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Plague Doctor Costume

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So my newest undertaking is making a plague doctor costume for my friend Rhuss.

When it is all said and done, Rhuss will have a really creepy Halloween costume and I'll get to photograph it. Hopefully using metal or glass negatives to create my very first tintypes or daguerotypes . I'm really excited about this aspect and have a lot of set-up ideas. Anyone want to volunteer to be dressed up as a plague victim? Or have a pet rat willing to be photographed?
We purchased all the supplies and started in. After about 6ish hours, the wire armature, the inner and outer first layer of paper mâché on the beak, and the paper mâché paste layer on the inside of the mask were complete. The paste takes a long time to dry so we had to call it quits for the day.

The mask is coming along reasonably well considering my main goal was to have it lightweight yet fairly durable because i hate uncomfortable costumes. So I think that is under control.

The biggest challenge will be effectively incorporating Rhuss's Russian tanker goggles as the eye-pieces. They have a great look for the costume but limit how much i can build around the eyes and bridge of the beak.

Right now, I planning on having the goggles rest on top of the mask, similar to my drawing where the strap is visible. We talked about making the eye holes of the mask fit over the goggles but I think fogging would be a problem as well as weaken the structure of the face area because the holes would need to be so large.

Time will tell.

As for the rest of the costume, I want to see if i can find some cloth material for the robe that would be fitting for the period, even though I'm not exactly doing historically accurate costuming here. I would like something very rough that would distress well, but ultimately something inexpensive. Maybe make gloves too....

I would love any detail suggestions or thoughts on the goggles with visible strap? Think it will be distracting? Or would it add to the look?

I'll accept no comments on my childish sketches. I'm not a 2D person. Suck it up!

Also, I think I need to have a photo shoot with Rhuss dressed as a Victorian dandy or a circus ringmaster or something. That moustache is just begging for it. Thoughts?

Thanks for looking. More to come!

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On September 2nd, 2007 05:48 pm (UTC), gaffeizil commented:

Where be my piccies?
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On September 3rd, 2007 02:43 am (UTC), julibat replied:
check your email...

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On April 6th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC), dirtylittlecity replied:
I was randomly googling for plague doctor mask, and this came up, and I was like, "Wait, I know him on the internets!"
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On April 7th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC), gaffeizil replied:
Yes! I am famous on the internets!

Plague doctors were so wonderfully creepy.
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On April 7th, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC), dirtylittlecity replied:
Yes indeed! I want to make/acquire a plague doctor mask for some creepy photographs. How is yours holding up?
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On April 7th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC), gaffeizil replied:
Just fine! My friend did a plaster mould and then used acrylic paint. She did something extra to make it a little more sturdy, but I'll have to ask her because I forgot. Also, the parts that touch the face of the wearere are lined with felt for added comfort. Juli rocks at makin' stuff.
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On April 8th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC), julibat replied:
awww. Thanks Rhuss! glad to hear it is holding up.

And glad to see that the internets has lead an interested party here despite the lack of updates! Someone emailed me while I was making the mask and I'll copy and paste what I wrote at the time. Let me know if it helps!

---------- 10/7/07 -------------------

Still working on the plague doctor mask, but the wire form and paper mache
have been a great combination to create a mask that is sturdy yet

I used a wireform metal "diamond mesh" from a art supply place (I looked for
the smallest gage they had for better detail.) It is very basic armature
mesh made of aluminum and has many uses.

I'm on the west coast currently and found mine at Art Supply Warehouse, but
I'm sure your local Pearl Art Supply or Utrech would have it.
(About $15 for a roll, which is way more than one needs to make a mask.)

The mesh was great to sculpt. I stretched it over my friend's face and had
him press the main contours of his face into the wire. I created the 'beak'
from a second piece of wire mesh and attached it by cutting a hole where the
nose would be and crimping the cut edges together. Also, I cut several
narrow strips of the mesh and used them to connect one end at the base of
the beak, the ran the strip over the contours and
attached the opposite end of the strip to the edge of the mask. I hope
that makes sense without a drawing. Also, cut the eye holes in the proper place.

I had better luck with using paper mache paste than traditional strips or
squares. The first layer of strips didn't want to stick to the metal. And
were uneven when they dried. I ended up putting glue, water, and pieces of
newpaper in a blender and creating a thick paste that you can press into the
wire mesh. It really clings and covers well. But expect much longer drying
times using the paste. After an few hours of drying, I would use a rag to blot excess moisture from the paste. This seemed to speed the process a bit. Be careful because too much pressure will make the paste pull away from the metal and stick to your rag.


after it was completely dry, I used my dremel (sand paper works too) to smooth over rough edges and any points, especially on the inside and around the eyes. I painted the paper mache with latex acrylic paint, glued felt inside, plus a little extra where it presses against the bridge of the nose. One thing that made this mask a bit unusual was Rhuss's brilliant idea to incorporate his WWII Russian tanker goggles. I actually designed the mask to be wore under the goggles and they fit tight so an additional strap wasn't need to hold the mask in place. The whole thing turned out really lightweight, but surprisingly sturdy. I'll most definitely use this construction method in the future. Cheap and super versatile! The blender to make the paste is really the trial&error secret....

And yes Rhuss. I STILL have to apologize for not getting ALL the images to you. Such is life my friend. But these are my favorites:



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On April 8th, 2009 11:22 am (UTC), julibat replied:
p.s. a note about using the blender for paper mache. It doesn't ruin your blender or anything like I thought it would. If you wash it right after mixing, before anything dries, it comes off and I can't imagine it would dull the blades anymore than ice would. Be sure to start with the glue and water at the bottom and then add the bits of newspaper. I used a wooden spoon to hand mix a bit inbetween using the 'ice-pulse' setting on my blender. If it wasn't wet enough, i added more glue. blender is still functioning just fine! hooray.
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On April 8th, 2009 11:14 am (UTC), julibat replied:
Also, i REALLY wish I could have photographed you with your rats. That would have just been too perfect.... Rhuss, ratlord supreme! I'm glad you like your costume.
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On April 8th, 2009 04:19 pm (UTC), gaffeizil replied:
I love my costume. I'll probably wear it again this year as long as I go to a different party. <3
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On October 2nd, 2007 03:17 am (UTC), cherryvalentino commented:
this terrifies me, and makes me want to read some Camus.
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On September 24th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC), ext_266414 commented:
whered u get the goggles
I had a pair of these goggles and im actually looking to pick up the exact same pair again but they seemed to have disappeared. Any ideas where i can get this exact model?
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