Boiled Leather Mannequin
Abstract torso form made of boiled and moulded leather, with several gold leaf panels, stood on a steel rod with base.
Materials and techniques
The mannequin is made using a medieval armour-making technique (Cuir Bouilli) in which vegetable tanned leather is moulded and irreversibly hardened using moisture and heat.
The work is made by wrapping leather around a plywood mould before immersion in near-boiling water. The heat alters the structure of the material - melting the collagens and the fats in the skin, allowing it to be moulded into extreme forms and set into shape. Additional moulds are applied to the leather under pressure to create the tightly controlled facets in the work.
3mm leather from the shoulder (from Belgium) is used for its high degree of shrinkage and malleability in moulding. There is no prescribed formula for success. The outcome is contingent upon operating within a very narrow window of time and temperature, thickeness and cut of leather, tannage, etc.
After controlled drying the moulds are removed, the leather trimmed, and then lined with PU resin - in part for the aesthetic/material contrast, and in part to add further rigidity to the form. The mannequin is finished with panels of oil-gilded palladium and 22 carat gold leaf to add further contrast to the material.