Adventures in Foam Latex

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Kira headshot
Jen headshot

The Jen and Kira face appliances and ears were made of foam latex. There are many manufacturers of foam latex on the market today, and each comes with its own instructions. I've worked it before, so I knew it was a matter of experimentation. (Note, working with foam latex requires a mixer on a stand, not a hand held one. It takes quite a while to mix, and has to "cure" in an oven for several hours.)

The first step was to do the lifemasks. I did Andrea's lifemask for the Kira character, and I had a friend, experienced in doing them, help me with mine. (No one should EVER do their own life mask. It may seem like a simple procedure, but there are risks. It's best to have someone there who can see and react if something goes wrong.)

Lifemask Procedure

Basically, a negative mold was taken of the face, and then a positive made of that. The desired features were built up on the positive using non-hardening clay. A negative mold was taken of the positive mold plus the built up features. The clay was then removed. This resulted in a positive cast of the face, a negative cast of the built up features, and empty space where the clay was.

I went one step further, and built an additional positive space over each face. It was basically the shape of a dust mask over the nose and mouth, which saved on materials and made the masks less claustrophobic to wear. It turned out to be fortunate that I did!


(Note, the lifemask pictured here is not the one I used for Jen). Both lifemasks that were used for the Dark Crystal project were destroyed after the convention, as neither of us had other projects requiring masks for the foreseeable future.

It's usually best to use a lifemask that is current. Faces change over time. Some things that can affect the fit of an appliance are the gaining or losing weight, facial injuries, surgery, and the aging process.

I spent an entire weekend mixing the foam latex, curing, and finishing the appliances. I aired the house out thoroughly afterward, as foam latex smells like a tire factory when it's baking.

I made a subtle compromise for the sake of realism. I made the lips slightly parted, and the nostrils open, to allow for air flow. I also made the faces slightly less rounded. Any time a re-creation is done, there have to be allowances for differences in stature, facial structure, the venue (stage, film, or close up and live), and practical considerations.

We were in these appliances for several hours. Since these were full face masks, not multiple pieces, they were easier and less time consuming to apply, but restrictive in that we couldn't open our jaws very wide to talk. As the music and narration of our presentation was pre-recorded, there was no need to do more complex appliances. The effect on stage was realistic enough, but this would not have been acceptable for film work.