Midsummer Mask-Making Part 1

DSCF4982Let’s face facts. The Midsummer Masquerade is little more than a month away. Is your costume ready?

Is your mask?

Probably not.

Even if you’re the rare soul who’s ahead of the game, there’s nothing wrong with planning for next year. Or the year after. Right?

With this in mind, I am pleased to present the first in a Do It Yourself series on easy mask making/decorating.

We’ll keep things simple for the first mask: learn a basic trick for shaping masks and an easy, seasonal decoration.

What You’ll Need:

A half mask – You can buy one for immediate use or buy a full face mask to function as a model for this and future masks. I highly recommend the second option. Either way, you can find a simple mask at nearly every craft store known to humanity for under five dollars. If you do elect the second option, you will also need cling wrap (ideally the press’n’seal kind), newspaper, flour, water, and some ribbon to construct the base for your mask. We will be going old school with some papier-mâché.

Construction paper – I suggest a dark hunter green. You don’t need much, and you can also use other strong papers like cardstock or even colored note cards. Just remember, color is key.

Tissue paper – Select a color that will compliment the construction paper, such as a lighter green.

Jewelry wire – This stuff appears in bargain bins everywhere. Aim for bronze or gold colors.

School glue AND super glue

Leaves/patterns for tracing

Spray paint and/or acrylics

DSCF4978 (2)The Process:

First, get your mask ready. Plastic masks are fine, but papier-mâché breathes much better, even if it doesn’t last as long. Papier-mâché is also easier to add large decorations to. If you aren’t interested in reusing the plastic as a model for future masks (it saves money if you ever plan to make another mask), then jump down to the next section.

  • Press cling wrap over the face.
  • Mix together flour and water in a bowl until it’s nice and thick. While a watery solution will make for a fragile mask, extra flour in the mixture will end up looking a lot more like plaster.
  • Rip up newspaper and dip strips one at a time in the flour and water. Take off extra goo by running the paper between two fingers. Don’t panic if it breaks. Smaller pieces are better than big ones, anyway. Layer the strips over the portion of the face you wish to copy. Make sure to press the newspaper into the curves of the face or you’ll get a flat thing only fit for nightmares. I suggest using at least two layers of papier-mâché to make the mask sturdy.
  • Let your mask dry overnight, preferably with a fan nearby. Once the mask is completely dry, carefully peel away the cling wrap from the plastic mask, and then – VERY carefully – from the inside of the mask.DSCF4981 (2)

Painting the mask is a matter of taste. I chose to use a brown/gold spray paint for the base mask, and because I used papier-mâché, the texture turned out marvelously. The idea is to make the bottom mask appear like bark and/or beaten metal. You can go either way, but I advise against using a flat color.

While the base is drying, you can start on the leaves. I chose to draw two maple leaves freehand. A simple way to make your leaves are symmetrical is to draw one half, cut that half free, fold it over, and trace around the edge. An even simpler method is to borrow some leaves from nature and use them for tracing. Trace your leaves on the construction paper first, and then use the same patterns to cut out matching pieces of tissue paper. Because I wanted green leaves, I used a dark DSCF4987green base and a light green layer of tissue paper. Brown and gold can also work very well, as can various reds and oranges for a fall look. Or you can make patterned blue leaves. Or purple. Whatever makes you happy.

Once you have all your cut-outs, match them into base/tissue paper pairs and poke holes at the tips of the leaves and the stem area. Because I used maple leaves, I needed three different points on the tips. I made three sets of holes near the stem, as well. Measure your leaves from outer points to inner points, leaving room for twisting stems. Measure and cut lengths of wire for each ‘vein.’ When you poke the wire into the leaves, be sure the length of wire appears on the side with the tissue paper. One tip will go down through an outer hole, where you can fold it over with pliers to that it can’t slip out. The other end should go through a hole where the stem begins. Once all the veins are in place, you can twist the free ends together to make a long stem, or you can just pinch them together to ensure they don’t come undone.

DSCF4989 (2)Adjust your leaves to your mask. The wire should help you shape the paper around the curves. I cut away the bottom edge of one leaf so it wouldn’t cover an eye hole. Once the leaves are the shape you desire, rub a thin layer of school glue over the tissue paper side, paying particular attention to the edges. Then use liberal doses of super glue to fix the leaves to the mask.

You can further decorate your mask once everything has dried. I chose to use a bronze acrylic with a dry brush technique to add some dazzle to the leaves and accentuate the edges of the base mask.

If you made your own mask, the last step is to glue on ribbons. Remember to measure first to see how much ribbon you will need. Use that lovely super glue again to secure the ribbons shiny side down to the underside of the mask. Let dry, and you’re finished!

DSCF4988 (2)

Remember that you can use this idea for many other leaves and designs. Oak leaves, for example would make for an excellent Green Man mask.

M. Leigh Hood is a rare beast of the Cincinnati wilderness typically preoccupied with writing, nerding, and filming The Spittoon List. For more articles and stories by M. Leigh Hood, look HERE.

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One Response to “Midsummer Mask-Making Part 1

  • What a great tutorial! These will work well at our Ren faire for fantasy weekend! Thanks!

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