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Wire Frame Mask Project at The Costumer's Manifesto Costume Design & Construction I Wire Frame Mask Project 10D+15C

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Wireframe is a really effective, cheap lightweight method of making headdresses andother stiff costume pieces is by combining techniques of normal wire framesculpture with paper Mache. This is a slow process, but yields fantasticresults. It can also be used as a method for making armor and other stiffdecorative costume items as shown below, like jewelry or horns







The Project:

What you need

Wire. Ideally galvanized wire in a coil, but wire coat hangers will work, I prefer wire because it doesn't have any kinks to get out.

1 and 2 inch masking tape

Tissue paper

White glue

Bits of poster board or heavy paper

Bits of mattress foam

A baseball cap

Hot glue gun

Paint and decorative elements for covering

Render your mask design on paper to give yourself a plan to work towards. You may end up changing your plan slightly, but starting without a plan is definitely a mistake.


Take the wire and bend it into the shape of your choice. Plan on the head shape being substantially bigger than the head that will be wearing it. On large shapes like the head piece below, the space is reinforced with smaller pieces of wire. This will make the finished piece stronger. Lash the wires together with masking tape to hold them temporarily.


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Next wrap the wire completely with making tape, I find that 1" or narrower is easier to work with. Make sure all parts of the wire are covered.


Next depending what works better for you start filling in the shape with either more tape, or pieces of posterboard and tape. On the head above I used masking tape , to start molding my shapes.


I wanted the top part of the head to remain relatively flat , so after taping I used strips of tissue paper and a 50/50 glue water mix to thoroughly cover and thus permanently secure the paper. On places like the jaw I crumpled a piece of tissue to get the rounded shapes and secured them down with strips of tissues. All masking tape covered areas need to be covered with athin skin of tissue and glue or the tape peels off after a day or two.



The horns off the back of the head are just twisted pieces of tissue, again when you are happy with the shape ,secure them to the head with masking tape. The tape won't stick if the layer underneath is damp. Then cover them with more tissue and glue. Once you are happy with your shape let itdry.


At this point get your performer in for a fitting. Cut the bill off of the baseball cap, attach a comfortable elastic chin strap to it, then with the baseball cap on the actor, put the wire frame headdress over the cap. Align the eyeholes and the balance points of the piece so that it is comfortable for the actor, then use hot glue and bits of mattress foam to fill the space between the cap and the headpiece. Keep twiddling this till the actor is COMPLETELY comfortable moving, bending, etc. in the mask. This is how the foam and cap insides look:




Once the piece is comfortable on the actor you can paint and decorate it to match your design. The head piece below was painted, using acrylic paints. You can also use colored tissue paper. Or a combination of both.


After the paint was dry I took bits of twinkle organza that were over dyed, and glued them over the ridges using hot glue. The eyes are cellophane and I used bits of a beaded dress down the back of the headdress to help it blend into the rest of the costume. The fabric works best if you use hot glue to attach it








When your own mask is finished, photograph the mask and the rendering as jpeg files and post them to your File folder at the class

[1]. Post a message to the group letting everyone know you have posted these pictures so you can get feedback.

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This Project was co-written by

Lorraine Pettit and Tara Maginnis

Product Links

Complete Book of Sewing Complete Book of Sewing

The Costume Designer's Handbook : A Complete Guide for Amateur and Professional Costume Designers The Costume Designer's Handbook : A Complete Guide for Amateur and Professional Costume Designers

The Costume Technician's Handbook : A Complete Guide for Amateur and Professional Costume Technicians The Costume Technician's Handbook : A Complete Guide for Amateur and Professional Costume Technicians


Costume Step-By-Step : The Complete Guide to Designing and Making Stage Costumes for All Major Drama Periods and Genres

The Magic Garment : Principles of Costume Design The Magic Garment : Principles of Costume Design

Costume Construction Costume Construction

Elegantly Frugal Costumes : The Poor Man's Do-It-Yourself Costume Maker's Guide Elegantly Frugal Costumes : The Poor Man's Do-It-Yourself Costume Maker's Guide

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