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 Post subject: Casting a Death Mask
 Post Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:09 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:30 am
Posts: 23
I was recently reading about another lifecaster's experience creating a death mask of his father. I thought this was a very emotionally charges subject that many might be interested in reading about and discussing. Creating death-masks as been an art form that has endured for millenniums and still survives today, but the experience of creating the mold must be very intense indeed.

I am paraphrasing here -


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I had the honor of casting a death mask of my father. It was very cathartic to those who stayed to assist. The problem I had was, we had to insert his false teeth, which would not stay in place even with Polident. One person held his jaw forward while another held his lower jaw up to keep his mouth closed and looking as natural as possible. A reclined position did not help. I suppose I would have had a similar problem if he had not worn false teeth. I'm not sure if there would there have been an easier way to do this and avoid all the extra hands. I don't know if I will ever do this again but I would be interested in your opinions.


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 Post subject: Re: Casting a Death Mask
 Post Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 6:16 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 1:39 pm
Posts: 41
Location: Blyth, Northumberland, UK
I have some experience casting death-masks, predominantly for children, so it is always a sensitive task to carry out. I support the child's head with rolled towels. If rigor hasn’t set in, it is difficult to keep the jaw in line and shut at the same time, so it is important to have an extra set of hands to help out. It is easier to make a mold after the body has been embalmed.The person that has passed-on cannot wriggle out of the cast, so a different kind of force has to be used to execute this job in a professional dignified way.

It cannot be overstated that any relatives present are to be treated with respect. Their deceased loved one is lying there and must be treated very respectfully during this sacred time for the family. This is a privileged trusted position to find yourself in. You become a different person afterward.


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 Post subject: Re: Casting a Death Mask
 Post Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 9:10 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 24, 2009 11:45 am
Posts: 115
Location: New Brunswick, NJ
In “The Parvin Papers”, Dave mentioned that there is a classic book on sculpture, "Sculpture Inside and Out" by Malvina Hoffman. It contains a full chapter of useful information on the subject of creating Death-Masks. Funeral homes occasionally get requests for these, especially from Hispanic families, and the people there working there are usually very helpful to the lifecaster.
I read if you are working with deceased premature babies, you have to be very careful with the skin. The skin of a premature baby can be as thin as tissue paper and it can tear easily. You need to discuss this with the medical team before attempting this or it could be a very traumatic experience if anything goes wrong. And as already stated, work with dignity and respect for the deceased.


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 Post subject: Re: Casting a Death Mask
 Post Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:53 am 
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Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 8:27 am
Posts: 54
I agree with the need to act with reverence while doing the cast. I wear my best clothes to the funeral parlor to do deceased castings. Cold increases the set time of the alginate, so if the deceased person has been in cold storage then it could double the set time. It is also smart to wear gloves for infection control, so I bring a few with me, and be careful not to drip any alginate in the coffin. After rigor mortise leaves a body, it is easy to gently pull the decease’s face in to a slight smile for a more pleasant cast and with a little work sunken eyes can be restored to their original look. Emotionally, casting the deceased can be very draining and you often feel like you have been holding your breath the whole time.


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