A Lesson in Debauchery Part 2 Leather or Papier Mache?
Masquerade! Every masks a different shape, Masquerade! Every face is a different shade.
The well known “papier-mache” (meaning stuck-paper”) process often appears deceptively easy and in theory is should be. All one really needs is a good quality mold, some scraps of newsprint, some glue-like sticky paste, and viola, you’ve got false confidence staring right back at you. However, the real artistry of the talented Venetian mask makers in their creative ability to transform these lifeless and pale visages into something that’s alive and oh so provocative.
The mask making artists of La Fondazione, initially create a mold that’s made from a combination of liquid plaster, clay and glue. As soon as the mold dries, it’s then lubricated with some kind of removal agent such as Vaseline. Subsequently, it’s filled with numerous layers of special newsprint or paper. Every strip of paper has to be cut to a precise size and shape making it simple for the artists to easily press them inside the mold covering the entire surface over and over again. The paper strips are extremely thin, and the addition of absorbent layers will produce a mask that’s as durable as it is light and flexible. As soon as the paper is dampened, it’s spread over with wool glue. Ideally, the mold should be placed on a warm surface that is smooth and completely clean of any dust. Once the eye holes get cut, it’s primed to be decorated, adorned and transformed using acrylic based paint colours, silver leaf, gold, lacquer, varnish, costume jewels, fabrics, paste, aging oils, feathers and anything else one can think of. The artisans of La Fondazione will use particular techniques and strategies from painting, restoration and costume making and other disciplines.
Some Venetian Mask makers specialize in making their masks on the back of leather and are often just as artistically vibrant as those made from paper-mache.
Thinking of making a masquerade mask out of leather yourself? Here’s a quick guide on what you need and how to do it.
1. First off get yourself some veg-tanned leather about 6-8 oz or even a bit less if you want to make a lighter version. Most of the following materials can be bought online or at specialty craft stores located throughout North America.
2. Cut out a rough shape of what you would like and I’d recommend making a simple paper pattern initially
3. Soak the leather pieces in the fridge over night with sufficient water to soak through the leather to make it pliable enough for sculpting the next day.
4. Clean your face to get rid of any oils and place the wet strips of leather over your face and press firmly to shape and form it to the contours of your face. If this has been done correctly your mold will dry and retain the shape of your face, your body heat itself will help cure the leather as it dries.
5. As the leather begins to dry, feel free to exaggerate any feature you desire as the leather is extremely pliable at this stage of the process
6. Once your mask is completely dry you’re able to trim and paint it any way you choose, just be sure to find a paint that is made for leather based products, usually any quality water based acrylic will do the trick!
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