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Short Stories: Plague Mask

Oct 25, 2012

by Tom Banwell

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Here at Etsy, we believe that the story behind an object is often just as fascinating as the object itself. Short Stories is our series dedicated to telling the tales behind extraordinary pieces found or created by Etsy sellers.

Here’s Tom Banwell with the history behind this unsettling mask.

When the bubonic plague struck Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, some doctors took to wearing beaked masks while treating patients. At the time, it was believed that the disease was carried by birds. The doctors had masks with birdlike beaks, which they filled with aromatic herbs to filter the bad air. In all likelihood, they also benefitted from the scariness of the masks by keeping infectious people at a distance.

When I got into leather mask making, I felt that the plague doctor mask was about as cool a mask as I’d ever seen, and it wasn’t long before I had a go at making my own. I found a photo of a plague doctor mask in a Danish museum, and used it as a model to base mine on. I moved the eyes more to the front so that someone could actually wear it and be able to see out of it.

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More Short Stories

Have you created or come across an object with an extraordinary story that needs to be told? Email us!

Stiltzkin leather plague doctor mask
Stiltzkin leather plague doctor mask
TomBanwell
$139.00 USD
Bunny leather mask in black
Bunny leather mask in black
TomBanwell
$65.00 USD
Plague Doctor mask in black leather "Schnabel"
Plague Doctor mask in black leather "Schnabel"
TomBanwell
$215.00 USD
Raven leather mask
Raven leather mask
TomBanwell
$59.00 USD
Victoriana leather
Victoriana leather
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Swirly Leather mask
Swirly Leather mask
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Plague Doctor mantle, shoulder cape in black garment leather capelet
Plague Doctor mantle, shoulder cape in black garment leather capelet
TomBanwell
$159.00 USD
Plague Doctor Staff Topper Winged Hourglass
Plague Doctor Staff Topper Winged Hourglass
TomBanwell
$24.00 USD
Snowflake leather mask  - Nutcracker Frozen
Snowflake leather mask - Nutcracker Frozen
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Coquette leather mask for eyeglasses
Coquette leather mask for eyeglasses
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Coquette Leather mask
Coquette Leather mask
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Cuff "Victorian" in leather
Cuff "Victorian" in leather
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Rabbit mask in leather
Rabbit mask in leather
TomBanwell
$79.00 USD
Celtic Knot Headwreath in Black Leather
Celtic Knot Headwreath in Black Leather
TomBanwell
$14.50 USD
Plague Doctor's mask in black leather Classic
Plague Doctor's mask in black leather Classic
TomBanwell
$285.00 USD
Eyelashes Leather Halloween Mask in black "Lashes"
Eyelashes Leather Halloween Mask in black "Lashes"
TomBanwell
$34.00 USD
Polka Dot Leather Mask in Black
Polka Dot Leather Mask in Black
TomBanwell
$12.00 USD
Head wreath in white leather "Nouveau Deco"
Head wreath in white leather "Nouveau Deco"
TomBanwell
$14.50 USD
SALE! Two Stiltzkin  masks leather plague doctor. Buy two get the second one over half off!
SALE! Two Stiltzkin masks leather plague doctor. Buy two get the second one over half off!
TomBanwell
$199.00 USD
Roxy leather mask in purple
Roxy leather mask in purple
TomBanwell
$32.00 USD
Bunny leather mask in red
Bunny leather mask in red
TomBanwell
$65.00 USD
Plague Doctor mask in white leather "Schnabel"
Plague Doctor mask in white leather "Schnabel"
TomBanwell
$215.00 USD
Cuff "Floral" in leather
Cuff "Floral" in leather
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Plague Doctor Hat in Black Leather
Plague Doctor Hat in Black Leather
TomBanwell
$215.00 USD
SALE! Two Stiltzkin  masks leather plague doctor. Buy two get the second one over half off!
SALE! Two Stiltzkin masks leather plague doctor. Buy two get the second one over half off!
TomBanwell
$199.00 USD
Wolf Leather Mask
Wolf Leather Mask
TomBanwell
$59.00 USD
Bird Beak leather mask in black
Bird Beak leather mask in black
TomBanwell
$44.00 USD
Bunny leather mask in white
Bunny leather mask in white
TomBanwell
$65.00 USD
Leather pouch for plague doctor costume in black deerskin
Leather pouch for plague doctor costume in black deerskin
TomBanwell
$45.00 USD
Flames leather mask
Flames leather mask
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Choker Nouveau in White Leather
Choker Nouveau in White Leather
TomBanwell
$14.00 USD
SALE Minx mask in white leather
SALE Minx mask in white leather
TomBanwell
$24.00 USD
Incognito Leather mask in white size M/L
Incognito Leather mask in white size M/L
TomBanwell
$23.00 USD
Vixen half mask in white leather
Vixen half mask in white leather
TomBanwell
$32.00 USD
Decaflor leather mask in green
Decaflor leather mask in green
TomBanwell
$45.00 USD
Celtic Knot Headwreath in Red Leather
Celtic Knot Headwreath in Red Leather
TomBanwell
$14.50 USD

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