Introduction: Custom Head Base for Mask Making

About: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home from discarded nylon fishnet and cement.

I want any masks I make to be comfortable, well ventilated, and with good vision.    I made a duplicate of my head to build them on so that things will fit with precision.  

I am making masks with a new technique using yarn and hot melt glue over a clay base ( see: ) .   I build the clay over this head core, to make sure my head will fit in the finished mask.  After  removing the mask layer, the clay is re-hydrated and reused.  

Step 1: Taping the Head

This step is as easy as pulling nylon panty hose over your head and covering it with metallic tape.  

The tape sticks to the pantyhose, not your skin and hair, which avoids the need for greasing up with mold release agent, as we used to do making Plaster of Paris molds back when it wasn't considered an especially hazardous material.   The label on the box I got for this project warned against skin contact and  enclosing any part of the body with it, so I guess opinion has changed over the years.   Anyway, I decided not to do a plaster mold, and to invent another way of making a head double for a sculpture base.  

The end result was this technique.  As previously stated, it's as easy as pulling nylon panty hose over your head and covering it with metallic tape.  

I used a metallic tape, like aluminum foil with glue, to cover myself with.  The tape is available in auto parts stores for covering mufflers, I think.  The tape is good in solar reflector projects, too.   After I did the areas around my mouth and nose, friends finished covering my head.  It was comfortable inside, with easy breathing.  The eye holes over the glasses were the last to get covered.  Scissor cuts up the back of the neck helped me get out.  

I made a mistake, and added on ears to this head form using grout.  The problem was in getting the mask off of the complicated mask form.  It's easier to break off a clay ear than it is to cut around a grout ear to extricate it from the mask.  The broken off clay ears and horn shapes come off of the base mold easily, since the base mold has no protrusions, or undercuts to interfere with  the removal of the mask.    Once removed from the base, the mask can be flexed to easily break up and remove any trapped clay.  

I made this base form with my glasses on, because I want to be able to see out and enjoy the view, but I think I may make another one later without the glasses.  

To make this form, I used two layers of the tape.  I plan to try a four layer one next, to see if the added rigidity helps.  

Step 2: The Base

To help rigidify the tape shell, and keep it from ballooning out under pressure when filled, I first brushed a layer of plaster of Paris on the inside.  When that hardened up, I filled the rest with grout and Styrofoam, to cut down on weight.  It still came out pretty top heavy, so a wide base was in order.  

I made the base out of a hubcap, a plastic Coleman fuel bottle holder and some PVC pipe all wired together.   Filling the base and the head, I put them together to let the grout inside them fuse.              

The end result is a base that is heavy and solid, a good base for pushing clay around on.  

Step 3: The First Mask

The remaining steps are to sculpt the shape, cover the layer with hot melt glue and yarn, and then remove the mask layer from the base.  The protruding clay shapes break off the head base in the process, which makes removal of the mask layer easier.  

The clay for this project has now been re-hydrated and is ready for the next idea that comes along.