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Twi’lek Creations      Latex Lekku     Body Paint      Aayla      Pam’s Twi’leks      Twi’lek Gallery      Events
Latex Lekku

In order to make the lekku, I started out with a frame welded from pipe and rebar. It had to be strong enough to support the weight of plaster, clay, and eventually a mold.   The pipe was purchased from the lumber yard already cut to length and threaded.  The bracket had to be bolted to the plywood round, since screws pulled out of the wood too easily!

 

 

 

 

 

Once I had the frame securely attached to the stand, I slapped a rough head and lekku onto it with plaster.  On top of the plaster I built up a layer of oil clay, which was easy to work with as long as the weather was warm. Working with cold oil clay, however, was like trying to sculpt old concrete. I also ran into the issue of measurements. Latex shrinks by about 10% as it dries and cures, so I had a hard time trying to figure out exactly how oversized to make each part of the lekku.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After smoothing the clay and giving it a "skin texture" by rubbing the back of a spoon over a piece of textured vinyl (for hours and hours), I gave the whole thing a coating of clear paint to seal the clay. Once that was dry, I built a clay dividing wall and set to work making a two-part mold. At that point I ran into my first big problem. The mold material, a plaster-like material called Ultracal, did not like to stick to broad, smooth stretches of paint slickened oil clay. No matter how carefully I applied the Ultracal, it just slid right off and pooled on the floor. It took 3 hours of tedious work to build up the Ultracal on each half of the mold, a job which also included working strips of burlap into the wet Ultracal to provide extra strength and support. It also involved a few choice words because the clay dividing wall didn't like to stick to the oil clay, either. Three times I had to make major repairs to the dividing wall before I was able to complete the first half of the mold. But, eventually, I had a completed mold. I let it sit overnight, and then opened it the next day. To my dismay the top half of the mold cracked where the lekku curve out from the head. It was a minor crack, so I repaired the mold as best I could. Then I poured in the latex, sloshing it often to coat the mold evenly inside. After letting the latex sit in the mold for almost an hour (guessing on the length of time was another issue), I poured the excess latex back into its container and let the mold sit overnight to dry.

 

The next day I opened it, and... Taaadaaa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My family was impressed. I am, however, a perfectionist.

 

The latex did not conform well to the shape of my head.  It was too thick and heavy, and the lekku themselves seemed fat and lifeless. So I went back to the metal frame, cleaned everything off of it, and started again. I began this time by making an accurate plaster copy of my head in the hope that it would help the headpiece fit properly. I put my hair in a bun, wrapped it with a plastic bag to keep it clean, and then had my husband help me make a cast of my head with plaster gauze.  You can find a tutorial about making a lifecast on our tutorials site.  Just click the link at the top of this page!

 

 

 

 

 

Once the plaster was set, we opened the two halves of the mold. Then I placed the mold over my rebar and pipe framework and filled it with plaster. Then, I went through the entire sculpting process all over again.  As I worked I experimented with better ways to create a skin texture because the vinyl trick was tedious, and the texture it created didn’t show up very well in the latex.  I settled on skin texture that was created by rubbing various tools and stipple sponges over the surface of the clay, followed by smoothing it with my hands.  It still took hours and hours and hours to smooth out the tool marks and then texture such a large area of clay, but I was definitely starting to get the hang of making the clay look more like skin.  

 

In the end, the difference that I saw in the new sculpture was definitely worth the extra time and supplies I had to invest. I was so much happier with the results!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I finished the sculpture I set to work creating my second two-part mold, making sure to double reinforce the area that had cracked before. I opened the mold.... and it cracked in the same place again! AUGH!!! The crack was a serious one this time and the mold was ruined, so I had to repair my damaged sculpture and make yet another mold. On my third attempt I tried something different. I divided the mold into three sections, placing a seam at the place where it had cracked both times before. And, instead of depending on the burlap and Ultracal to make the mold strong, I encased it in a fiberglass shell and used fiberglass to attach rebar support rods down the sides. This time there were no cracks when I opened the mold. Well, no major cracks, anyway. Ultracal just isn't intended for such long, narrow forms.  The few small cracks that did develop gradually grew larger, but there’s just not much I could co about that!

 

By now it was well into the winter rainy season. The weather had become so cold and damp that when I poured latex into the mold it simply would not dry inside. I ruined two castings by opening the mold while the lekku were still wet down at the tips. On my third attempt, I placed the mold next to the fireplace and kept a hairdryer blowing inside of it for hours. After nearly a week had passed, I opened the mold. The last six inches of the lekku were still a gooey mess. Feeling VERY frustrated at this point, I put the mold away for a few months and concentrated on the rest of the costume.

 

Then, finally, the sun came out, the weather warmed, and I decided to try

pouring the latex one more time.  I'm glad I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like I mentioned, though.... I'm a perfectionist.

I still wasn't completely happy with the design. I was also continuing to have problems with the mold. It didn't have a tight fit at the ends of the lekku, so it leaked quite a bit of latex and left seam lines that were very noticable. You can see in this picture how much latex leaked around the tips of the lekku and at the sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So... once again I started a new sculpture, but this time I cheated. Instead of starting over from scratch, I took a lekku headpiece and I filled it with plaster. Then I cut the latex off and covered the plaster with a layer of oil clay. This saved me from having to do a lot of sculpting and design work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the clay was smooth and covered with a skin texture, I began making a new mold. I planned out a three-piece mold using the same fairly successful design as the last time. I was hoping that I had learned enough about the mold making process to make the best mold possible this time. I started by building up the clay barrier that would create the top half of the mold. I also included a retaining wall this time to hold the Ultracal in and help the mold have smooth sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the top half of the mold was complete, I turned the sculpture over and made the two pieces of the mold for the bottom half. Before I took it apart, I sealed all of the seam lines and then once again reinforced the mold with pieces of rebar and a coating of fiberglass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did the mold work better this time?

 

In some ways, yes. It didn't crack when I opened it. I drilled holes and bolted the mold halves tightly together, so no more latex leaked out of the ends. But... since I didn't make the sculpture on top of a head casting, it didn't fit my head perfectly anymore. I guess when I filled the latex headpiece with plaster, it warped the head area out of shape just a little bit. Not badly, but enough that I could feel the difference. The lekku looked great, but they weren't very comfortable to wear.  I also started thinking that I’d like to have a bit more curve to the top area of the lekku.  A thought like that just can’t be ignored; it’ll stick with a perfectionist for months on end until they do something about it.

 

So what did I do?

 

Yup!  I went back to the beginning... and I made a new sculpture and a new mold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If practice makes perfect... I ought to be an expert by now!