Jessica Hatfield of Redwood City won a national contest and a $5,000 prize a few months back for creating a fearsome-looking Halloween costume that walks like a monster but resembles a tree with a swiveling prehistoric head. And she can thank her grandmother of all people for giving her inspiration and artistic knowhow—plus the information that she could enter “Korpi the Forest Creature” on “Live with Kelly and Ryan’s” annual Halloween costume contest. Hatfield’s entry, which she’d been working on for seven months, won the grand prize.
Her grandmother, Joan Luis, who is a skilled seamstress, has always been artistic and made costumes, says Hatfield. They’d been working on costumes together for several years and created one in 2019 that ended up becoming the basis for the Forest Creature. Luis watches “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and when she saw they were having a contest, she immediately texted her granddaughter to send in photographs to enter. Hatfield, 24, had to participate in a taping for the episode, when the competition was narrowed to the top five. The day the winner was announced, “I had my grandmother over and we had a watching party.”
The costume is heavy and unwieldy to operate so Hatfield has to have a friend help her put it on and then act as a “spotter.” The legs are crutches encased in big sheets of upholstery foam to which pipe insulation is attached to look like roots. The back legs are spring-loaded stilts that Hatfield found in a junk yard. The entire creation had to be wrapped with medical tape to make it solid. Papier-mâché was applied next in preparation for paint and attaching moss, bones and hand-sculpted mushrooms. The mechanical jaw opens and closes with bicycle handlebars connecting to the brake line at the back of the skull. Hatfield has to be strapped into a harness so she can toggle the jaw. She credits her brother, Keith Hatfield, and two friends for helping to make it come together.
Jessica Hatfield does video-editing for an insurance technology company and is also on the board of the Urban Wildlife Rescue Project, which has trail cameras tracking the behavior of the gray fox. Her own YouTube video is called “How I Built My Own 4-Stilted Costume,” and shows the construction, as well as Hatfield taking it out in public. Invited to dress up in it for story hour at the library, Hatfield says kids’ reactions varied. Some were confused when she got out of the costume “because the monster wasn’t there.” Her longer-term hope is to inspire people to be creative. A lot of people she meets think they have to be born with talent do art but the truth, she maintains, is that “nobody is born inherently good at anything” and it takes motivation and practice. Which she will do, putting some of that $5,000 toward her next big Thing.
This story was originally published in the January edition of Climate Magazine. Click here to read the full digital publication.