Owl Mask with Pearly Art

A great project to learn the basics of working with Worbla, this build uses Pearly Art but can be done with any of the standard sheet types. 


Step 1: Create your basic template on paper, then when happy with it transfer it to 2mm foam (craft or EVA foam).  For the second layer of foam, cut circles and tack down with glue or double sided tape, then cut out eye holes using a craft knife.  Optional: Heat seal the foam by heating it with the heat gun for a few seconds. Only do this if you have a well ventilated area.


Step 2:  Cut a piece of Worbla larger than the foam. Heat the Worbla until it is soft and pliable. If it is too hot to touch, let it cool slightly before working with it. Place your foam template (raised layers down) onto the Worbla, making sure there is excess at all sides, then flip it over. Using a sculpting tool or your fingers, press down on all the edges. (Use water to help your fingers or tools glide over the Worbla.)

Step 3: When you’ve finished pressing the Worbla around the foam, let it cool then flip it over. Cut relief triangles all around the outside excess, saving the scraps, and stopping before the foam edge.  Heating one section at a time, fold the tabs over and press together where they meet. Worbla is self adhesive and will stick to itself when warm. If you have an area where you mis-cut or have too large a gap, use your scraps to patch the opening. This is known as the ‘folding method’.

Step 4 and 5: Flip the mask over and heating one side at a time, use a tool to further emphasize the foam layers and smooth the curves where the ‘tabs’ may have created a slight bump or angle.  Allow the mask to cool before using a craft knife to cut a horizontal and vertical slit in the eyes: do this while the plastic is cool, not warm, as when warm it may tear. Once you’ve made the cut, heat the eye area and press the eyes open, folding the edges under. Now you have a finished base.

Step 6: If you want the mask to have a specific curve and intend to keep heating it to add more details, you’ll want it to rest on something once you shape it. This is a piece of cardboard bent in a V and held by a piece of tape. If you want a curve instead of a sharper V, bottles, tailors hams, bowls, or even crumpled paper can be used to support your form.  Heat your mask and shape as you’d like your final form to take. Add loops for your ties with some Worbla scraps on the back here if this is to be worn. 

You can shape your mask as the last step instead of now, but the more layers you add to your Worbla, or the more details that are not sitting flat to the mask, the more heat it will take to warm the Worbla all the way through to shape later. Shaping later can also cause raised details to ‘deflate’ and need to be adjusted. We suggest shaping here for best results.

Step 7: Details! You can heat and sculpt into Worbla, being careful not to tear it away from the foam base.  Metal or wooden tools work best, with water to help prevent them from sticking. Additional layers can be added – the V detail was made with 2 layers of Worbla heated together first then cut to shape for more body, while the feather/scale details are just single layers of Worbla cut from the scraps. Always make sure you heat both the mask and the Worbla you want to attach to each other. Both need to be warm to create a strong bond!

Tip 1: Heating too much can create air bubbles if your foam off-gasses. You can press many down with fingers, but stubborn ones can be popped by 1) letting the Worbla cool and pressing a sharp pin through the plastic where the bubble is and 2) reheating and pressing the air though the pin hole. 

Tip 2: If you’re not sure about placement, you can heat a detail until it’s just warm and then press it in place on a cold mask. It will stick, but not bond, allowing you to play with placement and design elements until you are happy.

Step 8: Paint! Worbla products all have some surface texture and Pearly Art has something close to a fine grade sandpaper. If left as is the texture will be obvious through paint. Priming can smooth the texture easily. The beak, gold feathers along the beak, and V forehead were all primed with 2 coats of Flexbond, our favorite primer for Worbla.  (Our gold paint let us down a bit on the brush stroke department however.)
You can see a close up of the difference in texture between primed and unprimed in the second image above. 

Step 9: Not really a step – we just added more shadows and details. Note: You can still shape your Worbla even now. Keep in mind your paint needs to be flexible if you do so, or the Worbla will shift and your paint may crack or wrinkle.  

Remember to always save your Worbla scraps. They can be reused in new projects!