Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mask Making tutorial

Bianca requested a mask-making tutorial, so here it is! I may update this at a later date with pictures once I start my next mask.

What you need:

1 Box of Wheat Paste
1 Bottle of Wood Glue
An armature/face-form
Lots of brown paper bags (thinner preferably – like liquor store bags)
Clay (each Wild Thing Mask took one 25lb bag)
Tin Foil
Cooking Spray
Masking Tape

1. The first step you’ll need to take is to prepare your armature/face form. If you are making a large, full-face mask like my Wild Things, you’ll need to build up the foundation on an armature that you can reach from all sides. I used a pipe screwed onto an old lazy-Susan so that I can rotate my in-progress mask 360 degrees. If you are making a smaller more form-fitting mask, you can follow the instructions for making a face form here.

2. Once you have an armature, you should take your newspaper and start building up an inner core for your sculpted mask. This will enable you to make a large-scale mask without using tremendous amounts of clay. Crumple the newspaper and tape it tightly around the armature until you build up a ball just a little bit smaller than the size of your intended mask. You want to make sure to reinforce the newspaper the most at the top of the pipe because once you start adding clay, this is the point where your mask is most likely to break through. Because of this I like to add extra layers of newspaper or styrofoam around the top of the pipe. If your mask is going to have appendages like a long nose or big ears, you’ll want to reinforces these areas with styrofoam or wooden dowels so that the weight of the clay does not cause them to break off once you start your mask. When you’ve finished creating the newspaper core, you’ll want to spray it lightly with a little water so that they clay sticks better to the surface.

3. Now you add the clay. Treat this like any other sculpting project. Cover the general area of the mask in a layer of clay and then begin to build up the forms. Use whatever sculpting tools you have available to refine the shapes and add details.

4. Once you have a pretty good shape sculpted for your mask in clay, you’ll want to cover the clay in tinfoil. This allows you to smooth out the surface, refine details, and allows for easier excavation once it comes time to finish the mask. Slightly crumple a large sheet of tin foil a then press it down covering the entire surface of your mask. Use your sculpting tools to smooth out the bumps in the foil and to add stronger details.

5. Spray the tinfoil covered mask with a thin layer of cooking spray. This makes adding the first layer of papier mache a bit more difficult but again it makes for easier excavation once the mask is finished.

6. To make the papier mache mixture I use about two or three large scoops of wheat paste with a few cups of water and then add wood glue until the mixture becomes the consistency of snot. To prepare the brown paper bags, you’ll want to crumple each bag until the fibers break down to the point where each bag is as pliable as a piece of fabric. Allow each piece of bag to soak in the glue mixture for about 30 seconds to a minute and wring out the excess glue before putting it on the sculpted form. I try to use at least three layers of bags, sometimes a few more depending on the mask, before letting the mask dry. As the glue dries I like to refine the details even more.

7. Let the mask dry for at least 48 hours. If you remove the clay before the mask is completely dry on the inside it could warp. Once you’re sure your mask is dry, pull it off the armature and pull out the inner newspaper core. Now you should be able to reach between the clay/tin foil and the papier mache and pull out large chunks of the clay from the inside of the mask.

8. Once the clay is completely removed you’re pretty much done. You’ll now have a very solid, lightweight form that you can finish as you choose. You can cut eye holes/decorative elements easily with exacto knives and you can sand down the surface for a smoother texture. If you plan to paint the mask I like to gesso the surface first and then use acrylic paint, but I encourage you to experiment with different materials!


Bianca Diaz said...

This is amazing. Thanks so much! :)

Stefunny said...

I first saw your masks on some craft website and I can't even put into words how amazing they are. I love how you put up a tutorial on how to make them but I still don't understand how to do it. I am so not creative. I was wondering...if you could make some more masks of the Wild Things and sell them to me? Would that even be something you would be willing to do? Since I can just imagine how long and how much effort it takes to make them. I want some to decorate my sons bedroom in not so much to wear as costumes. Please let me know even if you'd rather not. Maybe you can help me better understand how to make them myself if anything.

Sarah Clark said...

Hi! Thank you so much! I do take commissions and I'd be happy to discuss the details via e-mail, and I'd be able to make modified versions of the masks that more decorative than wearable. My e-mail address is sjeanetteclark at gmail. Shoot me an message and we can talk further :)