It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus…

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There’s no point even trying to come up with new ways and new adjectives to describe the film “Hocus Pocus“. Each year MILLIONS of people across the world dust off their DVD of the film and put it in around Halloween time to get themselves in the mood. It’s the most perfect Halloween film, in fact, it’s the most perfect Autumn film.

The film opens in an orange hue of Autumnal loveliness as we descend into Salem during the 1600s. The town is covered in the crisp, crunchy cadavers of seasonal leaves and the sky has a purple hue to it that screams “AUTUMN!” And this is what sets the theme and tone of the rest of the film – the movie’s palette of purples and oranges keep the fact this is a HALLOWEEN film at the forefront of the audience’s mind throughout the entire film… Which is what makes it the most perfect Halloween film ever. Oh, and also the fact it’s a story about three witches, a black cat and a zombie…

Ever since waring out my VHS copy of the film way back in 1997, I’ve had a huge obsession with this film. Obsession is the right word, example – spending your first ever pay-check on a very rare, limited copy of the Original Orchestral Score for the film. It’s just so rare to find a film that’s clearly been made for a younger audience that actually appeals to audiences of ALL ages, and showcases three terrific performances from three talented actresses and funny ladies.

It has seemingly become an unwritten law that if you are an obsessed crazed fan of Hocus Pocus” you then therefore have to either dress up as one of the witches to a Halloween party, draw crap fan art of The Sanderson Sisters in humorous situations OR create a replica of Winnie’s spellbook.
As much as I love drag, and as much as I love wasting my crayons on a piece of art only I can enjoy – I decided to opt for the latter and create a replica (as best I can) of the famous Hocus Pocus spellbook…

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I started with a simple Papier Mache storage box shaped like an old fashioned hardback book. These are available from many many Craft stores, but I got mine from Hobbycraft. It is available online HERE!

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The spellbook in the film has some ornate and unique metal snake decorations that sit on the book. Using images from the film, and the cover of the papier mache book I styled these metal parts using Sculpey Oven Bake clay.

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After getting the designs right (it is very very difficult to get the snakes wrapped in JUST the right way as they are shown in the film) I put them on some tin foil on a baking tray and popped them in the oven. I had used Silver modelling clay because from the images of the spellbook the metal parts all look silver…

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However, after coming out of the oven the clay pieces looked a dark silver colour – which at first I was unhappy with but grew to love afterwards because they look ancient and rustic just like the book. After this I took to layering the cover of the book with strips of newspaper dipped in a mixture of 1 part water, 3 parts PVA glue. I made little bumps and grooves using layered strips of newspaper, just to add to the effect of the book so it wasn’t completely smooth.

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After the layers of paper dried, I laid the ornaments out on top of the cover, and with a pencil marked out a rough outline for where the stitches would be. This part of the book is what really brings it together and shows that it has been “bound by human skin“.

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Using tissue paper that had been soaked in the PVA glue mixture, I laid it down on top of the pencil line, then coated the whole thing in a layer of undiluted PVA glue to lock it in!

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After everything is dry, I painted the whole book, spine and back cover included, in a light brown “tan” colour that most resembled the colour of the book from the film. You can go to any hobby store and find a wide selection of paints and chose the one you feel is best.

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While the paint was still drying, I took a darker brown colour and coated a sponge with the paint. I then scraped as much of it off the sponge as I could and lightly dabbed and scraped the book over. The sponge and the dark paint picked up on all the raised and ridged parts of the book and it adds detail and highlighted tones to these parts.

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Next came the most time consuming and intricate part of the book… The stitching. For this I bought a ball of string, the kind used to wrap up parcels. I cut the string up into half inch strips and then dipped them all in PVA glue. Using a pair of tweezers I laid each individual strip down across the tissue paper ridge to make it look like the patches of skin had been sewn together.

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To add even more effect, I brushed over the string using the dark brown paint, just to take away from the brightness of the string which stood out against the book like a sore thumb.

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After trying to import fake eyes that are used for dolls from Hong Kong and failing majorly (they never arrived…) I had to order some Dolls eyes from within the UK, which took less time to arrive. They are very readily available online from eBay and the suchlike but you can shop around and see what you can find. I bought a pair of Secrist Real Doll Blue eyes, which come in halves, which make it much easier to stick the eye to the book.

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After positioning the eye correctly I stuck it down firmly using PVA glue, I started building up a layer of newspaper mixed in the water and PVA mixture around the eye to create the eye socket and eyelids.

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Once the newspapers had dried, I painted the eyelids using the light brown colour again, blending it in to the rest of the book by stippling over the top of it with the dark brown colour once again.

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Finally… FINALLY… After months of planning and working on it and waiting for imported Japanese Doll Eyes… I stuck the clay pieces onto the book, and it is completed! HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!

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If you hear a distant voice echoing in the crisp Autumn wind on Halloween night calling “Booooo-ooooook“, that’ll just be me…

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