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Mask-Making

So my first attempt to make a leather mask kinda failed spectacularly, mostly due to the bit where I tried to carve everything on the wrong side of the leather.

Then I decided it was scrap and started trying various tools out on it, and wound up gouging right through the leather a couple of times.

Then, because I still wanted to see how the whole “veggie tanned leather” thing works, I wet it down again and clipped it to a cheap-ass mask form, and damned it if didn’t turn the thing into a mask!

It’s still total crap with holes and random lines and squiggles and gouges, but something about being in the shape of a mask makes it…I don’t know…suddenly it’s a thing. I suspect it has something to do with it being a kind of face, and faces poke you in parts of the brain that you don’t really get control over.

Still. Crap piece of leather…mask. Insomuch as I understand magic, that’s it, right there. I’m kinda wowed.

My second attempt (on the right side, this time!) is drying on the form as we speak. I have done plenty wrong, and the lines are kinda irregular, but this one I will probably seal and paint. It’s a very simple shape—a couple of swoopy points on the outer edges and around the eyes—which if I were a certain sort of person, I would probably try to classify as a sylph or a spirit, but being me, I won’t.

Anybody got any suggestions on good things to seal a mask with, for acrylic paint? My inclination is to use clear gesso or matte medium, so if either of those make leather explode, now would be a good time to mention it.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

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You can paint acrylic right onto leather. It will crack if the leather flexes, but otherwise it does fine...sinks into the leather, in fact.

If you want a more even surface, I imagine you could use gesso, but I haven't tried it.


This. Using thinned paint will make it more flexible; I don't know anyone who seals it, as having the paint go into the pores of the leather makes the paint more durable. </p>

You could also try oils instead of acrylics. They also used egg- and casein-bound pigments on parchment and vellum in the medieval period.


I'm intrigued. Even though it was experimental, do you have pictures?

Isn't it amazing how leather turns into almost a flat piece of clay when wet? I LOVE making leather masks because it's so fun to push at the stuff and see how much I can mold it.

On mine I just painted them straight up with acrylic paint. The leather I have takes paints beautifully. I should mention I do wet the leather in water mixed with some white glue which might size it a bit and make it more accepting of smooth coats of paint after I've warmed and dried the piece in the oven.

a friend of mine (<lj user="merimask") is a professional leather mask maker. A year or so ago she was on Martha Stewart. Here is a link to a how-to and the video of her showing how to make a leather mask. http://www.marthastewart.com/270793/leather-unicorn-mask

Yes, I was just about to cite Merimask! She is THE maskmaker.

Somewhere she has a lj tutorial where she lists all her materials, but I don't have an easy link to it anymore since she's having problems with copycats/thieves duplicating her work. But my understanding is you paint right on the leather, then use a waterproof sealant on top.

Here's my question, if you were to make leather masks, would you sell them?
I just saw a leather executioner hood the other day (okay, fine, I admit it, it was on a bondage site....don't judge) that I absolutely fell in love with.

I know several leather-workers that might be able to help.
I'll point one in your direction and have her contact you.

If they were worth selling, sure!

Since I have, at the moment, made approximately 1/2 of a mask...that's not quite yet. *grin*



A leather mask, eh?
I take it you already have a chainsaw.
RUN KEVIN RUN!!! D:



Ok, for my own two cents, as a maskmaker:

1: Jacquard textile paints are your friend- great latex/acrylic line, with lots of good color and variation.

2: Krylon down a clear-coat spray that works beautifully for a fixative, in either matte or gloss finishes. The combination of those two ends up leaving most of my masks flexible as hell without cracking issues from the paint.

Do you apply that before painting, or as a top coat?

If you're going to all the trouble of using leather why are you painting over it? Or are you just using a thin stain?
I think leather is beautiful, it would be a pity to paint it. You could use a paper mask for that.

All the leather masks I've collected over the years have been painted. I like the look.

In a KUEC episode (episode #60) you made a plea for people to describe any 'friendly, happy, loving chickens' that they've come across.

Well...I know an entire coop of them.

My parents this past spring got chicks, but we had a cold spring, so they had to keep them in their house for warmth. That meant the little chicks got constant human interaction. When they got older, my parents had trouble with snakes (they lost two hens) so they had to start putting them in the well house at night instead of the chicken coop. This meant that every morning they had to take the cage full of pullets out to the chicken coop to let them out before feeding, then every night had to convince all ten hens back into the cage and carry that to the well house.

The hens, over time, grew accustomed to this handling and will now approach any human that enters their home, peck at their shoelaces and demand (in a very endearing way) to be picked up and pet, much like feathery cats. If you sit down, they will walk up and plop themselves in your lap. They come when called and are absolutely friendly, happy, loving chickens.

I think I can safely say...Kevin was wrong about chickens.

Is it safe to call dibs yet? =)

You don't want this! It's nothing! It's a practice effort!

When I have finished it, if it is even worth photographing, I will sell it to you if you really really want, but you would probably be better off waiting until I actually know what I'm doing...

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It doesn't surprise me at all. Some things...err...creep. Non-water-based stuff can often do really weird stuff with acrylics.

A friend of mine has also been known to use colored ink on leather. Not sure if he seals it though.

I'm trying that right now...we'll see how it goes...

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As an ex-Tandy Leather store manager I would just add that baking the leather is not a good idea. Heat will make it too stiff and more likely to crack. It will stiffen enough when it dries without the added heat.

Do not mix heat and leather if you can avoid it.

The only exception I know to that rule is boiled leather armor. But that stuff is half an inch thick.



It's very tempting to ask if you're willing to sell that first "garbage" mask with a certificate of authenticity. I doubt it would be worth much even in a century, but it would be a great bragging point.

Fourthing on at least wanting to see it.

Look up someone called Naming Way. I think she's polyclay, but probably still worth looking at.

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