I was contacted to make the head of Medusa for a show. An actor would pull it out of a bag, but it did not have to stand up on its own. The face did not need to match any of the actresses in the cast, so that freed me up in my options. It needed to be inexpensive too, so I used as many store-bought items as I could.
I bought a Beetlejuice mask and some rubber snakes from Halloween Adventure, a year-round costume store in the East Village. His hair turned out to be a wig which pulled right off.
I filled the inside of the mask with a layer of expanding foam insulation. In order to keep the foam from distorting the shape of the face as it expanded, I buried the face in a tray of sand. Expanding foam gives off harmful vapors when curing, so use in a well-ventilated area, preferably in a spray-booth or near some kind of system that can pull the air away from you. Expanding foam does not cure properly when you put it on too thick, so fill the mask one layer at a time. I ended up rotating the mask after each coat and putting only a single layer on each side. The mask remained hollow but the sides were strong enough to hold the shape.
I used wire to hold the snakes on the head. I arranged it so it would be easy to grasp Medusa from the top. I had printed out some pictures of various depictions of Medusa in art through history, and that gave me a good reference on how to arrange the snakes so they would look the most “Medusa-like”.
I made eyes out of epoxy putty. Epoxy putty comes in tubes, and you simply break a piece off and mix it around in your hands until it is a uniform color. It has the consistency of a clay like Sculpey, and hardens over time (depending on which kind you get, that can be anywhere from five minutes to an hour). Epoxy can be absorbed through the skin and you can become sensitized to it over time, so where disposable gloves when working with it. I had set the eyes in place before filling the mask with the expanding foam, which held them in place when it dried. I sprayed a coat of paint over the entire mask (I actually did this before putting on the snakes).
I found a picture of an iris and pupil and printed it out to the appropriate size. I cut two of them out and used five-minute epoxy to attach them; I coated the entire eyeball with the epoxy to make it glossy, and lay the paper iris on top of that. After the first coat dried, I covered the entire eyeball with another coat of epoxy. This made it appear like the iris and pupil were behind the cornea.
At this point, I also cut off some of the nose and upper lip and carved it down to look less like Michael Keaton and more like Medusa. Once happy with the new shape, I re-coated the foam with automotive filler (Bondo). This is also toxic and requires a well-ventilated area. The advantage is that it dries very quickly; if you have more time, you can use something far more innocuous, such as Foam Coat.
The next several steps involved painting the face with acrylics and spray paints.
I filled in the bottom of the neck with a chunk of blue foam carved to fit. I spray painted it with red, and then blasted it with a hot air gun to create the above effect. Again, you need a well-ventilated area for this, preferably a spray booth.
I thought the head needed some splattered blood. I mixed up some more five-minute epoxy, and then stirred in some paint. I had some red paint and some black paint. I did not mix it to a uniform color, but rather swirled it so the parts had differences in both translucency and tint. I filled the rest of the neck hole, smeared a lot around the bottom of the neck, and then splattered and flung some upwards so it would look like her head was sliced off in one swipe.
Now that you know how to make your own head of Medusa, get Kraken!