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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How To: Cat Armor!

This is Leah the Fierce. She wanted an armor to wear for the Meow opening and asked if I could help. I had never made an armor for a leopard before, but I decided to give it a try.
The first thing I had to do was get some measurements. I did this by making paper templates and test-fitting them on Leah. By doing this, I not only knew that the parts would fit, but I would also have a template for cutting out the foam I would use to build the armor.
Once all the parts were measured and checked I placed the templates on the foam and cut them out.
Leopards are not flat, so I had to shape the pieces with an iron to get them to hold a curved shape. I placed the foam between layers of paper towel so that it wouldn’t melt to the iron.
The end result was armor pieces that were much more leopard shaped.
A second test fitting to make sure that all the pieces still fit well. As it turns out, a few parts needed to be reshaped and one needed to be completely recut to better fit. I then attached the parts together with a glue gun.
After gluing, the parts were painted with two layers of metallic gold spray paint. The paint dries quickly on the foam and I was able to complete the painting in less than two hours.
Another test fitting and then small bits of elastic were added to the chin, chest, backplate, and tail to help hold the armor in place, but make it removable.
I then added decoration. I cut stencils for the patterns, then traced them with a black magic marker. Once the outlines were done I filled them in with silver magic marker. The black lines and silver fill both took two to three coats.
Once the details were done I gave the armor a final light spraycoat of clear lacquer. This helped even out the finish and gave the armor a bit of shine.
The parts were left to dry overnight and then we were ready for the final fitting.
Leah seemed pleased with her new armor.
These are all of the paper templates and stencils used for the armor.

The total cost of making the armor was less than $20. The cutout and assembly went very quickly. This is a project that a child and parent could do in one day.
Learn more about Meow: A Cat-Inspired Exhibition

- Bill MacMillan, Project Conservator of Objects, Higgins Collection

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