Full Circle

The Mask

© 2001 Ken Warren

© 2001 G. Anderson

© 2001 Gordon Callahan


The first mask I used was a black costume gorilla suit mask.  A friend of mine owns a complete gorilla suit, and lent me the head for the convention.  It had two problems - first, it was almost indistinguishable on stage because of the lighting.  Even when photographed, it seldom looked like more than a black spot on the film.

So between Balticon and WorldCon, I decided to make a mask.  The first thing I needed was a mold, and the second thing I needed was liquid latex.  The mold pretty much fell into my lap - I had been poking around lots of places looking for something, and came up empty.  But on a trip to Disney World, when we visited the Animal Kingdom park, we found a store selling lots of different animals as children's masks.  The monkey they sold was just fine.

But then I had to find liquid latex.  There are, I came to discover, many grades of liquid latex.  For a cheap thrill, you can do a serch on the web for it - you'll find that the most popular stuff is not at all good for molding.  Not to mention all those gaudy colors...

The first place I looked was a costuming supply store nearby.  They had a very liquid liquid latex, that I presume is most useful for attaching prostheses and latex appendages.  Wounds and noses, for instance.  But once the ammonia evaporated off, there was presious little latex remaining.  After a week of putting on layers and waiting for them to dry, I gave up on that approach.  It would take all year to get a strong latex mask out of that.

Then I stumbled on another form of liquid latex that was more like Fluff in its texture.  (Fluff is a marshmallow spread - stiff but spreadable).  It was perfect, and a few days and a few layers later it was done: an eighth of an inch thick mask of latex.  It was so easy, in fact, that I made two masks, so that I could use one to experiment with color.  The latex, you see, was pretty much white.

So with a working mask, I went about figuring out how to color it.  And I finally decided that brown shoe-polish was going to be the easiest way to do it.  Shoe polish is a combination wax and dye, that mellows with age.  At least, it mellows when in contact with latex.  Different darknesses of color could be achieved by rubbing more or less polish into a particular area.  My mottling was essentially random, but I did work to make sure it wasn't all uniform.  And though the proces sstained my fingers brown for a week or so, I had a nicely brown/orange monkey face.

That left me with the sole problem of the hair.  You might think it would be fairly easy to find shaggy brown fur, but I was looking in the spring time, and all the fabric stores were out of it.  They weren't expecting to get any more for several months, in preparation for the Hallowe'en costume season.  So all I could do was look.  I found places on the web that could sell me some for absurdly high prices, but I hoped to avoid that.  And for weeks, I looked.

Finally, I found this golden-brown fur at a store in Cambridge.  It wasn't the exact color I had in mind - I wanted something darker in brown - but I wasn't picky.  It made me look like an orangutan from the original Planet of the Apes, but it was fur.  And actually, I think some people thought it was some deeper commentary on that movie as well, so I can't complain.  When someone accuses me of being deeper than I am, I just smile.

So, using the McCall's gorilla suit pattern (see the Jump Suit page for more on that) we started the whole process with, I pulled out the pattern for the hood.  I basically used the pattern as-is, trimming the face a little to fit the mask better.  I extended the neck slightly as well.  I hot-glued the latex to the lining of the fur, and it held reasonably well (though we had to reattach some of it at-Con). 

For the neck, I needed a neck that was long enough to hold on to me, but that I could still get my head through.  I settled on overlapping panels in the front of the neck that attached using velcro.  I could slide the mask on, and velcro the neck closed.  It all held together nicely.  It was a little steamy inside the helmet with the mask on, but I didn't trip over anything or pass out.  And now I know how to mold masks using liquid latex.

And that's it for the costume.  I hope you enjoyed the tour.  Keep your eyes open for Donna's and my next costume.  Return to the Full Circle construction page.

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