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Leather Monarch Butterfly Mask

"Tiger" Torre-Oatis shapes, paints and carves butterfly traits into a piece of leather to create her beautiful monarch butterfly mask.

Materials and Tools:

vegetable tanned leather
tap water
braided oval cord elastic
black leather dye
liquid leather sealer
acrylic paints meant for leather
black permanent markers
opaque paint markers
aerosol leather sealer
butterfly mask pattern
carbon paper
ballpoint pen
craft knife
cutting mat
leather hole punch
rubber mallet
leather carving tools
foam head mold
latex gloves
cloth or paper to protect work surface


1. Determine the best spot on a section of vegetable tanned leather for placement of the mask.

2. Pin the pattern on the leather using pushpins placed where the holes for the elastic will be made. Place carbon paper between the pattern and the leather.

3. Trace the pattern onto the leather by tracing the lines of the pattern with a ballpoint pen.

4. Remove the pattern and carbon paper to reveal the pattern on the leather.

5. Cut the general shape of the mask from the leather with scissors. Place the mask on a cutting mat and cut the detailed outline with a craft knife.

6. Punch the elastic holes that had been marked with the pushpins with a leather hole punch and a mallet.

7. The butterfly mask is ready for carving.

8. Carve the interior line pattern using leather carving tools.

9. Completely saturate the leather by submerging the mask in the sink in tap water. Drain off the water.

10. Pat the mask with a towel to absorb excess moisture.

11. Hand-mold the mask by shaping the nose. Place the mask on your face and use your fingers to conform the shape of the leather to the bridge of your nose.

12. Shape the monarch wings with a carving tool handle.

13. Place the elastic through the holes and secure the ends with double knots.

14. Test the mask on your face and adjust the fit.

15. Place the butterfly mask on a foam head mold to dry. Support the sides of the mask if necessary.

16. Let the monarch butterfly mask dry.

17. Prepare the work surface for dyeing the mask by placing a cloth or paper over it. Put on latex gloves and an apron to protect clothing. Apply black leather dye to the back and front of the mask. Let dry.

18. Apply a coat of liquid leather sealer to the front and back of the butterfly mask with a brush. Let dry until the mask is stiff.

19. Using acrylic paint made for leather; apply a base coat of orange paint on the front of the mask.

20. Apply a base coat of gray/beige to the back side of the butterfly mask.

21. Fill in the carved lines of the butterfly mask with a fine tip black permanent marker.

22. Apply white and off-white accents dots on the front and back of the butterfly mask.

23. Apply a final coat of spray sealer to the leather monarch butterfly mask.

Jennifer "Tiger" Torre-Oatis of Baltimore, Md., is a freelance artist and leather crafter. She has been attending renaissance fairs since she was a teenager and is a regular attendee and worker at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It was there that she was awe-struck by the ornate leather masks featured by two of the vendors. These inspired her to find out how the masks were made. Before long, she was crafting her own leather masks, and has made them for the last decade. We see one of them here with her beautiful monarch butterfly mask.


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