The Making of the Miasma Mask

I constructed my first plague doctor mask in 2010 after several requests, and I made it as historically accurate as I could. I had already made several steampunk masks and helmets, as well as a top hat and a raygun, and while I was working on the plague doctor mask I kept thinking about how I could make a very nice steampunked version of a plague doctor mask, combining the two elements.  A week after it was finished I created Dr. Beulenpest, a steampunk plague doctor mask. It took me only five days.

Dr. Beulenpest

Dr. Beulenpest

A year or so later I made Ichabod. I had spent a lot of time studying Dr. Beulenpest and thinking about another version of a steampunk plague doctor mask. I decided to make a longer, slimmer beak with a larger cold cast tip.  The aluminum parts have a relief pattern of stylized vines, and I reduced the number of straps from five to three to make it easier to put on and off. It took eleven weeks to complete.

Constructing the beak

Constructing the beak

Once the beak was complete I sculpted the mask in clay and drafted the leather patterns. Getting the correct length and angle of the leather beak proved challenging. I photographed the sculpture from a side view, and scanned it into Photoshop where I tweaked those two components into about a dozen versions. Again, it just wasn’t coming together easily, but I finally chose my favorite and made the pattern.

 

Ventilator and beak

Ventilator and beak

Finally I made the eyes. I had wanted to make domed acrylic eyes, and I did a lot of work towards that until I realized that the lenses would be susceptible to scratching, and I was faced with either building a protective cage around it, or doing something different.  I agonized over this for weeks. Eventually I settled on two different versions of eyepieces. One would keep the dome but eliminate the acrylic lenses, opting instead for a cold cast cage which could be looked through. The other—for those who didn’t want to be seen—was flat gray acrylic lenses encompassed in new hexagonal lens caps. It took about a year and a half to complete Miasma.

As a young man I had little patience. Now I find that without patience I wouldn't be able to create work that I am proud of.

 

Etching of Plague Doctor

Etching of Plague Doctor

I started with the classic leather plague doctor mask and added cold cast aluminum eyepieces and beak tip. I put decorative domed rivets around the perimeter, and an interesting piece of trim leather down the bridge of the nose. I thought it came out nice, and it has sold well ever since. 

Ichabod

Ichabod

Three years later I started on another steampunk plague doctor mask. I felt that a third mask would round out the line, and that I could make one with a more masculine cold cast beak. I named it Miasma. I wanted a strong raptor, or dragon, look. I began three or four times to fashion the beak to my liking, but it always fell short, and I would put the project off to another time. After about a year of this I finally created a beak that I liked. It combined the look of a fierce dragon with that of steel machinery, like a living breathing fantasy piece of steampunk equipment. 

Sculpted in clay

Sculpted in clay

Wanting to make Miasma different and special, I conceived of making a pair of ventilators that lay alongside the beak, behind the cold cast tip. I felt this was the perfect opportunity to use a stretched leather technique to add visual interest. It took me many more weeks to work out just how to execute and attach these so that they were a component that made a better mask.

Domed cage eye

Domed cage eye

Flat gray acrylic eyes  

Flat gray acrylic eyes