Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Masquerade Ball Leather Mask

A short while back I did a proof of concept on an idea I had for a leather mask for a masquerade ball that I'll be going to.  The inspiration for this mask came from the entire peacock themed Landsknecht outfit I'm working on.  Last night I took the next step in the process.

To begin the process I took my Styrofoam head that I purchased from Hobby Lobby and draped some felt over it.  I decided to use felt as it seems to perform much like wet leather does.  It stretches, but has no definitive bias and therefore you can get reasonable estimation of what the leather will be able to do.  At first I was simply looking for a rough shape.  The mask design I have in mind is not geometric and is more free flowing so exactness was not really a concern at this point.  I draped the felt over the head and shaped it a bit.  I trimmed the rough edges and then sketched my idea onto the felt.  Here is what the first mockup looked like.


 After I was happy with the overall shape of the pieces I removed the pieces and then folded it over the center line to attempt to make the shape more symmetrical.  The marker lines on the felt may not make much sense at this point but what I was planning on doing was creating the mask in at least two pieces.  There will be one piece with all the “fringes” which cover the forehead and top of my head.  Then another piece will be attached as an outer layer with more “fringes” to add more depth and shape to the appearance.  I wanted more than a simple Lone Ranger type mask.  I was really hoping for something that wraps over my head more.  I plan on shaving my head when I wear the mask so I’m hoping that the model foam head I have is a good representation of the final look.

Turns out I didn’t need much trimming to make the piece symmetrical.  I then cut the two pieces apart and mocked up a half mask.  I figured I’d make the mask as only a half and then fold that over and trace it to make the final pattern before cutting out.

Here I have applied the two layers together to get a better idea of whether or not I would like the look.  At this point I'm sure that the overall look is what I want, but I don't need to finalize the top layer yet.  Similar to working on clothing one must always start on the bottom layer.  After I finish the bottom layer I will then draft another pattern for the outer layer.  At this point it was more of a proof of concept and I was OK with moving on to the next step.... trace the pattern to paper.

Here I have made some small tweaks to the design.  I've extended the fringes just a bit and altered the way the center looks.  Looks kind of funny at this step but I am sure it will work out fine.  I envision that the fringes will be soaked and twisted.  The reason I cut them in wiggly lines was that when I twist them later I figured it would add more character.   You'll see later.


Patterns finished and transcribed onto paper.  Ready for the next step.  Real leather.

Using about 5 ounce vegetable tanned leather.   Thick enough to hold its shape when hardened, yet not too thick to be cumbersome to tool.  This is still a bit of an experiment for me.  Never having done this before I simply took a piece the thickness of my prototype.  I got the leather from the scrap bin at Tandy Leather.

After cutting out the basic shape I then softened the edges a bit.  I know they have a tool for this called an edger or a beveler.  I don't have one and opted to simply use a carefully handled disposable razor.  Worked fine for me.

I then wet the leather and began shaping.  I couldn't do any 'real' tooling a this point although I plan to.  I roughed in the shape by simply wetting the leather and pressing the tools into the leather to shape it.  Kids were in bed and I couldn't do any banging.  I'll tool in the details better later.  Initially I'm really digging the overal shape.  Ultimately I don't think this mask will require a LOT of tooling.  Just some small details here and there.  I plan on adding more "bang" to the look using bright paints.