of his was Priapus, a field and garden god. Aphrodite, goddess
of love, was Priapus' mother and Dionysus, god of wine, was his father. Because
Priapus was short on looks, Aphrodite and Dionysus were not very willing to
even admit parenthood. Priapus is pictured with a sickle and a horn of plenty.
The first harvest of the year was offered to him as the protector of the
fields and his likeness was often placed in gardens to scare the birds away
from the crops. So we have what is probably the birth of the modern-day
The basic structural make up of the scarecrow body using coat hanger wire for
an armature. We used two hangers to establish the legs, head and body. We
cut both hangers at the middle point, straightened them out, and taped them
together at the "neck" section (see illustration). Heads, constructed of
crushed newspaper and wrapped with masking tape, were attached to the
hanger loop with a lighter-gauge wire, forming the basic human figure form.
Raffia, used to suggest straw, was draped over the head to completely cover
the newspaper form and was tied at the neck. It is necessary to use
sufficient quantities of the material so that a bulk is, created. The raffia,
should extend beyond the ends of the wire to give a whimsical appearance or
to allow for tying into finger and toe shapes. The raffia was fixed to the coat
hanger with a light gauge wire at several points. It is important not to tie the
legs together. The legs should extend all the way to the neck as this will make
it easier to add clothes later.
At this point it is a good idea to add a display support system to the armature.
We used construction grade 1" x 2" x 8" furring strips for this purpose. The 1"
x 2" was cut at a length of approximately 66 inches and the long and short
sections of the cut board were nailed together to form a "T." The wire
armature was attached to the wooden "T" at the "arms" only using a thin wire.
Creative tying and knotting made the formation of fingers and toes possible.
Bending the coat hanger wire at the appropriate "joints" gave each figure an
individual rhythm and personality. Dressing of the figure was the final
consideration. All clothing or body covering was to be handmade. Students
were left to let their imaginations roam and one idea lead to another until
each scarecrow was as unique as its creator.
This stage of the sculpture was the most exciting as each artist had his own
idea as to what the finished figure should be wearing. Hats, vests, ties, bows,
belts and a countless number of accessories adorned the figures.
The finished works of art were displayed in the school courtyard and were the
center of attention for several weeks. Staff members lined up to purchase
these wonderful "seasonal sculptures" for home decoration use. Most students
were not in a selling mood, especially after seeing their works displayed and
admired by their peers and teachers alike.
This was just one of many ways to incorporate the feel of the season or the
holiday without actually celebrating either. You may have a favorite way of
integrating the arts with the calendar and you might wish to try this if you are
having a Halloween party.