The Squid is Bluffing

   by Jennifer Mercer for Build A Dream (2014)

Mystery Build Construction Log 2014

Five aquatic creatures (or four aquatic creatures and a diver) are playing poker in a library. A porthole overlooks an alien scene.


I cut apart the various tops and sides of the Mystery Build box. While I was doing this, I peeled off as much of the printed design as possible. I laid out the pieces flat to form an open shell and then glued these together using strips of the printed design soaked in white glue. When this was dry, I folded it upright with the glued strips on the back. The sides were made up of two separate cardboard pieces so I used a small amount of plaster to even out this seam. I reinforced all of the seams with hot glue and then painted the insides of the shell black of the shell black.

I painted the back of the canvas scarlet and covered it with images of octopi. I carved the octupus stamp from a speedball block and then stamped it using a black stamp pad.

The 'wooden timbers' framing the entire scene were made from cutting the styrofoam rod in half and coating it with plaster. I then painted the plaster with a pale yellow, then a darker brown and scratched through the dark color to expose yellow veins to give it the effect of a pine log. This did not use all of the styrofoam column and I used some of it later to mount the various creatures (see below).

Porthole scene

I cut a circle out of the back wall and made a porthole with pieces of flattened wire which were painted black to give them appearance of iron.

The back wall and floor of the scene are made of the canvas painted with purple watercolors. The alien figures are made from parts of the mannequin painted and then glued together. The dome of the taller alien is made of one half of the prize egg painted a variety of colors. The canvas is supported by a framework of pieces cut from the square wooden dowels.

The sandy bottom of the scene is composed of long strips of plaster painted in various shades of yellow and white. I dyed a segment of the clay green with oil paint, made a wire framework and then covered this framework with bits of the green clay.

Books and bookshelf

The bookshelves are made of more of the pieces of the Mystery Build box, painted brown and glued to the walls with a whimsical combination of white glue and hot glue. The books are made from the cardboard of the mannequin box and parts of the mystery build instructions. I folded the cardboard/slick paper, painted the pieces, glued them together, and then glued these pieces to the bookshelves.


Antique Diver

I cut out the diver's suit from canvas and stitched it together with the white thread included in the kit. The diver's suit is stuffed with compressed foam noodles, except for the torso which is stuffed with the torso from the manniquin. The diver's mask is made from plaster strips. I used a small balloon as a mold and removed it once the plaster was dry. The mask was then painted with multiple layers of copper paint. The grills covering the face are made of bits of wire painted with gold paint. Inside the diver's mask is the head from the mannequin painted with a luchadora/sugar skull image. In order to shape the diver so he would sit properly, I used yet more wire to convince his knees to bend. His gloves are clay dyed black and molded around the end of his diver's suit. Something unseemly has happened to his feet and they are covered with a scrap of canvas painted in a tartan pattern.

The diver is sitting in a chair made of wire mesh covered in plaster. I painted this a grayish-purple and added bits of 'coral' made of pieces of the sea sponge painted in a variety of colors. There is also a bit of tube coral over the diver's shoulder which is made of painted clay. I used wedges of Vincent's ear painted this same grayish-purple to prop up the chair.


I cut out a roughly turtle shaped piece of wire foam, coated it with clay, carved out the pattern on his back and painted it with acrylic paint. The turtle is resting on a stool made of an angled piece of the styrofoam column covered with canvas.


The top of the squid and his eys are made of painted clay, his tentacles are painted canvas. He is sitting on the pelvis of the mannequin (that mannequin sure gets around) painted brown.


The top of the jellyfish is half of the egg from the mystery prize, painted with white spots. Its tentacles are made of parts of the plastic that was covering the canvas. I then painted them white and and pinkish/salmon color for the inner cluster of 'goop.' It is mounted with part of the thin aluminum rod that used to hold up the mannequin, painted white and stuck into a piece of sponge painted blackish/grey and then stuck to the sea bottom.


The stingray is made in a very similar fashion to the turtle with clay covering a wire mesh frame that was then painted. He is mounted on a piece of the square rod, jammed into a wedge of clay (up until 5 minutes before I took the final shot, he was stuck to the back wall with hot glue).


The black eggs lining each side of the scene are more bits of the dyed black clay. The green vines/tentacles coming down from the wall are more of the dyed green clay.

The top of the poker table is made from the cardboard circle that I cut out of the back wall to make the porthole. I painted it green and coated the edges with more of the dyed black clay. It is held up with the base of the mannequin (painted wooden disc and aluminum rod, both painted brown with the disc having cryptic symbols painted in red.

I started with the idea of a vintage diver suit, a library and some sea creatures and just went from there using dream logic.