Sunday, July 15, 2012

Crixus Photos

Here are two photos from a recent photo shoot with the Crixus mask.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lantern City -- A Steampunk TV Show

I've had the honor of having been asked to be one of the designers for a new upcoming television show. The new Steampunk show Lantern City, from executive producer Bruce Boxleitner, is an exciting foray into fan-inspired and fan-created television. It combines with first-rate storytelling, innovative production design, and a rich world that fans will fall in love with. Even though it will blend great science fiction with dynamic storylines, at its heart the show asks two questions: how far would you go to be with the person you love and what lengths would you go to in order to survive?
Bruce Boxleitner
Lantern City highlights the steampunk genre to create a one-of-a-kind television experience. Other properties have had Steampunk elements, but this is the first mainstream television show to proudly wear the label of Steampunk. Current fans of the subgenre will not be disappointed and it will attract a much wider audience to the long neglected world of Steampunk. The show is unique in that it allows viewers to be involved in the process – a first for any television show.
Read all about it here: Lantern City

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Uncle Charlie Becomes Crixus

In the two weeks since I lasted posted about the Uncle Charlie mask, I have been tweaking the pattern and adding bits and bobs. I felt that the forehead piece lay too flat, and so redesigned it to stand up more.
I realized that the center seam between the eyes--while helping the skull look--was unnecessary and if I eliminated it I could add a row of spikes there. I changed the leather pattern enough so that I needed to remake the prototype from scratch. And I gave the leather a nice rusty iron coloring.
Even though the mask was done (except for the straps), and I liked it, I didn't have a clear idea what it was. It wasn't until I spent a couple of days studying it that I realized that it was both protective and scary.
It dawned on me that it resembled nothing so much as a gladiator's mask, and so thus was born Crixus, the steampunk gladiator. After all, no one would take Uncle Charlie the Gladiator seriously.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Uncle Charlie: Testing the Pattern

Continuing with the leatherwork, I cut and stitched on the three trim pieces, two for the eyes and one for the muzzle.
Stitching on the Trim

Here it is with the trim all on and the three cold cast pieces in place.
Once the leather is dry I will try it on to see if the straps are placed correctly. Then I will decide what else I want to do to it. I'm considering spikes and decorative straps.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Uncle Charlie: Creating the Pattern

Once I finished shaping the plasticine clay for the Uncle Charlie mask I coated it with urethane resin so that the masking tape could adhere.
Clay Sculpt with Markings
I used a grease pencil to mark where the seams and straps would go.
Covered in Masking Tape
Next I covered it all with painter's masking tape, taking care to copy the seam lines in a felt marker.
Cutting Off the Tape
Here I have just finished cutting off the masking tape patterns.
The Masking Tape Patterns
And these are the three pattern pieces laid out flat. The small one is the forehead.
First Leather Piece Cut
After scanning the patterns into Corel Draw, and adjusting them as needed, and adding in stitching marks, I laser cut the vegetable tanned leather.
Stitching the Leather Pieces
I used black waxed thread to stitch the mask together.
Face Pieces All Stitched Together
Here it is with the front parts stitched together and fitted over the clay and hardware. It's looking like a grasshopper at this point!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pestis: Plague Dr. Beak

Introducing the latest in my line of plague doctor masks. Pestis is a half mask, leaving the eyes uncovered. It can easily be accessorized with goggles and hood or hat. Made with the same quality and fine materials as my other plague doctor masks.

Pestis Plague Doctor Mask: $89

Welding Goggles: $15

Balaclava: $6

Entire Plague Doctor Outfit: Priceless

The mask is now available at an introductory price of $79 at our Etsy store. I am not selling any of the accessories, just the Pestis mask. Perfect for those (like myself) who wear glasses. Pestis is made of top grain veg tan leather and rivets with an adjustable elastic band.

Pestis Out at Night

Pestis with a Hood

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Skull Mask

I had the idea of making a mask that would be reminiscent of a human skull. Below is my first sketch.
First sketch of skull mask

I had already made up some eyecages, similar to the ones used in the Ragnarok mask, only larger, and I decided to use them for this mask.
First idea translated into clay
I wasn't sure at this point how I would make the teeth, but I was thinking of fabricating the part out of acrylic sheet and then casting it in cold cast aluminum, to match the eyecages.
Dog muzzle
After further consideration, I decided to look through my many boxes of yard sales finds, in the hopes of encountering a part already made that could be adapted to the teeth. When I came across the dog muzzle I realized I could dip it in wax to thicken up the wires, and give it a similar look to the eyecages.
Pot of melted wax

Muzzle after being dipped in wax
I heated the wax to around 220° F and dipped the wire muzzle into the molten wax, and let it cool down. Dipping it two more times gave it a nice thickness.
Muzzle casting
After molding it in silicone RTV rubber, I cast just the top part of the muzzle in urethane resin.
Muzzle casting in mounting base
Then I scanned the bottom of the casting, and laser cut several pieces of sheet acrylic to match. I used epoxy to stick all the pieces together, and filled in the hollows with modeling clay.
Clay sculpt with eyecages and muzzle
I remolded the muzzle, and cast the finished part in a pink urethane resin, suitable for sculpting the final clay shape. Once I am satisfied with the shape of the clay I will take a pattern from it and then make the mask out of leather. It bears little resemblance to a skull now, but I am liking the look and am tentatively calling it "Uncle Charlie".

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Plague Doctors Animated

I've created my first animated GIF featuring those always bickering plague doctors.
Plague Doctors' Debate  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Views of My Studio

I've had a lot of "stuff" in my studio lately which is visually interesting, so I thought I'd share some photographs of where I work. The following pics are unposed and unedited. I shot these first thing upon arriving at work in the morning.
 A batch of classical plague doctors mask, stained and ready for assembly.
 An assortment of steampunk masks and helmets.
 Storage of blank filigree masks, ready to paint and finish.
 The head forms that we use to shape our masks.
Finished steampunk masks stored on my office shelves.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Making a Plague Doctor's Hat

I decided to make a plague doctor's hat in order to photograph my classic plague doctor mask with all of the correct attire and accessories.

This contemporary engraving from 1656 served as my inspiration.

This is what I came up with, using black deerskin leather for the hat. A cotton balaclava hides the back of the head and neck. The hat is made of three pieces: The brim, the crown, and the top. While not a really simple project, one could make this hat with ordinary tools.

I began by figuring out the patterns through trial and error. I made the head opening fairly large so that it could fit over the mask straps and balaclava. The top is an oval measuring 7½" wide by 9¼" tall.

The crown is a simple rectangle, measuring 4½" by 25". The deerskin is soft and of medium weight, and cut easily with shears.

The brim is an oval inside of another oval. The outer oval measures 16¼" long by 15" wide, and the inner opening is 6¼" by 8". The inner oval sits right in the middle of the pattern.
After cutting the outer shape I folded the leather to start the inner cut.

After the three parts were cut out I folded the crown over onto itself and applied contact cement along the outside of one end and the inside of the other, about ¼" wide.
After about ten minutes I carefully pressed the two ends together, overlapping them, and tapped the seam with a hammer to make the cement bond even stronger.
Then I folded the crown in half and marked the front by cutting a small notch. I folded it again with the front aligned with the back seam, and clipped the two center sides. These marks were used to line up the top.

I clipped the top the same way, then lined up the marks and stapled them together, right sides together, which in this case is the topgrain side of the leather. After stapling the four marks I stapled half way in between them, then half way in between them again, until I had the two parts held firmly together. You will need to compress the top, as it should feel a little big for the crown.

I then sewed them together making sure that the needle stayed inside of the staple line. I used an industrial flatbed sewing machine, but you could sew this easily with a household sewing machine as long as you used diamond shaped needles designed for leather.

Fabric needles are designed to slide in between threads without cutting them. Leather is a solid material with no holes, so you need a needle that is very sharp and cuts a hole as it sews.

After machine stitching the top and crown together, I removed the staples with a small knife.

In order to make the top half of the hat hold its shape and not be floppy I decided to reinforce the top. First I cut out a piece of chipboard the same size and shape as the leather top. You can use chipboard from a legal pad for this, after removing all the paper.
I applied contact cement to one side of the chipboard and the inside of the top. I didn't let it dry at all this time before placing the hat on top of the chipboard top.
Once aligned I pressed it together working from the center out, being sure I didn't get any wrinkles in it.
The I turned the hat right side out.
Next I placed the crown over an upside-down 5 quart plastic bucket. Then I applied contact cement to the bottom outside edge of the crown and around the brim opening on the wrong (flesh) side. I let it dry for ten minutes, then carefully slid the brim down over the crown. The bucket supports the crown from inside so that you can stretch the brim evenly.

At this point the hat is ready to sew on the flatbed machine. I sewed it from the inside, and the outside facing down.
The soft leather brim is very floppy, so you need to reinforce it with wire. I used a 14 gauge steel wire from my local hardware store. I bent it around twice, and taped the two wire together, but I recommend you just make one loop with a 1 - 2" overlap.

You can see in the photo above that the wire sits inside the outer edge of the brim by about ½". I turned the edge of the brim over the wire and sewed it down, again on my flatbed industrial machine.

An easier way to do this would be to use bias tape to cover the edge and hold the wire in place.
Here is the finished hat. Both the chipboard top support and the wire in the brim are important to give the hat its shape. The size of the hat is XL, which fits over the balaclava and the mask, but because the crown is short, the hat rests on the top of your head. This makes the size of the head opening not so important, and better too large than too small.