In honor of the spooky season I thought making a mask would be an appropriate use of the leather skein I picked up a few days ago.
Recently I've been really inspired with with patterns found in sacred geometry, fractals, and tessellations. I thought using similar patterns for a leather based project would be an interesting challenge, and it was! Here's how I did it, in case any of you want to try it out.
Step 1: Tools!
Here's what you need:
- piece of 2mm vegetable tanned leather (very important to get this kind if you want to mold with it!!!)
- head mannequin (got mine at Ricky's)
- Olfa knife (that's what I used but a specialty leather blade would probably work better)
- X-acto knife (again, a leather blade is preferable)
-metal ruler or straight edge
- hot glue gun or crazy glue
- card stock paper
-sponge or rag
- leather dye
-leather string and beads
Step 2: Find Your Inspiration!
I was drawn to this pattern of triangles and cubes but you can use whatever you like!
Once you find your image cut it out and find where it looks best on your head mannequin. You can print multiple images and collage them together, or resize the image until you find something that works on your mannequin.
Use pins to hold in place.
Measure on your own face the distance between your eyes, height and length of your eyes, distance between eyes and nose, and distance from nostril to nostril.
mark this on your design so you can accurately cut out eye holes.
Step 3: Simplify!
make eyeholes however it fits in with your design, in my case I tried to keep with the theme of sharp angles.
cut your design in half (if your design is perfectly symmetrical)
Since my design had a lot of detail I knew I had to simplify it If I wanted to cut it out by hand. (If you don't want to compromise your design I would get it laser cut instead of hand cutting)
I did this by simply thickening the lines on the design with a thick colored pencil. I tried to make every line at least 1/8". Anything smaller could rip or tear easily making your finished product flimsy.
Check to see if you like it on your form.
Step 4: If You Don't Like It, Change It!
I wanted some more drama in my mask so I added more!
I traced what I originally had on tracing paper, then cut out an extra piece of the design and added it where I thought it could be interesting. Then I traced that with what I had originally traced.
Remember to simplify this new piece like you did the original
Step 5: Make the Pattern!
when you're pleased with your design tape it onto a piece of card stock. I like card stock because it's very sturdy and won't rip easily if handled a lot .
With your Olfa knife and metal ruler carefully cut around your design. Remove the tracing paper when you're finished.
Check how it looks!
*I also added another piece on top
Step 6: Cut!
Place your pattern on your leather piece. Tape it down, or hold with a weight and trace the outside edge only for now.
Repeat on the other side.
Use your Olfa knife to cut it out!
*I didn't have enough room for the extra top pieces so I cut those separately
Step 7: Detail
This is the longest and hardest part. It took me a full day for all the cutting.
Take your cardstock pattern and tape it down to one side of the leather.
Using a thin blade ( X-acto) very very carefully cut out the negative space in your pattern.
Repeat for the other side.
Step 8: Start to Detail!
I wanted to do a little bit of embossing around the edges and the nose.
to prepare wet your leather with a sponge. Once it's wet you can stamp or carve your own design. Using an awl I made a small border and added some detail around the nose.
Step 9: Dye!
I was impatient for color.
On the front and back I applied an even layer of blue dye on the entire mask. I used Angelus brand but there a lot of other good brands you can use.
Step 10: Mold!
When you're ready to mold you need a space to wet your mask completely. I didn't have a big enough bucket so I used my bathroom sink and filled it with warm water.
Leave your mask in the water until you start to see little air bubbles at the leathers surface (should take only a minute or two)
Take your mask out, it should feel very flexible.
Drape your mask on the head form and start to shape it. pinch at the nose and any other parts you want a strong shape to. As I was molding I used a hair dryer on high to help set the shape of the mask.
If you don't want to use a hairdryer you can let the leather dry naturally or use the oven (careful, I've damaged leather this way)
Step 11: Add Extras
I had extra pieces that I cut and dyed separately. Once my mask was dry I was able to hot glue the pieces where I wanted them.
Step 12: PAINT!
Once everything is together and dry you can start to add real color!
I used a bunch of Angelus paints to create a dynamic color scheme.
I wanted my mask to glow in the dark so I applied Angelus Neon Yellow around the parts I wanted to glow.
If you use Angelus know that it has a very glossy finish naturally. If you want a more matte finish I'd research for a matte leather paint or finisher.
Step 13: Add Ear Pieces
I hate dealing with bands. So instead I used weighted ear pieces that you can tuck behind your ears like a glasses frame.
I made holes in the mask with the X-acto and an awl.
I then braided some leather string together.
at the ends I strung some heavy beads .
Then attached the pieces to the holes with some embroidery thread!
Step 14: Done!
Wear to your local masquerade ball!