Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fire Breather

The Fire Breather mask is a recently commissioned piece.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Black Bunny Mask

Perhaps my most photographed mask. Here is a selection to enjoy.

This mask can be purchased at my Etsy store.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I want to thank everyone who sent in a name idea for my latest plague doctor mask. I received over 200 names, many of them really good, and I had a very hard time choosing my favorite for this mask. Ultimately I chose Krankheit, sent in by Phoenix, for both its sound (pronounced like "Cronkite") and appearance, and meaning (German for sickness).

Congratulations to Phoenix for winning the Krankheit plague doctor mask in black. I am selling these in both black and white on Etsy.

Phoenix, please post your email so I can get your mailing address.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Naming Contest for Plague Doctor Mask

I've had many people want my classic plague doctor mask but wished it didn't cost so much ($285). Much of the cost comes from the hours and hours of handstitching that goes into each one, so I have designed a variation that is faster to make. I have replaced most of the stitching with metal rivets, which not only lowers the price ( to $195) but gives the mask an edgy steampunk look.

I've kept the shape of the mask as close to the original as I could, so it still has a look of historical accuracy. Here is the original classic plague doctor mask on the right, and the new riveted mask on the left.

I took some photos while making it, shown here. Once the holes are cut the two-part rivets are set by hand.

Then hammered together with the ball peen hammer on a steel shoemaker's anvil.

Here is the mask all riveted together, ready for the eyepieces to be stitched in place and then painted.

And here is the completed mask all painted black and with gray acrylic lenses.

I'm holding a contest to come up with a name for the new mask. It will run until midnight PST, November 15, 2011. The winner will receive the mask pictured, which is the first one I've made. Winner will have to pay for shipping from Penn Valley, California, US. I will be sole judge to determine the winning entry.

To give you an idea of what I'm looking for, here is how I named my other steampunk plague doctor masks. Beulenpest is the German word for bubonic plague. And Ichabod is named after Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, because the long beak reminded me of a crane's. So send in your creative names for the new riveted mask (by commenting on the blog post), and maybe you will win. You may submit as many entries as you like. In the event of duplicate entries of the winning name the first posted in this blog will be the winner.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

PSHoudini meets the Top Hat.....

....and here is the result.
Photoshopped picture of Donald Trump by Brazilian artist PSHoudini.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Recycling Parts

It occurred to me that I had some gas mask parts that could be combined in a new and different way. If I took the Pachydermos/Olifant leather pattern and made it without the copper ears or the rubber hose trunk, it could serve as a gas mask with a snout. Not out of the question, after making the RHINO mask with the big horn.

For the canisters, almost two years ago I made some custom ones for one mask and then never used them again. That seemed like a good start, and I could easily enough make a variation of eyepieces and fabricate something for the exhaust (to fill the hole in the snout). Using these preexisting pieces would save me a ton of work and allow me to produce a new gas mask in a fairly short amount of time.

Let me explain the history of the different canisters, eyepieces and exhaust ports that I have used in my steampunk leather and resin pieces.

The first steampunk leather piece I made (Sept 2008) was the #43 gas mask, copied from a yard sale find. For one of the eyes I molded and cast a camera lens. For the other I used the end of a flashlight. For the combination canister/exhaust I scratch built it using acrylic sheet, screws and a knob from a camera.

The next mask I made was a respirator I call the Bad Air Transmutator. It has no eyes, and I scratch built the pair of canisters. Two months later (Feb 2009) I made Pachydermos, my elephantine gas mask. It had a lot to it, and I scratch built the matching eyepiece bases and caps.

I made a leather covered vacuum hose, and leather trimmed copper ears, and when it came to the canisters I didn't want to scratch build them as well, so I used the Transmutator canisters. My first recycled piece.

Fast forward to July 2009 when I built the Defender gas mask. I scratchbuilt new canisters, and used a camera zoom for the right eye. For the left eye I used the Pachydermos eyepiece. Recycle #2.

For the indy film After the Fall I modified the Transmutator canister design by shrinking it down and covering it with a metal grid. My first two-part canister. That is the canister I'm using on my latest gas mask.

In Jan 2010 I constructed the RHINO gas mask with everything newly scratch built: Eyepiece base, eyepiece cap, canister and exhaust horn.

In June I made the steampunk plague doctor mask Dr. Beulenpest, using the Pachydermos eyepiece base and a new nonagonal eyepiece cap. For the other eye I used the camera eyepiece from #43.

That brings us to my lastest mask Ragnarök, a term which means the end of the cosmos in Norse mythology. For the new exhaust port I'm using the Pachydermos eyepiece base and the Beulenpest cap, along with a circle of drywall sanding mesh and scratch built screen to hold it in place. For the matching eyes I'm using the Pachydermos eye base and a new domed eyecage.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Domed Eyecage

For my latest steampunk gas mask I wanted to make an eyepiece that was a domed cage. After considering various ways to build such a thing I settled on what I know best, leather and resin. I began by laser cutting a circle of vegetable tanned leather with cross bars, shown on the left in the picture below.

My goal was to have it shaped like the dome on the right, with the cross bars spaced so that the wearer could still see through them adequately.

I stretched the dampened flat piece of leather in three steps. I began with the wooden knob I had used for forming the ear on Pachydermos, shown above on the left. In my wanderings I had collected the steel fence post ends shown above on the right, one with a higher dome than the other that I used for steps two and three.

Once the leather dried it became rigid, and I molded it in silicone rubber. Here is a photo of the leather original on the left, an unfinished cold cast aluminum casting in the middle, and the finished, polished casting on the right.

And here it is placed into the undyed leather mask.

Friday, August 26, 2011

James Vaughan Meets the Minx...

...and here is the result.

I recently designed the Minx mask in red for the Halloween season. We also make it in all black. It is available on Etsy.

James Vaughan Photography blog

James Vaughan Photography on Flickr

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A New Steampunk Gas Mask: Hosehead?

I found this rubber gas mask some time ago at a yard sale, and it is my inspiration and starting point for making a new leather and resin steampunk gas mask.

It is marked USN for United States Navy and I am guessing it is from World War II. Maybe someone out there can tell me.

It is distinguished from any other gas mask in my collection by the two rubber hoses running to a (missing) tank of breathable gases, and that is a feature I definitely want to keep on my mask.

My first challenge is determining how to make the rubber hoses. I looked into simply buying a comparative hose but wasn't having much luck finding it. Then I considered building it out of a small latex tubing covered in leather washers. They would have to alternate large and small to allow for the flexing required.

At this point I am thinking of molding the original (shown above removed from the mask) and reproducing it in black neoprene.

The natural curvature of the hose would make building a plaster mold challenging, and so I inserted a wooden dowel into the hose to straighten it out. Making a rigid mold will now not be so daunting.

I chose "Hosehead" as a working name for the piece (for obvious reasons), but I would like to hear from my reading audience any suggestions for a permant name.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Alexi Torres, Painter

Alexi Torres is an oil painter from Atlanta, GA who grew up in Cuba. He wrote me "My works on oil/canvas are based in the idea of redoing, recycling and reusing. I get an image already conceived and transform it, painting it with organic material, like basket weaving, tree leaves and feathers. I came across your creative masks and I did ... paintings on canvas that I wanted to share with you. I did transform it a bit."

Pictured above is my Rococo mask in red leather.

And here is Alexi's painting of the same subject, turned into leaves on a basket woven face. I suggest you click on the painting to see it in a larger size in order to see the detail. More of his work can be found on his website.

Monday, July 25, 2011

California State Fair Fine Art Competition

I entered my steampunk gas mask Olifant into the California State Fair's Fine Art Competition and won an Award of Merit. Whoopie!

They asked for a display case to keep the dirty fingers of the 250,000 expected viewers from caressing my work of art, and I obliged by building a clear acrylic case with black steamy straps and buckles holding it together. Now it really looks sinister. The photo shows it on display.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ye Wenchie's Customized Ronin

My friend Wenchie's take on the Ronin respirator, shown below. And a fine job it is!

Ye Wenchie's Flickr

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dr. Beulenpest: Tatoo?!

My photo of Dr. Beulenpest wearing a leather top hat has been turned into a tatoo. Although I don't much care for tatoos in general, I must admit this one is well done.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Tauruscat: The Final Photos

The Tauruscat Dream Helmet has been done for several months, but I just got around to photographing it.

I had been planning on shooting video of it with lights in action, but alas, that still hasn't come to fruition.

Here is a detail shot of many of the resin components.

The rear view showing off the six aether collectors.