Leather Molding Workshop

Roses & Masks

Materials needed:

Pencil or stylus
Utility knife.
Exacto knife
Straight edge
Paper & cardboard
3 to 5 oz. Vegetable tanned leather
Face form
Large Pot
Drying cloth ( T-shirt, diaper, etc.)

OPTIONAL:  Aluminum foil, pinking shears, dye
stamping tools, candy thermometer, hot plate
hair dryer


A Leather choice
1.) Leather
should be 3 to 5 oz. weight, with the 3 oz. being used for flowers, leaves or anything that you
to have a light, delicate appearance. For masks or wearable items, nothing heavier than 5 oz. This
give you the strength and durability that you need, but still be thin enough to work easily.
2.) Pay
close attention to the flesh side of the leather that you use. You want the nap to be as close and
tight as you can find, without 1ong rags left by fleshing.
If you need to, the leather can be sanded lightly to clean it
up. You don't want to burnish
the flesh side because this will restrict water absorption.
Leather preparation .
1.) You can heat the water in your pan to about 120. This will cause the leather to burn slightly,which will
the project more when it dries. (This is what the hotplate and candy thermometer are for).
2.) Place the cut out project into the water: Depending upon how dry the leather is, it may take some time to
get to the proper water content. Usually, I put it in until it quits bubbling and
3.) Test the leather
by squeezing it while it moistens. It should have a uniform consistency. If you feel
stiff areas,
squeeze and work these spots while they are under water and they wi1l soften up. IF you are using hot water, have a second pan of cool water nearby to avoid being scalded!
4.) Once
the leather reaches the proper consistency, that of modeling clay, take it out of the water and place
it on a drying
cloth. Fold the leather and press on it to remove excess water.
a.) The drying
cloth should be something absorbant but tightly woven (old t-shirt or diaper)  A cloth with a large weave or texture (like towels) should not be used because this will leave a textured print in the wet leather, unless this is the effect you want.
5.) When drying leather, wrapping the project loosely with rubber bands may help hold it in shape, but may leave a line on finished leather. A hairdryer may be used to shorten drying time; but be careful not to use too much heat for too long a period of time, or the leather may dry out and crack.



Both large and small patterns are cut out the same, basically 3 circles spaced 120 degrees apart around a
smaller circle; For my large pattern, I used a slicker and a nickel, for the smaller I used a film can cap
and an 8100 rivet setter.
For the leaves I used
a free hand elliptical ovoid and a nickel.
For the Calla lily I used a
free hand elliptical ovoid, but on one side I added an ovoid roughly half the
length of that side and half as wide.


Open Rose

For open rose, you need two pieces cut to match the larger pattern. Wet them both then place one on
top of the
other, both grain side up, with the center of the top circles lying over the slits between the
circles of the bottom piece.
Pull bottom petals up through the slits in the top piece, then holding the top petals between the fingers of
one hand and the bottom petals in the other, pull both hands away from each other. This causes the petals to lock into the slits, eliminating the need for gluing and/or sewing. All of the petals should develop slight creases and both parts should come to sort of a point.
To form inner petals,
crease all three along the center, then, working counter-clockwise, wrap them around each other so that they interlock. Placing a finger into the cylinder that forms will help hold, form and shape them.
Pull outer petals up and wrap them around the inner ones the same way. Pull and stretch the leather as you need to to shape the flower.
Make a circle
of your thumb and index finger and put just the base of the flower into it, to hold it while you finish.
Roll each
petal outward and pinch the edge near the center of the
point to shape the petal. Each petal can be shaped and molded as you want until you get the effect desired. Place finished flower upside down to dry. This will help hold the flower's shape as it dries.  After completely dry, then dye, stain, or finish as you want.

These are made from a single piece
of leather, usually a smaller pattern.
grain side down, pierce the center of the base piece with an awl. Slip a wire with a loop on one end through the hole to use as a stem.
Slightly curl each leaf upward from the flesh side. Then working clockwise, tightly curl each petal around the one next to it. Once the curl has started to form, you can get it tighter by placing the flower on the table and placing your hand on it. While exerting slight downward pressure, roll the flower under your hand .
After the bud is rolled tightly, roll each petal away from
the center and mold and pinch the edges to shape. Set aside to dry. After dry completely, dye, stain, or finish as you want.

Calla Lillys
Narrow side of piece could be skived on flesh side, if desired, before casing the leather. This would give
a thinner outside petal along the body of finished flower.
Start with flesh side down, then fold larger side of piece into the center.
Fold narrower side over this to form cone.
Roll back the edges and smooth out the throat of the flower.
Pinch and pull tip, then smooth and touch up shape.
Set aside to dry.


For jagged edge leaves, they should be cut out using pinking shears to make it easier and more even.
With grain side up, fold each leaf along center line, then roll, squeeze, and pinch to get the shape that
you want.
3.) When you lay them aside to dry, use a finger to push straight down on the junction. This will flatten this
area out and allow the base of the flower to fit better on the leaves.
4.) After dry completely, dye, stain, or finish as you want.


Basic mask

Use paper to make a basic mask pattern that will match the pattern to your eyes and to the contours of
your own face. This doesn't need to have any of the design considerations of the finished mask, this is
only to get your contours and sizes right.
happy with fit of basic mask, trace pattern onto flesh side of leather with the side of the mask
that was against your face turned up.
For the eye holes, put marks in the comers of each eye and one at the midpoint top and bottom of the
pattern's eyehole. Using a straight edge,
connect the comer dots across the eyehole.
Cut out the mask, then cut along the line running across the eyehole.
Cut curving
line from the outside comer to the mark at the top midpoint then the comer to the bottom
Wet leather then place it over the form. (If the form is going to be used more than once, it could be filled with plaster to give it more strength for molding.)
Make sure that the center of the mask matches
the line along the bridge of the form's nose.
Mold and contour the mask to the form.
back the the eyepieces and use them to form eyelashes. These can be rolled, twisted, or fringed. If tooling is desired, do it now while the leather is still wet and on the form. Leather should be thin enough and wet enough that the tools should only need pressed in and shouldn't require tapping with a mallet.
on form and set aside to dry. After drying is done completely, dye, stain, or finish as you want.

Beaked Masks
These are different than regular masks because the mass of leather
that you need to form the beak means that the eye holes have to be further apart and slanted. This is because when the beak is formed, the leather needed to get the height of the beak has to come from somewhere. If allowance isn't made, the eyes will end up on the side of the bridge of the nose.
Draw out the beaked
mask pattern then use the basic mask pattern to place the eye holes. This is done
(on the flesh side) by marking center lines down the bridge of the nose on both patterns.
Turn the basic mask pattern
until the center line on it runs from the comer of the beak to where it intersects with the center line on the beak mask pattern. (You may have to visualize an extension of the basic mask center line).
around too eyehole in the basic mask to transfer it to the beak mask pattern.
Repeat procedure for the eye on the other side.
Beaks are formed by folding leather along the bridge of the nose and lifting it until the eye holes in the leather match the eyes on the form. Contour and form it around cheeks and nose.
If beak is so large that it won't stand up under its own weight, it will need supported while it dries. This is done with aluminum foil.
First, get a wad of foil
and shape it roughly to the outline of the beak.
Put it under the leather, then squeeze
and contour it until it has the shape that you want for the
beak. More can be added, if necessary, but the wad doesn't need to be solid. It needs to only be strong enough to support the weight of the leather.
If tooling is desired,
do it now while still wet and on form, leather should be thin. enough and wet
enough that the tools only need pressed in and shouldn't require tapping with a mallet. Leave on form and set aside to dry.  Dye, stain or finish as desired.

John L. Henry Jr. Macon, Ga 1999