by Willow Enright
Part IV: Arrived at Westland
Let’s recap on my journey to become a Mord-Sith. I had created the whole outfit, from commissioning a catsuit, creating armor from cowhide, and modifying a pair of nubuck leather boots. In true Mord-Sith fashion, I decided that I clearly hadn’t worked hard enough and I set out to create a more worthy specimen. See Part I, Part II, and Part III for more details.
What I had gathered from my first attempt was a set of amazing historical replica buckles, a reusable pattern, my customized leather catsuit, the maroon leather gloves, my handmade Agiel, and my now blood-red Merrell Tetra boots, and my belt. In the meantime I had purchased some antiqued brass rivets, as well as antiqued brass snaps, a swivel knife, and shoe lace hooks. But the best thing of all, was an amazing mallet, all thanks to Jon.
Once I had that beautiful rawhide mallet in my hot little hands I started practicing my tooling. I used a scrap piece of leather to test out the different tools (six piece basic craftsman set, and my good ol’ screwdrivers) I learned through the tutorial videos that you should wet your leather slightly before doing any of the tooling work. It should be damp, but not soaked, and you should wait until the leather has almost returned to it’s natural lighter color. And you need to keep re-wetting the leather as you go and it dries out.
For my neck gorget, I chose a flower design to tool, it would represent the D’Haran flower used to dye the Sister of the Agiel’s armor. Then I traced the flower pattern onto a piece of paper and used the old fashioned tracing transfer method of rubbing the backside of the paper to leave the design on the leather.
Using my new swivel knife I carved the design, and then erased the left over pencil marks. Then I used the rawhide mallet and six piece craftsman set to tool out the designs.
I also created several original designs to represent and reflect Cara Mason’s story specifically. Her neck gorget not only has multiple panels reflecting the D’Haran flower used to dye their leathers, but it also has a panel on the back which represents Cara’s experience of being taken captive to be trained as a Sister of the Agiel. It has a tree with a snake hanging from a branch and a knife stuck into the tree. When the Mord-Sith came to take Cara her father told her to grab the kitchen knife to fend them off, but Cara chose not to, thus was taken into captivity and trained by the Mord-Sith known to Cara as Snake.
There are also two individual, detailed panels on the front. One, is of a blue-tailed sea hawk and comfrey branch. Cara herself said if she had to be a bird she would choose the blue-tailed sea hawk because they are relentless. Comfrey would have been used by the Sisters of the Agiel. It has several medicinal actions, and is known as a vulnerary and an astringent. These properties make it useful in the healing of minor wounds, both internal and external. Comfrey can be used for minor injuries of the skin, where it will work to increase cell production, causing wounds to heal over rapidly. It can be used internally for stomach and duodenal ulcers, where it will have the same effect. It is also demulcent, producing a mucilage that coats and soothes irritated tissues and it can reduce inflammation, and at the same time lessen scarring.
The conclusion of the neck gorget scene is a second panel of a Falcon bearing a Yarrow branch. Yarrow is an analgesic and antiseptic, so that it stops bleeding, lessens pain, prevents infections, and is often abundant in open meadows. It is also available 12 months of the year in milder temperate zones. And to finish the gorget, I also used more of the elastic cording for connecting the pieces as well as incorporating the antiqued brass snaps on the back.
The leg holster has a tree bearing all the seasons to represent Cara’s time in Westland with Kahlan and Richard while Kahlan healed from her almost mortal wounds. The waist cincher has several different depictions on it. There’s Richard’s dragon Scarlet, a deer scene to show her time learning to hunt with Richard, as well as a wolf which Cara feels reflects her own prowess. There’s also the traditional design worn by Sister of the Agiel, a crescent moon and star showing the house of Rahl.
The waist cincher was tricky for me. I decided to try a technique of water hardening, known as cuir bouilli. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that technique would undo all the tooling I had already done on the piece. So, around three weeks worth of hard work undone in about 98 seconds. That sucked. However, after I did the water hardening and retooled the entire piece it looked amazing and was hard like armor. I also made all of the straps connecting it to the other armor pieces removable by snaps. That way I could wear the waist cincher on its own since it was awesome!
Once all of the designing was done it was time to dye the leather to make it that fabulous blood-red. I first applied two to three layers of the Scarlet Red paint, followed by 2-3 layers of the Black Antique Stain. Then the Resolene to seal it and protect it. I used a sponge to apply the acrylic paint and resolene sealer to the leather.
After everything was dry it was time to assemble the bits and pieces to create the armor as a whole. I found that straps were difficult due to the thickness of the leather, and wished I had a slightly thinner leather for these, say a 5-7 oz. I also wish that I had implored a water soaking to wet form the loops of the straps around the buckles and where they looped onto themselves. I think this would have let them sit more flush and not have as much tension for the riveted area. That, or a v-gouge tool to create the canal for the loop to fold better.
After four years of wearing the cosplay costume to multiple events the only upkeep it has needed is the occasional retouch to the strap edges with some antique stain. The buckles are narrow in design and the thick straps scrap each time you take the armor on and off. Otherwise, it’s still an amazing, beautiful piece of stunning craftsmanship, and I couldn’t be more proud of the end result.
I started crafting out of leather in 2011, and now I am making it my life's work. I am writing this blog to help myself remember some of the small steps in past projects, sharing my triumphs and failures, as well as my love of leather.