Working with Leather for Miss Fortune
Each project that I decide to tackle is chosen based on potential new skills and materials I might be exposed to through fabrication and Miss Fortune was no different. When I first decided to do MF, I studied her splash art (above) very thoroughly and was relatively stumped on how I would want to tackle all the pieces of her outfit with all the decorative elements on them.
A very long time ago a friend suggested I use leather, and I originally thought, well.. that would be too expensive because the hat would require too much material, but once I decided to normalize the size of her hat and guns (based on the new splash art) I realized it wouldn’t actually cost that much at all.
Thankfully I had a class project at Otis involving leather in a previous semester which forced me to learn how to work with cowhide (a big thanks to Gwyneth who taught me a lot), so I had some previous experience. I used really thin cowhide for most of the leather, except for the hat which needed to be thicker to hold its shape.
One of the first steps I had to do was examine all the different parts of the outfit and sketch out all the designs as well as I could. I’d blow up the image and mess with image level settings to have the design pop out more for better interpretation and then I’d just sketch away!
The most difficult part of this process was having to design my own patterns in a few areas.. part of the hat pattern was hidden because of her gun, and the very top of the hat was extremely difficult to read. Thankfully the sleeves were extremely straightforward, but since only one side of her pants sash is visible I had to completely create my own patterned design for that.
The shoes aren’t even in the image at all, so that was 100% my own design work right there. I’d take elements from the hat and pants and mix them together to create the pattern for the shoe flaps.
Once I finally sketched out all the designs, and patterned everything out on cardstock, I scanned and imported all my sketches and templates into Illustrator. I spent hours upon hours on this step… I had to clean up my design sketches and actually fit them onto my patterns. The hat was probably the most tedious part to do, because my pattern wasn’t 100% like the splash art (2D vs 3D limitations).
If you look at my design for the show flaps (above), you’ll see I had all my pieces prepared for laser engraving and cutting.
When I finally got my leather pieces back, cut and engraved, I was so ecstatic. This was my first time doing something like this and it turned out beautifully. I was actually almost a little sad about having to do anything more to the leather, because it already looked like art as it was, but I knew it had to be done.
Here’s a neat littler comparison of what it looked like before and after being dyed and painted! Each piece was dyed with leather dye and painted with gold Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint. Needless to say it was an extremely tedious process. The arm bands were really easy because the pattern was so big, but the hat, shoe flaps, and pants … well.. let’s just say each piece probably took anywhere between 8-25 hours each of hand painting.
Here’s a nice detail shot of how tedious it was to hand paint all the designs in. I had to use a tiny brush and go over each design a minimum of two times to make sure it was bold enough. I always needed a very direct light source shining on the part that I was painting so I could easily see the engraved pattern. In hindsight I could have laser cut all the patterns and created a stencil instead, but I felt that this process really taught me patience and it forced me to be more precise than I’ve ever had to be before.
The final step after painting was to coat each piece with leather balm, which gave each piece a beautiful sheen. This sheen matched perfectly with the boots I had purchased to use as the base for the costume. The only downside to the leather balm was that it would dull the gold paint so I had to go back and do a third, sometimes fourth, coat on all the patterns. If I could have, I would have loved to simply do the balm then the paint, but the paint didn’t go that nicely on top of the balm so it would have been ten times more difficult to get decent coverage.
Needless to say I was extremely satisfied with the final result of all the leather on this costume. I used leather for the vest top that hovers over her white bra to make sure that all darker elements of the costume matched together.
If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below!
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