Having made leather masks for SCA use, among others, my 2cents worth
is here: The old Leathercrafter magazine had an excellent article a
few-okay several- years back on the le4ather masks used by the
Comedia del arte.
My method is to use a light-2-4 oc vegetable tanned calf skin, pliver
is too thin, and heavier than 4 oz will mould well, but gets very hot
very quicly, best used on puppets instead of masks.
You will need a base to mold on. As i do not usually do grotesques,
i tend to use a life mask. if the person you are making for will not
sit, then make your own life mask cast, and mold on that. Unless you
are doing a latex mask for theatre or convention work it will fit
Soak the leather until very soggy, then into the plastic bag to case-
rest and fully wet thoughout. Remove from bag and allow to get to
that point of dryness that looks like it is drying, but still feels
chill on your cheek-9THE ONE ON YOUR FACE!@)
now just begin the molding process on your life cast POSITIVE and
don't be shy about folding in details, and modeling in lines,
wrinkles, and other effects. Pull the leather initially to makeit
tight onto the face, pressing down to get the details at the nose and
such. The comedia masks are made with a little hammer made from a
tip of cow horn to gently pound the leather to the model, getting it
into all the crevices and shapes. (these masks usually involve
exaggerated features and grotesques) Outline the eyes well with a
stulus, and determine your cut off marks.
You can make a nice tree branch effect by taking long trims at the
edge, and simply twisting them around on themselves.
Use a spray bottle if things dry before you want them too, and a hair
dryer- on low- if they get too soggy, or you want it to dry faster.
When dry, remove from the face mold, and trim up the edges--make the
cuts at the eyes- I usually only cut the bottom line, and fold it up
like eyelids- sort of a makers style mark of mine. It ads a change in
texture, and looks king of cool, as well as keeping "sharp" edges
away from the eyes.
I put smooth side out on most masks, but not all
I sometimes line the inside with a spray coating or spray adhesive
and fabric (mold them both at the same time, spray glue after dry)
This keeps the leather mask in shape during long wear, if the person
It is possible to make masks that will work with glasses using this
method, just make a buildup on the positive before molding the
leather. Do not use plastilina to make this, it will not take the
stress of the modeling, and pulling.>
Hope this helps!
It is really pretty easy to do, just takes some time to let yourself
play with it!