Lack of Research: The Sad Tale of a Failed Creation

This sabre-toothed creature was intended as a wearable head mask. This is as far as it got before being abandoned.

Recently I became obsessed with the idea of making wearable, talking masks. I had watched videos, seen lots of so-called tutorials that don’t explain a damn thing, and was frustrated. I pondered and experimented, wanting to perfect the art of it. I’d made one semi-successful wearable head that functioned quite well, despite it being completely unfinished and more of an experiment in fur-crafting overall. But the “panda” was a spark of inspiration.

So I set about making a sabre-toothed creature for a Golden Owl event that was coming up, the Wintervalk, that I could wear as a mask and have articulated mouth movement by just speaking. So I set to work…

Don't smoke and craft, kids.

Don’t smoke and craft, kids.

Here’s the thing about wearable, articulated masks: they’re tricky. They’re really tricky. There is a lot of cutting, glueing, detaching, reglueing. It has to fit really well. And it can’t slide around on your face. It needs to stay light, or it pulls down over your eyes, or your breathing holes (in my case, well placed McDonald’s straws) go out of alignment with your nostrils and suddenly you’re breathing hot, stale air.

I got the main parts in place. It fit. I had some well placed elastic to bring the mouth closed so I could open my mouth and the creature would open his. It’s weird; you basically have to talk “big” and with huge jaw gestures, but it can work.

Alright, this might work, I said to myself. Now I need features.

The very pretty domed eyes of the failed creature.

The very pretty domed eyes of the failed creature.

I made some eyes – painted surfaces behind an acylic dome. Sweet.

The creature's nose in polymer clay.

The creature’s nose in polymer clay.

I made a nose in polymer clay, cooked it, painted it, slathered it in clear nail polish for that lovely wet look.

You can see these attached to the final foam “sculpt” of the head shape (I use the word sculpt rather laughably – is a pile of foam stuck together with glue sculpting? Actually, fuck it, why not). This is about where I gave up. I persisted a little longer – tightening all the foam closer to my head, adjusting the straps. But it just didn’t work. If it didn’t slide down my face and block my eyes or ability to breath or completely render the mouth useless it would just randomly tear at a certain point. It was too heavy already, and it needed to be covered in fur still.

In retrospect it was probably an overreach. The head was long, thin, with an extended mouth to over-emphasize the effect of opening and closing.

The moral of the story is this: articulated jaws are hard. Most of us don’t have the money to cast resin and do full plaster head casts and buy expensive rigs and stuff. Some of us have foam offcuts and a glue gun and not much more. But as far as advice or good links go, I don’t have them. Most of the “tutorials” you’ll find online are less “how to make an articulated mask” and more “look at my articulated mask”. Or, they’ll show a light foam head with no fur or coverings attached. Sure, it works NOW…

About the best I found was Make an articulated werewolf mask – extensive YouTube tutorial (including the dome eye creating) using a basic strap system. It’s good for something that fits close to your face. It’s a good starting point.

I call this a sad story because it basically killed my enthusiasm for making articulated wearable heads. And I had such high hopes. Screw it. Next project please.

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