Mask and horns

Time taken: 13 hours
Materials: 18 gauge mild steel wire, masking tape, sculptamold, air-dry lightweight modelling clay, PVC foam board, red suede strips, brass metal strips, acrylic paint (orange, gold, old gold, bronze, cream, vermilion, burnt sienna, burnt umber), gesso, satin varnish, mod podge, hot glue, bought wig.
Tools: Craft knife, scissors, heat gun, dremel, sandpaper, paintbrushes, pliers, glue gun.
Techniques: Pattern making, wire bending, wet clay modelling, PVC foam board fabrication, painting, wig styling.
Difficulty level: The modelling itself was pretty easy, but making sure everything fit together was more difficult.  I’d put this as hard.

I used these two pics as my main reference:

mask front mask left side

As usual, the first part involved using my quad book to draw a scaled version of the mask, which I then made into a cardboard template that was transferred onto the PVC foam board and cut out with a craft knife.

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Then I used the heat gun to bend the plastic to the correct shape.  It wasn’t just a matter of folding it down the centre, there is quite a lot of shaping in the cheek area to make it sit hugging the face, and the pointy bits above the ears flare out a little as well.

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Now, in the ref pics the eye sockets are hollow and there are grooves on the brow furrows.  I tried carving these with a craft knife but the angles were all weird and so eventually I used a dremel at 20,000rpm and a tiny curved tip.  It took quite a while (maybe an hour or so of sanding with the dremel) to create the eye sockets and carved parts, but eventually it was done. It was at this point that I also made the jaggedy worn parts across the bottom more pronounced using a craft knife.  Once that was done, the whole thing got several coats of gesso.

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While the mask was busy gesso-ing, I started on the horns.  To get the basic shape, I used mild steel wire and curved it to the shape of my head roughly where I thought the horns should go.  Three pieces joined together at the ends made a sort of three-sided cone shape, which I could then bend more thoroughly to the shape I wanted and hold together with masking tape.

Once I had two horns that were more or less symmetrical, it was time to make them solid.  Well – solid on the outside.  For the sake of being light, these are hollow in the middle.  the outside is formed from sculptamold, which is a combination of paper powder and plaster.  You add water and it makes a paste you can then use for modelling.

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As you can see, it leaves a somewhat bumpy shape, but this can be sanded.  However, I tend to go over it once it’s dry (2-3 days) and add a smooth coat of air-dry modelling clay.  For this job I used a super lightweight air-dry polymer clay, both to smooth the bumpy bits and also to add the horn ridges.  Once that was dry (another couple of days) I had the horns ready for their gesso.

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This is the part where both things were able to progress together.  I nearly always start this sort of  natural look (ie, non-metallic) painting with a coat of orange for deep warmth.  After that, the mask got several layers of gold, followed by deep tones of bronze, and weathering with a combination of bronze and burnt umber.  The horns got a coat of cream, followed by vermilion and burnt sienna, then burnt sienna on its own, and finally using just burnt umber to fill in the darkest bits.  On each layer, I would wipe away the paint from the high points and the tips so that they looked more weathered than the hollows.

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The final step for both of these was a coat of finishing – satin varnish for the mask, matte mod podge for the horns.

So now I had a pair of horns and a mask – but how to attach them?  I figured that the horns ought to be firmly attached to the wig, and if you look in the ref pictures the mask is hung off the horns.  I had left the ends of the wires sticking out of the front end of the horns for this purpose.  To place them, I put the wig on and fiddled with the horns in the mirror till I was happy with where they sat, then threaded the tips of the wires through the mesh of the wig and bent them back to hold them in place.  The sharp ends were angled away from where skin would be, and covered over with dabs of hot glue for added safety.

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Held just at the front, the horns were still quite loose so I added a couple of ‘decorative’ strips of red suede and bands of brass at the back, also threaded through the wig mesh and held in place with hot glue.  The final step was to glue strands of the wig over the front of the horns to hide them under the hair.

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It was about at this point that I remembered that saarebas generally have their horns cut off, and realised that I really really didn’t want to cut these now that I’d made them and they were so pretty.  So I  made up a story to explain why my saarebas still has her horns.  Sue me.  😉

I was originally planning to have the mask tied onto the horns using ribbons, but I realised very quickly how much of a faff that would be each time I wore it, and I wanted the mask to be easy to put on and take off to suit the occasion.  To do this, I made a pair of wire hooks to go over the horns.  Getting this right involved some reshaping of the upper parts of the mask to allow for where the horns come down over the forehead, done by heating it and then placing over the face while wearing the horns. Luckily, PVC foam board becomes pliable at a fairly low temperature.

Then I cut two strips of red suede, and glued them over the top of the hook wires to simulate the red ties that you can see in the ref pic.  The wires are adjustable to make the best fit of the mask, and I’m quite chuffed with myself for coming up with this way of holding it on. It means the mask doesn’t need any further ties, so the wig won’t be affected at all by whether I wear it or not.

All that remained after this was to put the two together and see what they look like!

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Yeah, I’m happy with that.  This will be my first costume that uses a wig so I’m keeping the styling pretty basic (as I believe qunari would anyway) – it’ll probably be tied up with a red suede thong into some kind of messy ponytail thing to avoid it getting caught in the collar.  But look!  Saarebas mask and horns!  *is pleased*

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