There is a very distinctive shape to Darth Nihilus' head. This shape is created
by the combination of two peaks that rise from either side of the forehead, and a
raised area at the back of the head that gives him a somewhat square looking skull.
In order to duplicate this odd shape, we continued working from the previously existing
headcast with the sculpt of the mask still in place.
After getting the shape dialed in, we had to decide how best to reproduce it in fiberglass.
Since we would only need the one hood, we decided to forgo the expense of creating
a silicone mold. Instead, we simply covered the sculpture with plastic wrap and
then applied the fiberglass directly over that. The plastic kept the fiberglass
from sticking to the clay, and protected the rest of the casting from resin drips.
By sculpting and casting the hood directly over the mask sculpture, we were able
to ensure that the hood would tie into the mask without any added complications.
Once the fiberglass hood was complete, we began to work on making sure that it would
fit on my head securely and comfortably. In the interest of heat dissipation, holes
were drilled through the fiberglass over much of the surface. In order to make it
easier for me to hear, we also cut slots out of the fiberglass so that my ears wouldn't
be stuck inside. We also tried fitting a hard hat liner inside the hood, but found
that it wasn’t very comfortable, so we took it back out again. You can see the gray
strap from the liner in the picture below.
The whole thing was painted black so that it wouldn’t show as a light color underneath
the black fabric of the hood. Then we began the work of figuring out how to integrate
the fabric of the hood and cape. This began by simply pulling fabric up over the
hood, knotting the edges together, and letting it fall to see how it would naturally
drape over my shoulders and head.
After finding the correct length for the fabric, we began work on figuring out how
it would hang once the mask was in place. We found that the area inside the triangular
“cat ears”would not hang the way we wanted if it was part of the fabric draped over
the back. So we glued the hood fabric to the inside of the fiberglass hood using
E6000 glue and left those triangles open. Once the glue was dry, the painted mask
was permanently attached to the inside of the fiberglass hood with two-part epoxy
putty. Finally, we glued in small triangles of the cape fabric to fill in the spaces
left by the “cat ears”.
The last thing we needed to do was to make sure that the hood and mask would be comfortable
to wear and would stay in place correctly. We worked with different suspension methods
before finding that soft foam blocks glued inside the hood allowed for the greatest
level of comfort. By using epoxy to hold the mask and the hood together, we basically
created a Nihilus helmet that is very easy to put on and take off. In this picture
you can see the holes I drilled in the hood to help with ventilation. The mask is
only attached at three points, also, to allow air to circulate behind it.
For this version of Darth Nihilus, the floor length cape is part of the hood. It
is a voluminous cape with a huge amount of fabric, and this presented a challenge
for me. I wanted to use enough fabric to give the cape enough drape and body, but
I didn’t want to have too much fabric gathered around my head. I didn’t want to
have the weight of so much fabric hanging off my hood, either, since I was concerned
that it would pull the hood backwards. To solve the problem, we decided to make the
cape in two separate layers. There is an “outer” cape which is attached to the hood,
and there is an inner cape beneath that, which provides a lot of extra fabric volume.
We began by sewing two lengths of 45” wide raw silk together so that we had a giant
rectangle of fabric that was 90” wide. The top corners were brought up over my shoulder
and pinned together in front, like an ordinary cape. This put a lot of fabric behind
me without having any extra weight hanging off my hood.
Note: In this picture, the outer cape is tucked underneath the inner cape so that
you can see the sewn line on the inner cape. Normally the outer cape (which is attached
to the hood) goes on the outside!
The piece of the cape attached to the fiberglass hood is one 45" wide strip of raw
silk that runs down nearly to the ground behind me. This piece is glued to the hood
at the front, and then as it hangs down the center of my back it hides the sewn line
down the center of the cape underneath it. Since there are so many folds of fabric,
people don’t even notice that there are two layers of fabric there!
The leading edges of both capes were pulled forward and sewn together just below
my collarbones. If I were to tie a knot with all of the fabric from both of the
capes, it would be a huge knot... so instead, the ends of the fabric are just sewn
flat together. The actual knot that you can see isn’t a true knot. It’s a twist
of fabric that is sewn over the tops of the cape ends. This gives the appearance
of a knot without too much extra bulk in that area.