Friday, March 23, 2012

How to Use Plaster Wrap Cloth for Mask Making

Last post I mentioned creating a post to show how to use plaster wrap cloth which is a very convenient method to make masks without the gunk and mess of using papier mache. I recorded the entire process of wrapping the cardboard frame for my Leviathan mask which was almost an hour total. I had to speed up the frames big time to make it fit under Youtube's 15 minute rule and so it's not quite an instructional video, but more of a time lapse to show you how you could use it and the general idea.

Because of this, I'll add in some basic instructions to go along with it. In my video I used a cardboard frame (see this post for details : but you can also create one off of your face or on an armature. The bottom line is you need some sort of support for the plaster wrap to lay on before it dries.

What you'll need:
  • Plaster Wrap Cloth -- available at craft stores or @ Amazon Rigid Wrap Plaster Cloth
  • Scissors any kind will do but if you don't have any at all grab some here Soft Grip Scissors
  • a tub for warm water -- I use an old true (cool) whip container
  • a towel
  • a plate (paper is fine)
  • a surface to work on

Once you've decided how you're going to do your piece, the rest is very simple.

1. Take your roll of plaster cloth and cut a bunch of different sizes out. I do thick 1 inch pieces as well as thinner ones. I also do a bunch of large triangle shaped pieces. Put all of the pieces on your plate for easy access.

2. Fill your tub with hot water. By the time you're finished the water will probably be luke warm so might as well give it the longest go by starting hot. The box suggests warm water and I have definitely noticed that the material is more flexible when warm versus cold.

3. Set up you work area with your plate of plaster cloth, your tub, a towel and even keep your roll of plaster cloth and scissors off to the side in case you run out and need to cut more or need a specific shape. Make sure you keep your water and plaster well and separate because if you get water on your plate you will end up with hard patches all over your strips! The towel is usually well put between the bowl of water and the mask so that you can let excess water drip from the piece before applying if needed.

4. After that you're ready to go. Just dip a strip in the water and let the excess off on the towel. Place the strip on whichever surface and smooth it down with your finger. Make sure that there are little to no holes showing through the cloth and that you have a smooth white surface.

Thanks for Reading and Happy Creating!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Just a Quick Note... let you all know that I'm taking a bit of a break here this week. I haven't had much inspiration to get any work done as I got sick yet again with stomach flu last week and it has been taking me some time to get back to normal.

As soon as I get my spunk back I'll continue the progress posts and tutorials!

Thanks for Reading and Happy Creating!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Revisiting the Labyrinth: Making a Ludo Mask Part 1

What is it about the Labyrinth that just gets my creative juices flowing? It might be that I watched this movie so much as a child and therefore a lot of the creatures formed this basis in my brain for creativity and creation. Foremost, it seems all of Henson's characters in the Labyrinth, aside from the humans, would make good masks! Think about it! Ludo? Excellent mask idea! A Firey (Chilly Down)? Heck yes (I actually have a Firey mask that is not too far along but in serious planning stages too!)!

To start I worked on making a horn out of polymer clay while studying a picture of Ludo. I have used regular water-based clay before but it almost always seems to break on me. I then have to dig out the rest of the clay and it's just no fun! The great thing about having a nice polymer clay horn is that I can reuse it over and over again too!

The horn getting ready to be baked

While the horn was baking it was time to work on the base for the mask. I knew I wanted to cut this mask off above the lips and went about making it accordingly. I don't have a lot of pictures of the in between process here because I moved along pretty quickly. But I started by making the shape on one of my armatures. I then realized by looking at Ludo's head and horns that I would need to add an extension to the forehead to pin the horns too. I cut out some cardboard for this and in many series of letting the plaster dry and then adhering on top of it, got the horns and everything put together.

Kind of reminds me of a witch doctor!
The big problem I had once this was all said and done, was that it was kind of flimsy in between the horns on each side of the forehead. I ended up reinforcing the whole frame of the mask as well as the horns and forehead with some wire. This went very well, but next time I will not go with the figure 8 shown below and will instead stick with the edges and through the horns. I will have to spend some time making the wire flush with the surrounding mask or else it's going to dig into your forehead. Sometimes I wish I'd think of these things ahead of time, but a lot of creation is trial and error!

Wire frame added for support
Now for the biggest hold up on this mask!! I've got my total base ready to go now for the most part and the only thing I can think of, even though I have plenty of sculpting yet to do, is of Ludo's muppet hair. I must have spent 5 hours alone just researching the different furs available out there. I started by looking up shag fake fur and could only find people selling the right color in yards for $30 or more! I would find smaller bits on etsy but never the right color. I looked into dying my own faux fur and found that apparently the only way to die dark colors in acrylic fur is very toxic and not suggested for beginners. Lovely!

I finally found a solution in the most unlikely of place: fly fishing! Yes, that's right... fly fishing. There is more variety in color for fisherman to choose from then there is for crafters to choose from! I found the perfect color, orangutan rust, in a brand called Psuedo Hair. It's not quite the right texture so much as the Mongolian shag I found was, but at least I don't have to spend $30 for it, more like $3.50 which is way more affordable! I also found another brand called Extra Select that has a finer version of this fur that I will be using for my Firey mask.

Orangutan Rust Pseudo Hair
So now I'm waiting for my order of fur to come, and will work on sculpting the facial features onto the mask base in the meantime. I'd like to get this done either by next week or the week after.

Thanks for Reading and Happy Creating!

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Friday, March 9, 2012

How to Make a Cardboard Frame for Mask Making

This was pretty busy day and so at 3:30pm I am just now getting to writing my blog post! I have been working on creating a pretty complex frame for a mask concept. I am part of a group on Facebook with a lot of cool and talented artists and each month we have a theme that we vote on. This month the theme was blue and so I thought I would work on a blue mask. I had a lot of trouble coming up with an idea, but after much thought, decided to work on a Leviathan mask. Leviathan is in many different myths from Biblical to Babylonian to Greek. It's depicted usually as a dragon, but the game Final Fantasy turned it into a sort of sea serpent. This is the version I'm going with and more specifically the model used from Final Fantasy VIII (8).

Leviathan Statue from FF8

As you can see, this is far from the simplest design I could have picked, but the thing I love most about mask making is the problem solving part! There are many ways you can do them and figuring out how is so fun -- for me at least.  Let's get started on making a frame!

What you'll need:

So, I started by breaking down the model on this statue that was released for the game. You can see the parts of the face: a diamond shape in the center, a sharp tip and almost rectangular sides, a central fin, and 2 big wings on both sides. Adapting it to a human face is something you just have to make judgement calls on. The way I do it may be different from how you would do it. For the base part of the face, I came up with a pattern that looks like this drawn on cardstock and cut out. Make sure you label them too so that you don't get confused later.

The frame pattern on cardstock

I got this shape by trying it on continually. The cardstock is also very flexible so you can wrap it over your face easily. Check your eyeholes, check that everything looks right before continuing on. If you have a friend, it really helps to try it on them too! Tape it to their face and make sure everything looks exact!

When you're done, trace the patterns out on some cardboard. For this specific pattern and because the beak is so sharp of a point, I wanted to use a material that would not get flimsy when wet like cardboard does. I used the back of a picture frame (I think it's made of chipboard) to cut out the central shape for this reason and it is not the easiest thing to do. I went back and forth between the xacto knife, the scissors, and my husband's pocket knife! For any piece that you want to be easily mold-able, use the cardboard. Keep in mind, that the cardboard you trace this pattern onto will not be as flexible as the cardstock until wet. Also, make sure you use your Xacto knife to cut the cardboard. It work way better than the scissors!

Main frame pieces cut out in cardboard and chipboard

Once it's all cut out, you can start to shape it a bit and tape it in place with your masking tape. I use masking tape because if you screw up, then you can easily take it off. It's good for temporarily holding as well - like when you're tracing. Do the same thing you did with the cardstock pattern, and squish and bend the cardboard to make it fit right. But don't worry too much about it being rigid, as I mentioned before that it will loosen up quite a lot when you add your material to it (papier mache or plaster wrap cloth). To keep the cardboard from jutting out on the sides, I kept it taped with a long piece of masking tape in approximately the right shape.

Next, I made the central fin pattern, and traced that out on cardboard two times. I fitted it and cut off any excess. You find that making your own patterns is a lot of trial and error. I had to cut a little divot in my fin pieces because of the dip in between the V shape at the top of the head. Once it was all secured, it's now starting to look more like Leviathan! 

Central fin attached

I'll now go on to follow the same routine to make the wings on both sides of the helmet style mask. You can use this method to bring just about anything to life, but it is especially helpful for hard, straight edges -- like the pointy beak, fin, and wings. You can always build upon it as well with something like celluclay as I will with this mask to work in details. Once this mask is finished, I'll be sure to link to it here so you can see the finished piece.

After writing this post, I'm realizing that I still haven't explained how to use something like plaster wrap cloth or paper mache to cover a frame like this and make a mask. I'll be sure to write that for you guys next week and I can even use this mask to show you!

Thanks for Reading and Happy Creating! Please leave a comment if you have a moment!

If you found this post helpful please share it with your friends! I also love a comment! You can get up to the minute updates by following me on Facebook by clicking here. I'm also on Youtube now; please subscribe by visiting my channel here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Making A Rhesus Monkey Inspired Mask

A friend of mine took an interest in my mask making and said she would love to see some creepy skull-like masks. Having never made one, I got to looking around at different animal skulls. I found that a lot of monkey skulls are pretty interesting in terms of shape. While I don't think the result came out too creepy looking, I still really like it. The close resemblance to a skull makes it seem so primitive.

Photo from CVB

I made the mask out of Sculpey polymer clay and referenced a picture of a Rhesus monkey skull (above) and just built it up from scratch on my face armature. The ear canal areas on both sides of the mask were a bit tricky to pull off with something as soft as sculpey but I managed. 

When this mask was done baking, I had to move it temporarily because the tinfoil armature it was baked on rolled a bit. The results were some cracks in the mask. At first I was very upset thinking of all the wasted time, but then I thought I might use it to my advantage. I super glued the cracks back together and held them to make sure they wouldn't release. The seal felt solid so I went ahead with painting it.

I started off with a gray gesso and worked up my paint in many layers so that it would have a gun metal silver and black look. I darkened the areas that cracked as well and I loved the way it came out. I varnished it up and let it dry before the padding was added to the back of the mask for comfort. This is my first time using padding instead of felt, and I liked the feel very much.

All that's left is to attach it the head for wearing! I used ribbon for the photo, but I will probably switch it to elastic when I get the time as it would be a lot easier to put on. This was a smaller project than most of my masks, but definitely a fun one. I may have to make some more of these in the future.

Thanks for Reading and Happy Creating!

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Friday, March 2, 2012

How to Create a Round Beak or Feature for Your Mask

There may come a time, sooner than later, where you realize that it is not so easy to make every feature you had dreamed of out of clay or cardboard to mold over. While I was attempting to make a rounded beak for my Owl Mask, I tried cardboard and just couldn't get the right shape (not to mention it would have gotten soggy when wet which would have warped the shape either way). So after spending 4 hours of my day trying to make this rounded owl's beak, I finally found that this method worked the best.

Making an Armature out of Aluminum Wire and Super Sculpey

I've added product links to both dickblick and amazon so if you have a place you prefer to shop you can choose either one. I know I bounce back and forth myself!

What you'll need:
12 gauge aluminum wire  Sculpture Armature Wire or Aluminum Craft Wire
Super Sculpey @ DB or Super Sculpey @ Amazon
small pliers
scissors (to cut wire)
paper towels
rubbing alcohol (for smoothing)
sandpaper (rough and fine)
an oven.

Step 1: Make the basic frame for your shape

This is the hardest part! I have tried this with thinner wire and it was impossible. I have also tried it without pliers and it was equally impossible. Don't worry too much about exactness here as a lot of the excess shape can be sanded off. Use the pliers to crimp the wire down firmly where it connects.

Step 2: Cover your frame with wireform

This can also be hard depending on the shape. Try to keep the wireform as flat as you can so it doesn't crimp up in unwanted sections - like it did on mine! Use the pliers to clamp down that wire around the edges. You can use them to flatten a bit too if needed.

Step 3: Cover your finished frame with Super Sculpey

The easiest way to do this is to eye about enough to cover your frame and work it in your hand until it is soft. Then roll it out with a rolling pin so it's nice and even. Don't roll it out too thin so that you have room to sand. Place the rolled out sculpey over the frame and press it up under the edges. Make sure all underneath the frame (the part nobody sees) is nice and tight by pressing it firmly; make sure the sides are how you want them to look for the most part.

Step 4: Smooth and bake your feature

Use some wadded up paper towels doused in rubbing alcohol to smooth out your shape. When you've got it about right, get some tinfoil to make a wad big enough to support your piece in the oven. Especially if your shape has a point like mine did, you will need it to be perched off the surface and kept from rolling around! Follow the directions on your sculpey package for temperature and baking time.

Step 5: Sand it

Once it's done cooking, let it sit for awhile before touching it. I have touched sculpey too soon and it will actually crack so to be safe, just let it be for a few hours before you try to sand it. I used 120 grit sand paper to sand my beak into perfection. The frame originally had some lumps so it was nice to be able to just sand them off the top part. Use a circular motion to keep it level and even. I finished it with some fine grit sand paper.

Step 6: Seal and decorate

Seal your beak with whatever you have available. I used some clear coat acrylic paint, others like to use polyurethane, but they both do the same thing. You can even seal it with gesso if you need the base to be white for painting. I painted mine silver and mounted it to my owl mask. There may be an easier way to do this that I have yet to discover, but for now this is a simple enough method of getting the job done.

Thanks for Reading and Happy Creating!

If you found this post helpful please share it with your friends! I also love a comment! You can get up to the minute updates by following me on Facebook by clicking here. I'm also on Youtube now; please subscribe by visiting my channel here.