Monday, 1 July 2013

Princess Mononoke Mask Commission

This was my first commission and also my first prop that I made.  I am quite pleased with how it turned out and how cheap it actually was to make!  One of my cosplaying friends asked me to do this because he didn't have time or the experience working with props.  I didn't have much experience with props but I have made maquettes and sculptures before so I figured that I could pull it off.  Before I decided on a price I looked up reference pictures and examined tutorials as posted by other people.  In the end I combined two different sources and used a little bit of information from each to create the mask.

Once I figured out what method I used I looked into the materials.  I went to art stores and got prices for different mediums.  I also took into consideration the weight of materials because it is a mask and it is attached to the fur hood.  I did some research and decided to make the base out of a few layers of papier mache with maybe a thin layer of clay over top to round it.  For the eye and mouth pieces I found some small salad dressing containers that would act as the support under the clay accents.  I got a cheap pair of sunglasses to tint the inside of the eyes of the mask in case too much light would be getting in.  I also got some necessary hardware such as thick malleable wire, sandpaper and an exacto knife.

Materials gathered
I started out with a  plastic bowl that had a flat bottom.  To make it round, I taped paper onto it until I got a desired hemispherical shape.  I made one layer of wet newspaper over the bowl so that the papier mache wouldn't stick to it.  I made six layers of papier mache over a span of a couple of days.  I waited until each layer was thoroughly dry before putting the next one on.  Once the base of the mask was completely dry, I removed it from the bowl and painted the inside of the mask with flour and water paste to get the first layer of newspaper to stick.

Flour and water "paint"
I trimmed the edge of the mask that formed due to the rim of the bowl.  Believe it or not cutting through six layers of papier mache is difficult!  After the base was done I sanded down the top of the mask to make it smooth and even.

I took a bit of a break from the mask part and I focused some energy on the eye and mouth pieces.  I cut off the bottom of the plastic containers as well as the rim.  I tried my best to make them all have the same height.

Cut eye piece
To place the eye and mouth holes in the mask I drew two bisecting lines, one vertically and one horizontal, along eye level.  I used the cut plastic pieces to draw tentative circles to mark the holes.  Cutting through the top was a challenge.  The layers at the top had all piled up so it was more like ten or eleven layers of papier mache on the top rather than six.  I had to puncture the center of each hole with a screwdriver!  One I managed to make a hole big enough to fit my exacto blade in, I had to carve out the circular shape.  Carving it took a while but it allowed me to continuously check the hole size until the plastic pieces fit (more or less) perfectly in.

Eye and mouth holes cut out
Once the holes were cut to shape I sanded the insides to smooth the edges.  I went on to making the ears.  I figured out a pattern for the ears where the front face consisted of a pointed arch shape and the back piece was a triangle with large rounded edges.  I assembled the pieces by bending the back piece until it curved nicely and then taped the two together.  I covered each ear with one layer of papier mache and let them dry. Once dry I gave them a light sanding.

My next phase was working on the accents.  I glued each plastic piece into the holes with hot glue on the inside.  For the raised accents on the mask, I marked out where they would go and how wide I wanted them to be.  I made the accents out of air-dry clay.  I covered the plastic pieces with the clay and did my best blending the clay into the mask.  I let it dry overnight.  Once it was dry there were some cracks that developed.  I fixed those crack by filling them in with super glue :)

Once the mask dried up I painted the ears, the outside of the mask and the inside of the mask with gesso as a primer.  I used acrylic paints for the bright colours of the mask.  I only gave one coat of paint to everything.

Finished ears
Painted mask
To attach the mask to the hood, I used a thick malleable wire.  I molded a long wire that made two prongs that stuck up at the top of the mask and curved all along the bottom inside of the mask.  I held it place with hot glue and added super glue in the cracks along the curved length.  I cut the prongs so that the ears could fit on them.  The goal with this is that the wire would poke through the hood and help keep it in place.  The ears were glued onto the wires on top of the hood.  For extra security I glued the hood down onto the top of the mask.

Attaching the ears
The things that I would improve on are adding a cushion for the chin to rest on while wearing it and somehow  anchoring the back of the hood so that the mask doesn't fall down the face due to it's weight.  The hood was held down by safety pins at the con but next time the hood should be sewn tightly to the cape.
Completed Mononoke mask commission

That's it!  Hope you liked my first prop!

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