Building an Elvis Garden Gnome

My brother, bless his heart, wanted to give his girlfriend an Elvis garden gnome as a gag gift on her birthday and discovered that no one makes them. This was actually a little surprising. So he turned to me.

To begin, I found an existing gnome in a position that would work for my needs. This one is called “The conductor.”  I really wanted one playing a guitar but the only one in that pose was also plaster, which wouldn’t work. I needed a resin gnome.

Gnome acquired, I first cut off his beard using a dremel tool with a rotary blade around his arm and belly and finishing with a hacksaw through the mouth.
This left a giant gaping hole in his body. While you do occasionally run across solid resin gnomes, I was not so lucky here.

After the beard removal, I smoothed off the worst of the mustache using a grinder.

Using rough paper-mache, I bridged the gap in his stomach with three layers composed of long strips of rejection letters, critiques, and wheat-based wall-paper paste.

This created a base to build on.

Next I began to reconstruct his face using loosely wadded pieces of paper-mache. Note that I’ve created the general area where the mouth should be but am not attempting to actually make any features.
I then smoothed the wads out by using strips of paper-mache and stuck the entire thing into a heat box to dry.

A heat box is essentially an inverted bin with a hair dryer stuck into it. I use it on a concrete floor and check it periodically to make sure nothing has caught on fire.

Using two-part plumber’s epoxy, I rebuilt the face and put a layer across the paper-mache stomach. This is very sturdy and fast-curing material. The fact that it cures so quickly means that I only worked with very small pieces at a time. With a larger project, or one that I needed to make multiples of, I wouldn’t use this material but it was perfect for a quick one-of-a-kind item.
Here’s the finished sculpture, before paint.
Here’s the first layer of paint. Normally, I would put a layer of gesso down first, but had run out so I used two coats of acrylic paint to get the coverage I was looking for. Even though the hands were original, I still painted them so that they would match the face.
And here’s the finished gnome.

I’ve been keeping it off the internet, since it was a surprise, and referring to a “troll” I was building. My brother’s girlfriend called after receiving it today and thanked me in the spirit with which it had been given.

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9 thoughts on “Building an Elvis Garden Gnome”

  1. Great! When was this idea cooked up? I seem to remember it but can’t remember were we were – or when.

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