How to Make Elizabethan Era Masks

Written by emilycorfe
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How to Make Elizabethan Era Masks
(Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Impress friends with an authentic Shakespearean party mask. Elizabethan masks were often modelled on fashionable Italian Venetian masks, and decorated with rich colours and extravagant trimmings. Masked balls were a popular pastime at the court of Henry VIII and were later popularised in theatrical productions, where the use of masks provided dramatic focal points in tragedies like "Romeo and Juliet" and comedies like "Much Ado About Nothing." Fantastical themes included beaks or comically large noses for men, while women often wore elegant, colourful creations with small noses, set against a whitened face.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tin foil
  • Newspaper
  • 2 cups white glue
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Craft glue
  • Paint
  • Glitter
  • Feathers
  • Chop stick
  • Ribbon

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    Making your mask

  1. 1

    Put pen to paper to design the desired finished look. Elizabethan masks were often fantastical versions of the traditional half mask. The mask usually covered the forehead, eyes and nose, leaving just the lips on display. Masked balls were a pastime of the wealthy, so creations were often highly indulgent, fantastical and mystical. Fairy queen motifs, beaks, large noses and feathered ears were all common additions for flamboyant members of society, while colourful but refined versions of the same were popular for others. Begin your design with a simple half mask and create optional additions from there.

  2. 2

    Mold several layers of tin foil to the top half of your face, making sure that you press the foil firmly around your eyes, cheeks and nose to get an accurate shape.

  3. 3

    Peel the moulded foil away from your face and cut the mask to shape. You will need to cut two holes for the eyes and an overall shape that covers your forehead, cheeks and nose.

  4. 4

    Mix two cups of glue with one cup of boiling water and stir into a paste for the paper mache. Use an old plastic bowl that you don't mind spoiling.

  5. 5

    Tear up a large sheet of newspaper and dip small sections of paper into the glue paste. Squeeze off any dripping paste and attach the sheet to the foil mask mould.

  6. 6

    Continue attaching the paper mache newspaper to the foil mask until the front and back are fully covered.

  7. 7

    Set the mask aside and leave to dry over night.

  8. 8

    Paint the mask front and back with a colour of your choice. Green, red, yellow, gold or silver would all work well. Make sure you cover with a thick layer of paint and allow the mask to dry.

  9. 9

    Paint the edge of the mask in a lighter shade of the main colour and decorate with fabric, silk or satin. Embellish with a sparse sprinkling of glitter and attach a feather to the top of both sides of the mask.

  10. 10

    Wrap a silk ribbon around a chop stick and attach the chop stick to the side of the mask with craft glue to create the handle.

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