Dumbledore’s Owl Podium 

During my dorm years in college I organized an annual Harry Potter Trivia Night. It worked just like Jeopardy! At any given point there were four representatives from each house at the front tables. They would choose a topic and difficulty, I would read the question and any house could buzz in to answer. 

The game itself was quite a undertaking, but I also spent weeks on decoration and planning so that the experience was much more immersive. I MCed the whole event from beside the screen, navigating the complex powerpoint over a projector to bounce between the hourglass-scoreboard, category boards and the questions. I didn’t want to just sit behind a computer screen like some kind of Muggle, so I crafted myself a symbol of authority, dignity and wisdom to stand before me. I made a replica of Dumbledore’s owl podium.  

I start with some simple foamcore cut out and tape down crumpled newsprint to form the body and head. After a layer of paper mache to firm up the form.

Because I’ve been lazy cutting out the foamcore, I now have to go back and add the lower feathers by hot-gluing cardboard triangles in just the right places. Everything gets another layer of paper mache, to give it a nice solid structure, as well as ensure that the material I add next has something it will stick to. 

   

The details of the podium will be sculpted with paper pulp. This is a crude homemade paperclay you can prepare. Start by soaking newsprint in water, then hit it with an immersion blender until it’s a nice pulpy soup. Use a strainer to get the water out and set the pulp (now in large, bumpy clumps) aside. Bleach works well to clean up the mess made by ink seeping out of the newsprint. Mix up some glue exactly like you would for paper mache. Incorporate enough of this into the pulp so you have a doughy, workable mass. You can sculpt away with this stuff, getting fairly good form, but keep in mind the texture will be bumpy. It hardens like cement and isn’t terribly heavy once fully dry. Be careful not to build up too much in one spot, or it will crack as it dries.

Slowly I work the pulp into the wings, forming a bas relief of the feathers. 

After it is left to dry for a few good days (it takes a long time for all the moisture to work its way out of the pulp) I see that the edges are sloppy. In an effort to get crisp relief and cleaner edges, I use a woodburning tool on the pulp to draw in further detail. 

To try and smooth out the texture and prime the piece for spray paint, I use a few very liberal coats of latex acrylic. 

 

The pulp soaks up the water in the acrylic so after all the coats, I let it dry very thoroughly. 

I used PVC tubes to hold some small plastic plates and glued these to the back of the wings. After spraying the whole thing gold, I added some toilet-paper-tube candles.

Now I can address the students properly.

Blubber. Nitwit. Oddment. Tweak. 

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