Making Venetian Masks

Written by shiromi nassreen
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Making Venetian Masks

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The Mold

In order to create a Venetian mask, a mask maker must first have a mould to work from. To create a mould, the mask maker sculpts a face out of clay, including exaggerated features such as a long nose or chin. Once the clay hardens, the mask maker pours liquid plaster onto the clay model. When the plaster hardens, the mask maker then has a negative mould of the mask which she can use to create the actual mask.

Building the Mask

To build the mask, the mask maker first applies liberal amounts of vaseline to the entire surface of the plaster mould to ensure that the mask doesn't stick to the mould. The mask maker builds the mask using a paper mache technique. Using specially absorbent paper cut into small pieces, the mask maker dips the paper into a bowl of wallpaper adhesive and presses the paper onto the mould, then layers the paper onto the mask to get the desired thickness (although some mask makers apply plaster to the dried mask to create rigidity). Then the mask is placed on a special heat source to dry.

Final Touches

Once the mask is completely dry, the mask maker removes it from the mould. If enough vaseline was used, the mask should easily come away from the mould. The mask maker then cuts out the eye holes in the rough mask. Several layers of white tempera paint are then applied to the mask to provide a background for the Venetian designs. When the white tempera paint dries, the mask maker sands down the mask to achieve a smooth, flat surface. Once the mask has been sanded, it is ready to be decorated. Mask makers first apply a special brown paint to make the mask appear old (the masks are hand-painted). Mask makers often add glitter, gems such as Swarovski crystal, fabric and ostrich feathers to finish off the mask.

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