Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vacuum Formed Skin Tight Leather Mask

Here is a way to make a different kind of leather mask than I usually do, using the power of a vacuum to shape the leather.

Pictured above is my set up, consisting of a vacuum pump and hose connected to a piece of iron pipe. The bottom of the pipe is closed off, so that when the pump is engaged a strong vacuum pulls from the top of the vertical pipe. Into the open pipe I place the form that I am going to use, in this case a life casting of a woman's face poured in plaster, with a smaller diameter iron pipe protruding from the bottom.

The smaller pipe inside the larger pipe still allows the vacuum to suck air. For my leather I have chosen a very thin lambskin, as it will absorb water when immersed, and then become plastic. At the same time it won't allow any air to pass through it, so that when I firmly wrap the lambskin around the larger pipe, the vacuum pulls the damp leather down around the face.

To ensure a good pulldown all around, I drilled small holes in the recesses of the face: The inside corners of the eyes, the nostrils, and the outer corners of the mouth. I also worked it with some dull metal tools to help the leather conform.

Once it drys it can be removed from the form, and it will retain its shape. Here is the mask after it is cut off of the plaster face.

This view shows it from the inside. You can see that at the chin and forehead I was unable to stretch it sufficiently to remove all of the wrinkles.


  1. That's so cool!! Do you think you could use an actual vaccu-form machine? I might try it....

  2. Did you apply anything else to the leather besides water?