Monday, October 8, 2012

The Masquerade Landsknech Mask

On of the primary reasons I am pressing so hard to get my Landsknecht outfit done is because there is an even next month which has a German theme and a grand masquerade ball at the end.  I'm really looking forward to the ball and wanted to make a new leather mask to wear.  Never done that before, but why should that stop my.  I started watching You Tube videos and checking the internet and determined that I didn't care if my method was period or not.  What I REALLY wan from this project is a cool mask to wear to the ball.  I'd like it to be done without modern materials, but that's not critical to the success.  

I started with a proof on concept test.  I have an image in my head of what I want the mask to look like.  Lots of colors to match my outfit.  Beak like proboscis and lots of fringe like pointy twisty type things... well You'll see later.  First step is to see how tough it really is to cut and shape leather into a mask.

I cut this out of a scrap I had in the basement.  Probably about 4oz. leather.  Not sure though.  Dampened it and did some quick tooling.  Again, proof of concept.  Design wasn't important.  Wanted to see how well the tooling held up when shaped and how easy it would be to work with.

After about 10 minutes cutting and tooling.  Kids were going to bed and so my banging had to stop.  Oh well.  I had enough to do my test.  I then soaked the piece in the sink for about 30 seconds.  Yup. That's it.  I noticed that as it got wet the definition of the tooling started to pop out.  Oh well.  next time I'll whack a little harder and soak a little longer.

I placed the wet leather onto a styrofoam head I got from Hobby Lobby for $6.  pinned it down along the edges.  This head isnt' exacty my head shape and so this was a concern at first.  I tried my glasses on the head and the width was fine, so I went with it.  I'll have to tweak the nose and brow on the final version though.  I twisted some of the "fringes" as a test to see how well they would hold.  I didn't use a hair dryer as I had seen on some YouTube videos.  First test.  Maybe next time.

Let sit over night and it was dry.  Looked good too.  The pins came out rather easily.  I was afraid that the leather would shrink around them and make them hard to pull, but nope.  Next time I will use pins with a bigger head, but they all pulled out OK.

Dried rather hard already too.  I had seen some videos which baked the piece to fully harden it.  I didn't do that at this point.  I have since tried that and it does get a  LOT harder if you do that.  Final version I'll bake it before I begin the painting.

Now again, the paint isn't important.  This isn't the final design.  I wanted to simply try the paint on leather.  I used a period gouache for all of the coloring.  It drys rather dull so I also used another period material, glare.  I made some egg white glare from a dozen very old eggs.  Like stinky rotten old.  I was informed that the age of the eggs doesn't matter when making glare.  Never done it, so that was a fun experiment.

Here you can really see the impact of the glare.  It dries very shiny and will stay that way.  Next time I'll mix it with the paint as I go along instead of simply painting the glare afterwords.  The glare will also make the gouache color fast.  Normally gouache will smear when wet, but when mixed with glare it will hold it's color for hundreds of years.  Just ask a scribe!

Digging the shape, texture and color.  The proof of concept was a success!  I know I have to work on the shape of the model nose because it's just not my nose shape.  Other than that I'm really happy with the way it came out.  Took about 30 minutes playing with the leather and another 30 playing with the paint.  I'll probably add some shell gold and some eyebrows made from peacock feathers, but other than that I'm really looking forward to the final mask being made much as I did this one.