I love both Silas and Artemis, don't get me wrong! But I'm also really entertained by the difference between these two, especially considering that they're built on identical resin bases, with identical resin and silicone parts.
Here we get a little peek under the skin, as it were. For Artemis (and her brother Garm) I extended the top of the head back and made ruffs out of foam, made the ears out of Varaform and felt instead of Foamies, and used the ear vents as bases/supports for the ears instead of sewing the vents in afterwards. The ears are glued onto and supported by the foam instead of the resin base, which allows more flexibility with their size and shape. I got this idea from Stuffed Panda Studios, and the designs of the ears and ruffs are adapted from her designs. Credit where credit is due!
Process pics. Ears freshly assembled, being inspected by the Feline Assistance and Cat Hair Distribution Department.
Foam added to the top of the head, ears partially glued on. Does this dude look weird or what?
Cheek fluffs added, and approved by the Feline Assistance Department. The triangular part under the chin helps with patterning the neck later on, and is cut off afterwards.
Brother and sister with ears and foam added, ready for patterning!
Above, trying to fit a silicone cast of this straight lip on my mask. You can see how it gaps underneath, between the lower edge of the lip and the jaw. No good.
Above, trying to glue the new lip on. I think that pile of clamps might be trying to tell me something....
Making a pattern for a more fitted lip. The green thing above is Frog Tape stuck to aluminum foil. I pressed a piece around the lower jaw, sketched the shape of the lip on it, and cut it out. I then made it symmetrical by folding it in half in the middle and trimming it so the two sides would match. Then I tried out the new shape back on the head (above), trimming and fiddling until I was happy with it.
Here I've built the lip up in Monster Clay. It's built right on top of the pattern thingy, stuck on around the edges with a little more Monster Clay, so I can fairly easily remove and reapply the lip to the mask or adjustments as needed.
Above, the two clay lips next to each other for comparison. The new lip is on the bottom. Very different shapes.
Gluing silicone casts of the new lip in place. Not so many clamps needed this time! (The rubber bands here are actually serving as clamps here too.) I tried using Weldbond instead of hot glue, as Weldbond is theoretically stronger and doesn't leave those lumpy ridges when it dries. Weldbond takes about 24 hours to fully cure, hence the clamps. It did a good job, but I'm not sure it does enough of a better job to justify the long wait time.
And, the new lips freshly installed. Wheee!!
Above, two straps made by cutting webbing (not elastic, we don't want these guys to stretch!) to about 12” lengths, feeding them through the two front clips, folding them in half and gluing the halves to one another. No glue on the clips, they need to be able to rotate on the straps. The suspension will be (well) suspended from these straps inside the head, allowing it to move and conform to the wearer's head.
Now, to make the "slots". The short story is, these two new straps will be glued between two layers of foam inside the head. I imagine the straps could also be riveted inside, or perhaps just glued to the bare resin, but foam sticks really hard to the scored-up inside of a head with hot glue, and the straps stick really hard to the foam so… Plus the foam provides a much larger gluing surface and therefore more security, in my mind anyway.
Above, the first layer of foam, visible underneath the browband, has been glued into the head. Then, the the correct placement for the suspension is found, with the browband going across the forehead just above the eyes. The clamps are only temporarily holding the suspension in the correct place, the browband will not actually be fixed to the mask like this but will be able to move inside the head somewhat.
Next, the two new straps are glued on the foam directly underneath the two preexisting straps with which they share clips. I glue the straps all the way from the front of the mask to the back, where I trim off any extra. The more gluing surface the better. Again, no glue on the clips!
I start working the top layer of foam before the suspension is glued in, and finish it afterwards. Above, making a pattern for this part using standard duck tape patterning procedures. I often use aluminum foil under the duck tape in place of the more standard plastic wrap as it is easier to handle, especially in a concave shape like this.
Next, cutting the slots for the clips into the pattern. Cut a little bit, try sliding the pattern over the clips, cut a little more, slowly but surely. Worse comes to worst the slots can be taped over and started over again.
Above, the finished pattern for the top layer of foam.
Above, the second foam piece has been cut out, laid into the head over the freshly glued pair of straps, and held in place with Wonder Clips. Working from one end to the other I'll unclip one Wonder Clip, smear hot glue around underneath the foam, and press it down until it cools. I work my way systematically across the head, unclipping each Wonder Clip in turn, putting glue under the foam, and moving on. The Wonder Clips keep the foam in the exact correct position while it's being glued. I'll cover the entire underside of the foam with glue, paying special attention to the openings for the clips. Lots and lots of glue, but again, none on the clips!!
Trying it out. I'm pleased with how it works.
Above, the suspension in the finished head. From these pictures you can get an idea of how it "floats" inside the head. It also makes the mask nice to take off and on, as once the back strap is adjusted to the wearer it's a lot like putting on a baseball cap. No straps to fasten and unfasten.
I hope that this has been helpful to you. If you have any questions please feel free to ask! Thanks for looking!
To date I've purchased teeth from other craftspeople to use in my masks, but I've always really wanted to make my own. Below, a pile of attempts made over the past couple of years, made with Monster Clay (a kind of plasticine), Super Sculpey and Apoxie Sculpt.(Skully is supervising. He is a very helpful skull.) A whole lotta nope right here.
I finally settled on the Monster Clay for making the prototype teeth. I got tired of waiting for the other two to dry and/or set up in between sculpting sessions, and I got REALLY tired of trying to smooth out the hardened model with sandpaper or a Dremel. Monster Clay can be frozen to make it very hard and can be softened with a hairdryer or microwave or such to make it very soft, so it is adaptable for a variety of sculpting situations. It also smooths beautifully using rubbing alcohol or its more powerful big brother, isopropyl myristate.
Above, looking to see how the lower part of the jawset is shaping up when viewed from the side. The teeth are just loosely stuck down to the gums at this point, so I can easily move them around if I need to.
And tada! Above, a finished Monster Clay plasticine model, ready for molding. Silly me, little did I realize that this would be the first of three finished jawsets I would mold. Sucks being a perfectionist.
Above, beginning the molding process, and a tongue while I'm at it. The jawset has been firmly attached to a thin piece of plywood, which will serve as a mold board. Every little gap between the model and the mold board is filled in, as otherwise the mold rubber could find its way under the model, and float the model up on top of it while it's curing. Which would not make a very good mold at all.
Above, getting ready to revise the jawset. Did I mention how I did this three times? Seriously though, it's easier to check the fit of the teeth in the head when they're in hard resin and not squishable clay. Above, a set of resin teeth that has been Dremelled down to fit the head better, and another set of clay teeth made by pouring melted Monster Clay into the mold, called a "borrowed casting". It's much easier to tweak the teeth from a borrowed casting than trying to make a whole new set from scratch. (If I wasn't such a chicken, I could have also resculpted my original set of clay teeth. But I wanted to keep them the way they were for extra insurance.)
Above, revisions. To the right in both pictures is the original sculpt, still on the moldboard. In the middle is a modified resin casting, and to the left is the resculpted "borrowed casting". This first go round I removed the "flare" thingy from the bottom jaw, as it only really served to complicate fitting it into the resin head. I also made the plate for the upper jaw more symmetrical. You can see how the original sculpt has a bigger "bulge" on the left hand side than the right. Why did I do this, you may ask. Well, I was using a reject resin head casting to fit the teeth in, and I forgot that the resin on one side of the muzzle was much thicker than that on the other so.... in order to center the teeth in the opening, the plate had to be a lot wider on one side. Definitely not going to be the case with the average resin head! Fortunately I realized this before I got too much further into this process! A great big duh, but could have been a much bigger duh.
Above, showing all three sets of revised teeth. The top set is the first one, the middle is the second and the set on the bottom is the final version. Besides changing the "plate" as described earlier, I did a lot of playing with the front incisors. I refined them in the second set but then realized I had also made the top ones too small, so I made them bigger in the third set. After re-checking my reference pictures of real wolves I also decided the gum area above the front incisors also needed to be longer, so I also changed that in the third set. I also did a lot of fiddling with the area circled in yellow in the right hand picture, with the way those particular teeth came together. The top incisor right next to the large bottom canine also underwent a fair bit of refinement.
And since I had spent so much time fiddling with the teeth, I decided to fiddle with the mold making method as well. At the suggestion of an acquaintance I made my next set of mold boxes out of Legos instead of Tupperware containers, so I could get the mold boxes precisely the size I needed them and save molding rubber. Molding rubber is expensive. They don't call it "platinum cure silicone" for nothing. (A good source of cheap used Legos is bricklink.com.)
Above, the nose and tongue models with their squishy rubber counterparts. Wheee!!!
Checking out the fit of the rubber nose in a resin head. Lookin' good! The resin head on the right wants a rubber nose too.
And above, a pile o' puppy parts, ready for maskmaking!! I'm feeling good about the results of my endeavors here. Time to think about colors for fur!!
My daughter loves Max and so do I, but...
I want Maxine's (aka Head #2's) ears to be better than Max's. This is at the top of the list of improvements I want to make this time around. Not only is the fur going the wrong way on Max's ears, growing towards the base instead of towards the tip (in spite of the fact I *did* mark the fur direction correctly on the pattern!) but IMO the ears... flap around... too much when the mask moves. You can see this especially clearly at .018 minutes in this video.
Above, the nascent Max with his freshly designed Foamy ears. (And the cat hair mustache my daughter made for him.) I think part of the issue is evident here- the ears have too much height in relation to their width at the base. Theory being, a wider base would provide more support and hopefully, less flapping.
Above, snips from one of Dream Vision Creation's ear making tutorials (used with permission.) I referenced these often making the patterns for Maxine's ears. The ears on this mask are a bit wider at the base than are Max's. If they were his ears, the bottoms would come to the point where the top half of the hinge is glued to the head, not to nearly the center of the hinge as they do.
Above, using a snip from a Dream Vision Creations tutorial (left) as pattern reference for Maxine's ears (right), aiming for the correct width at the base.
.Above left, the paper pattern in progress, and right, the finished Foamy ears. Looks like I initially made the patterns a little bit **too** wide at the base, and so narrowed them down a bit in the final version.
Above left, the pattern piece (tan) for the back of Maxine's ears, and right, the pattern piece (green) for Max's. (See, I DID mark the proper fur direction on Max's pattern piece!!) As it turns out, both pattern pieces are 6 1/2" high, but while Max's pattern piece is 7" wide, Maxine's is nearly 9" wide.
And since Maxine isn't finished yet, this is the closest thing I have to a side by side comparison of the two- Max is the green one and Maxine is the tan one. (Credit where credit is due- Max is made entirely with DVC parts, where Maxine is made with my own resin base and DVC nose, teeth, tongue and eye blanks.) So far I like the ears with the wider base much better! I think there'll be other things I'll need to do to prevent flapping, however... stay tuned!!
Moving jaw test for Maxine the Mask. Thank you to the long suffering hubby for his patience!!! I'm pretty happy with it.
I also wanted the teeth to sit up much higher in the lower jaw than they did in my first head, as they kinda disappeared into lips and fur after I got it assembled. I played a lot with layers of Foamies underneath the teeth to get them exactly where I wanted them, and so far I'm happy with how they look.
As with the previous head, I've been referring to the DVC tutorials online as I work on this head, and much to my confusion they've started redoing that series- when I did the first mask, the lips were applied last, after the airbrushing, and now they're applied early in the process, along with the eyelids. Maybe they were done last in the first series so that airbrush overspray wouldn't get on them, but that's easy enough to paint over with black paint. In any case it was a pain to apply them with fur already there, and so far I like this way better.
I also learned the hard way it's best to cut the cast up right before assembling it. I was so excited to get a good cast I couldn't wait to open the eyes up and hinge the jaw, and then I let the head sit, and sit, and sit.... and the jaw warped, shifting to one side. Now the head has an expression kinda like this: :-/ Nothing that can't be fixed with a Dremel and some epoxy, but still, something I'd rather avoid in the future.
Above, working out how to resculpt the jaw to make it look straighter. I often take a photo of an area I'm working on, print it out and draw on it, to help visualize what I should do. In the printout /drawing to the right, I've decided to dremel off the lip outside of the thick blue line. Another point for adding the lip early on- it gave me a way to tweak the jaw I wouldn't have had otherwise.
(And... one day I went down into the basement to work, and I found my daughter had gotten into my packing peanuts....)
Above, the lower jaw resculpted and straightened out a bit. I think it looks much better. Neatening up the edge of the lower lip helped a bit too.
Above, chiffon added to one tear duct but not yet the other, as modelled by my packing peanut loving daughter. Freaky deaky!
Two takeaways for the next resin base sculpt:
First, make sure the areas in which the eyes will be glued are as flat as possible and in the exact same plane with each other. Any crookedness or unnevenness in these areas will be greatly exaggerated when the resin eyes are in place, and gives the mask a rather wall-eyed, inbred expression. Next base sculpt, I think I'll use metal or rigid plastic discs of the correct size to mark out these areas and leave them there while moldmaking, to make sure those areas don't squish out of shape. I was able to glue the eyes into this base to my satisfaction using bits of resin and hot glue to level them out, but care taken with the next sculpt could definitely make the process a lot easier.
Second, sculpt the next head so that it can easily take a nose with a flat back. DVC noses, and I suspect any other noses that are cast separately and glued on to a base later, have flat backs. I suspect they are made in one piece molds, the backs of which are open so that the casting material can be poured in, which then levels out as it sets. When I removed the nose on this base to accommodate the DVC nose, I was left with an awkwardly shaped hole into which to glue it. I re-sculpted the area a bit with epoxy so that the nose would fit (the thick black band behind the nose in the pics is epoxy for the most part) and so all is well that ends well, but again, this is something to take into consideration for future head sculpts.
Looks like I've neglected my blog for.... two years?? I've been busy though, mostly with my first attempt to build my first fursuit-style mask. Especially since I knew neither how to sew nor airbrush before I started out, it was quite the undertaking. Here are the chronicles of my adventures.
Above left, my freshly ordered mask parts from Dreamvision Creations on Etsy. I didn't want to make any of my own parts this time around, to try to limit the number of variables should something go wrong. Above right, Ezzy and I watching the Dreamvision Creation tutorials online. Ezzy wanted to make sure I didn't miss any important details, he is a very helpful cat.
Above left, a dude who seriously needs to lay off the coffee. Hinges have been added and all the various parts glued into the mask base. Above right, eyelids added. It's so cool how the eyes seem to follow afterwards!
Above left, a sketch of my idea for the color and pattern of the mask; above right, the actual duck tape patternwork for the fur. My daughter called the mask at this stage "Green Anubis". I thought I was so smart to use wet erase markers to draw the patternwork, and maybe it made fiddling with the pattern a little easier, but predictably some important reference marks got wiped off. Six of one, half dozen of the other...
Sewing sewing and more sewing. Top row left, I bravely start pinning pieces together while Isabelle works on a chibi Cthulhu. Top row right, hubby models the front half of the hood. Middle picture, I have finished sewing the face together while Isabelle makes faces too. Bottom row, one ear and the back of the hood sewn on. I later ripped the ear apart and re-glued it, as I didn't like the way the bottom edge was so much thicker than the top edge. Bottom row right, the back of the hood showing the Velcro cover over the zipper, and seams that need picking out.
CRAZY LADY WITH CLIPPERS!!! Shaving down and adding some shape to the mask. This part was almost as harrowing as gluing down the fur. It's very easy to make bald spots with the clippers by accident!!
The mask, fully assembled and modelled by my ever patient husband Brian, loved up by daughter Isabelle. Time to get some paint on this puppy!
However, I could airbrush about as well as I could sew (which is to say, not at all) so I decided again some classes were in order. I took a one day, six hour 1:1 intensive with Sean Avram which helped enormously. He told me that airbrushing was largely troubleshooting, and for the next six hours we would see how many ways the airbrush could be clogged and unclogged again.
And finally... TA DAAAAAA!!!! All done. Looking forward to making the next one!!
I feel like a traitor. After all these years of casting in paper mache, I am seriously considering switching to resin.
I confess, I have no love of paper mache as a thing in and of itself, although I have come to appreciate its many qualities- strength, light weight, safety, low cost, and a long and interesting history. When I started out maskmaking I investigated many material possibilities but found none could match the qualities of paper mache.(Check out my earlier blog for the gory details.) The downside of paper mache, however, is how long it takes to cast anything with it- up to a week for one of my larger masks. That's a lot of time not spent sculpting or painting.
Either a lot of things have changed or I've been living under a rock for the past eight years, but when I discovered fursuiting (and just how far ahead of me the furries were materials wise) I learned of a new material, Smooth-Cast 65D, that could be slushed into molds to make masks. Instead of taking a week, I could cast a mask in.... fifteen minutes.
Above are pics of my first couple of attempts, using the silicone mold I made in my last post.
Some finer points I learned during my experiments:
The temperature makes a *huge* difference in how fast the material sets up. My first couple of attempts were done on a sunny porch on an 80+ degree day, and the material set up way too fast, as in I was happily slushing along, turning the mold this way and that, and the resin just set instantly in a huge gloppy wave in the middle of the mask's forehead or someplace equally inconvenient. The instructions say to cast at about 75 degrees F, and they mean it.
It's OK to use a plastic spoon to help distribute the material around the mold for the first few minutes after it is poured in, but the spoon should be set aside once the material sets up enough to start to stick to it. Otherwise the curing resin may grab onto the spoon more tightly than to previous layers of resin, which can cause the new layer to delaminate.
It really makes a difference to measure out Part A and Part B in two cups and then to use a third cup to mix them together. Otherwise, the mix ratio can be thrown off by material left behind on the inside of the cup that was poured from and/or extra material inside the cup that was mixed in, and result in an improperly cured cast, one which is very sticky and gooey with uncured leftover material. I found this out the hard way on my second cast. I was able to salvage it somewhat after a call to the Smooth-On tech department and much cleaning and scrubbing with rubbing alcohol, but it would still be something I would not want to sell.
I have to say, I'm struck by how *similar* the resin and the paper mache masks look like each other (at least from the outside) when they are finished- same color, same weight, same feel. They even warp the same way if they're not cast thick enough. I'm looking forward to learning what other experiments will bring.
And... on to a Mold That Matters. To the left and below is a sculpt that will ultimately be a base for a fursuit style head, with the first coat of rubber thinly brushed on. (The "halo" around its head is part of the mold, not part of the sculpt.)
This mold is made of silicone rubber, not urethane rubber as was my last mold. I want to cast resin into this mold, and urethane resin and urethane rubber, I've been told, do not Play Nice together. Among other things, a Runaway Exothermic Reaction may occur, which generates a lot of heat and results in the mold and the cast being irretrievably fused together. Not good.
More specifically, this mold is made of *platinum* cure silicone rubber, not *tin* cure silicone rubber. The former is much more expensive than the latter, but supposedly molds made with it will last a lot longer as well.
When I called to double check on this, the support person said that no, it was just to make the instructions easier to follow. If anything, I really could have applied more keys than I did.
Houston, we have liftoff!!!
There is definitely room for improvement for next time. The "halo" could be about half the width it was, in order to save on both weight and cost of material. (I made it that wide because the video said to!) The Plasti Paste shell could be more uniform in thickness. Most importantly, the cut seam down the center of the sculpt's face is not really needed, the sculpt is fairly simple, the rubber is flexible enough it will just peel off like a glove, and it's nice not to have to worry about seam lines. But for right now, I am very excited to have a functional mold!