Monster Mash-Up

Brainstorming and troubleshooting your Halloween costume.

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All you needed to do was have an inkling for a costume, and Hugh Phear and his two genius assistants, Audrey Van Der Kroght and Jane McTeiqgue, would help you engineer something beyond what any of us might have initially imagined was possible. Phear, who headed the Idea Hub at the MIT Museum, where he developed and ran educational engineering and design activities, is ingenious in crafting everyday items like cardboard boxes, paper shopping bags, empty toilet-paper rolls, and bed sheets along with lace, transparent silver foil, patterned fabrics, LED lights, and the like into one-of-a-kind costumes.

If you needed inspiration, you could just look around at the amazing large creatures he and his team had constructed and displayed around the room at the West Tisbury library on Sunday afternoon. Your idea not quite there yet? Well then, Phear would ask intriguing questions that helped you brainstorm different options, and when you hit upon your brilliant idea — you were off and running.

Rasmus Mayhew, age 7, told me, “I’m making a chipmunk. I got the idea from how I like them and because they’re just so chubby.” Jane was helping him fashion chipmunk cheeks out of red felt that he had designed to stuff his candy inside while trick-or-treating. Rasmus told me he got the idea “from how chipmunks stuff acorns in their cheeks.”

Linda Talbot was busy drawing and coloring away as her grandchildren worked on their masks. Tristan, age 5, was coloring in his cutout, catlike mask with a wide black marker, and explained (as though it was obvious, for goodness sakes) that he was going to be the Black Panther because “he looked good in the movies. He’s my favorite superhero.” His brother Kelley, age 7, crafted a quite impressive cardboard Spiderman mask, and was carefully laying down the webbed black-line design on top of his red background.

Five-year-old Rowan Street told Hugh, “I want to be the devil for Halloween. I’ve got the tail, I’ve got the fork, and I’ve got the horns.” Phear responded, “Sounds like you got that figured out.” Rowan’s sister Mira, age 9, was planning on being Fleur Delacour from the “Harry Potter” series, and reported she too had her costume well in hand. But Hugh was determined to get them think creatively, so he probed, “Have you figured out what you’re going to carry your candy around in?” And thus Rowan, Mira, and their mom, Dana Street, plunged into a few hours experimenting with all sorts of materials to design their perfect candy-carrying bags.

Phear, Van Der Kroght, and McTeiqgue seamlessly kept the costume-making progress moving forward while offering everyone their undivided attention. Yet, even with all the bubbling energy in the room, chaos never, ever reigned, because young and older alike were completely engrossed in their imaginative creations. If this team is back next year, do not miss going for anything in the world.