Last Halloween, as we moved from DC to Annapolis, the driver from our Baltimore moving company arrived wearing a werewolf mask. My kids went wild over it – totally loved his showmanship. Masks are powerful, fun and entertaining devices.
The first thing you must consider is the style and size you want your mask to be. Some of the more recognizable ones would be animal faces, Mardi Gras, Gods (Egyptian, Greek, Roman), legends of old (Guy Fawkes), Steampunk or some other obscure style like clockworks… I have made several of these types of masks and they range in difficulty depending upon the size you want to make and the detail you which to put into your work. Even simple masks with very little detail work put into the actual leather can be a large undertaking because you still have to cut, shape and form it to the person it is to belong to but you also have to finish it by painting it or adding decorations such as feathers to the mask. Let’s take a very simple mask for example right now.
Once you have decided upon the mask you wish to create you have to draw a simple outline pattern on the leather. I like to position the cutout on the leather where it will waste as little leather as possible. If you have a large piece of leather it doesn’t make any sense to cutout the mask from the middle. It would be better to place it as close to an edge or a corner as possible to conserve leather for your next project. When you have the design laid out in an efficient way on the leather you will need to cut it out with a good pair scissors. The scissors you use to cut leather with can make all the difference in the finished project. You want nice crisp sharp cuts not sloppy ones. Depending upon your skill level and experience you might also consider cutting the eye holes out at this point. I have found several small tricks accomplishing this later after the shape has already been given to the mask.
After you have the basic pattern for your work you will need to make it into the shape of a human head. Preferably the size and shape of the persons head that the mask is being made for. You can do this by simply soaking the leather all the way through with water. You will find it is much easier to move and bend after it’s wet. You will be able to use your own head, another persons head or I use mannequin heads designed for wigs for this as well. Once you have the basic shape it is very important that you keep the leather in this form as it dries. Once it is dry you will find that it retains the shape well and you can put the finishing touches on it like a leather strap on either side that you can tie around your head to hold the mask on. You can paint it or finish it to your liking from there only the sky is the limit.