Black Krrsantan Mask
To honor the passing of the great Peter Mayhew, the actor who first brought Chewbacca to life, I wanted to share a build inspired by his legacy! As easily recognizable in the Star Wars universe as Darth Vader or Yoda, Chewbacca will probably always be a fan favorite! He is a member of the Wookiee race—large, furry creatures that probably are distant cousins to the sasquatch here on Earth. We are first introduced to “Chewy” in the famous cantina scene in A New Hope. He was the co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, working alongside Han Solo. We don't see another Wookiee until Revenge of the Sith in the prequel series, when Yoda goes to their homeworld of Kashyyyk to help defend them against the droid army. However, this was not the original plan! It’s no secret that George Lucas was heavily inspired by historical events and artifacts when he was creating Star Wars. For Return of the Jedi he wanted to draw on some parallels from the Vietnam War; mainly, a technologically inferior force defeating a technologically superior one. Originally, he had wanted to use the wookiees, but felt that door was closed to him because throughout the whole series Chewy was shown to be highly capable with technology, even going so far as being the engineer on the Millennium Falcon. And that’s how we got Ewoks! However, I’m not sure which I prefer: vicious, predatory teddy bears, or seven-foot tall bowcaster-wielding sasquatch. Either way, Wookiees have been a staple in star wars lore since the original trilogy!
One of the Wookiee characters created in the expanded universe was a bounty hunter named Black Krrsantan, or Santy for short. Having disgraced his people, he needed to escape Kashyyyk, and so, became a one time gladiator before leaving that life to work for Jabba the Hutt as a bounty hunter and even teaming up with Bobba Fett at one point! Santy was recently added to the roster of villains that members of the 501st legion, a Star Wars costuming club, are able to portray! Since I am already fairly tall, I decided why not just slap some hair on me and call it a costume.
Santy is a unique character, with dark fur, braids, and that nasty scar which I find very visually interesting. However, I have found that Wookiees are a very rare costume for two main reasons: Cost and Time. So I decided I wanted to try it myself since I did not have the budget to have someone make it for me, and I always love adding new skills to my tool box. Plus, I’ll be able to say that I’m one of the few people to have built a full Wookiee costume! I started with the mask; since i've never done anything like this, I decided if I couldn't make the face look right then I wasn’t going to waste money on the full suit!
Pretty isn't he? This is the base mask; sadly, it arrived with some teeth broken but that’s an easy fix. I will also need to add the scar over his eye, but that's a process further down the line; first, I need to add some hair. Luckily, building the mask involves the primary technique used for the whole suit: latch hooking! In A New Hope, after they rescue Princess Leia and escape the trash compactor, she asks someone to “Get this walking carpet out of my way,” of course referring to Chewy. What seems like simply a mean comment at poor Chewy’s expense is actually an accurate clue as to how the suits are made: latch hooking is how most shag rugs are produced! Most builders use synthetic hair extensions to make their Wookies, and I did the same for this build, ordering it in bulk online.
As can be seen above, the “hood” section of the mask is made from mesh. Latch hooking is the process of taking a long strand of hair, looping it over your finger, and using a small hook to pull the loop through the mesh and tighten it back onto itself. It's a simple technique but can be kinda tricky; there are several amazing Youtube tutorials out there explaining the technique that greatly helped me. And that's basically how the rest of the suit is made: Hair woven into a shirt and pants made from mesh. This has the benefit of breathing much better than say, a mascot suit that is solid fur. The hardest part for me was realizing I didn't need to put every strand right next to each other; I can space them out and the next layer up will cover the gap. Also, I cut the hair shorter as I went up, so instead of every strand going all the way down, they got slightly shorter for a more natural look! And after about five total hours of work spread over several days I ended up with this:
Either the first Wookiee clown or one suffering from severe Wookiee pattern baldness! It was a tedious process, but after awhile I got into a rhythm and was able to move onto the next stage, gluing the hair down. The mask has a fiberglass shell as a base, so I had to use glue in order to get the hair to cover the face. Again, it is a fairly easy process but requires some repetition to get it to look just right. The first step was to cut the hair even shorter to give it that natural look like I did with the hood.
And after that it's easy: I simply spread some glue onto the area I was wanting to lay the hair, then took a clump of hair and snipped the end so it was even.
Finally, I used a popsicle stick to press the hair into the glue and adjust its final position.
Again, very simple, but very tedious. The trick here is to make sure that I lay down enough glue but not so much that it becomes a goopy mess. Also, even if I do lay down enough glue, I need to make sure I don't try to put down too much hair! It's a balancing act that I have been improving over time. An annoying part of this method however, is that I can't lay down too many rows at once, otherwise the uncured glue from the first row will make the hair from the second row clump together and just not look nice. So, I usually only lay down about one row a day. I could probably get away with more, but I'm erring on the side of caution and patience. Finally, after another THREE HOURS I have arrived at this point!
I still have plenty to glue but I am not in a rush. Once I get down to the actual face I will have to swap to another technique: hair punching. Basically, you take a sewing needle that has been clipped into a hook shape, use it to grab a hair, and then press it into the latex. The pressure keeps it in place. It is a very advanced technique that I am still researching and practicing, and will expand upon once I try it! For the scar, I originally tried to take some silicone and sculpt it right on the mask; however, it did not look good, so I believe I am going to sculpt a part separately in clay and mold/cast THAT in silicone and glue it on. I will get more control of the shape and look so I think it will look better overall.
As it stands I am very happy with my progress overall. I have never done anything like this before and I am proud of how far I have gotten! The goal is to finish this and the rest of the costume by the premiere of the new movie in November, and I feel like I am on track. More importantly though, to me at least, it represents the joy and inspiration that actors like Peter Mayhew can bring to their fans; it is bringing about a new surge in the joy of making and giving people the confidence and inspiration to try things they never imagined they would be able to do!
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