Encased: Suitcases That Appear Stuffed With Human Bodies & How They Were Made.

Encased by Wei Li

Encased, a project by Fantasy and Fetish artist Wei Li, is a collection of hand-formed leather suitcases. The pieces capture and frame the energy, tension and sensuality of the human form in hand-crafted cases made from 3D molds and embellished with zippers, handles and bronze accents.

Wei Li Encased

We’ve seen unusually shaped luxury cases, pre-dented luggage and painted rugs that appear to conceal human bodies. This project has aspects of all the aforementioned.

Wei Li Encased

The suitcases were completely hand-crafted from scratch. The zipper handles were 3d-printed in bronze based on models of the artist’s own hand.

contemporary art


wei li encased

Wei Li Encased

Wei Li Encased

Wei Li Encased

Wei Li says “The body is a sculpture: It’s constantly in motion, yet every frame of the movement is a unique sculpture in itself. To create a sculpture of the body is not just about capturing a body posture; it’s more about capturing the energy and recreating the emotions/sensations at that specific moment. Observing sculptures by Rodin and Bernini, you’ll notice that a seemingly static representation of the body can still be full of tension, and you can almost feel it through your own skin. Encased is a collection of body shaped leather luggage that seeks to freeze a moment of the body while still maintaining the energy and sensations at that moment.”

The Process

To create these unusual pieces of luggage, the form of the body was scanned, and the resulted model was CNC machined to make the leather forming molds. Below, the process is outlined in 10 steps. For a more comprehensive explanation of the process, visit here.

images courtesy of the artist

Step 1.
The process began with visual research of body sculptures and body photography that had both an architectural beauty and a balance between imagery and energy:

image courtesy of the artist
image courtesy of the artist

Step 2.
A body scan was done with the free app 123D Catch by Autodesk. The artist then cleaned up the scans, deleting the background geometries and any other unwanted parts using MeshMixer, another free software by Autodesk.


Step 3.
Prepare Model for CNC Machining

Step 4.
Stock Prep. The stocks for machining the leather molds are made of laminated MDFs

Step 5.
CNC Machining Molds. Wei Li machined 6 mold parts (3 pairs of male and female plugs), speckled some cracks between different layers of MDFs and sanded very mildly.
cnc machining

Step 6.
Wet Forming Leather. Soaked vegetable-tanned leather was then stretched over plastic-wrapped wood molds/plugs, smoothed and clamped and held in place until dry.
forming leather

Step 7.
Luggage Construction Planning. Careful planning so that no rough edges/seams will be shown in the final result, deciding the order of treating leather and all the hardware decisions.

Step 8.
Individual component prep. Each piece of leather is cut, beveled, hole-punched, dyed, pre-assembled to make certain holes and edges line up, finished with a gloss coat, and edge-burnished.

Step 9.
Final Assembly

Step 10.
Photographing of the final pieces

Wei Li, inspired by the works of Rodin, Bernini and Robert Mapplethorpe, which focus on the human form and the sensual expression of the nude body, wrote this about the project:

Our body is a sculpture
a sculpture that is constantly in motion
every frame of it is a unique and beautiful form

I want to freeze these moments
I wish to capture the body, and its poetry

Thanks to Wei Li for all the information and images of this fun project.

wei li