Thursday, July 05, 2012

Maskmaker Maskmaker Make Me a Mask

This year was the first year I attended the Labyrinth of Jareth masquerade ball in Los Angeles. Creating a mask for it was an amazing experience that I look forward to doing again and again - because honestly, once you've made one mask, you're going to start getting ideas for more. My great friend Abby - an experienced maskmaker with a shop at Etsy that sells her fabulous creations - helped me figure out the nitty gritty of maskmaking along the way. Here's a pictorial overview of all the fun!
To begin with I started forming my foundation over a pre manufactured plastic mask (hereafter referred to as "the base"), with an additional plastic sheet over the top of the base to make it easier to lift the mask up later. I tore up strips of newspaper and dipped them in a flour and water mixture, then applied them, alternating between vertical and horizontal strips for extra strength. After the newspaper, I began using strips of a thicker white paper.
Abby suggested that I use old toilet paper rolls and egg cartons to form some of the more sculptural aspects of the mask. I used egg cartons to create the prominent cheekbones of the wolf, and toilet paper rolls for the muzzle and ears, with egg carton details on the muzzle.
I let the old layers dry before adding new bits, still just using a mixture of flour and water as my paste to start assembling the pieces on the foundation.
The details of the mask, especially the nose and teeth, were made using Model Magic - a lightweight air drying clay. I'm fond of recreating bones, and the dental work of wolves is pretty interesting stuff. I'm of the opinion that these details made the mask more wolf-like, differentiating it from, say, a fox or a dog.
After pressing and shaping the clay onto the mask and letting it dry, I began to paint the mask. Everything got painted - from the teeth to the back of the mask, because if you turn to the side with the mask on you get a peek of the mask's less-than-sexy backside. Because it was created for a masquerade, I painted fine silver hairs around the eyes and inside the ears for a little subtle flair. Holes were drilled into the sides of the mask. Later a strip of Neoprene was stitched to the mask through these holes, with Mod Podge used for extra stability. Some much-needed facial padding was glued around the nose and forehead area. As a last minute touch, pieces of sheer fabric were glued into the eye areas (because nothing is more terrifying than an eyeless wolf...actually, an eyeless anything moving with purpose in the right lighting can be pretty intimidating).
I really like how the mask ended up looking, but would make a few basic changes. This mask is very heavy, due in part to my ambitious projecting muzzle, and my next project will be a bit lighter (and muzzle-free).  Visibility in this mask is feasible, but altogether low. However once it's on it's a very secure fit, and honestly I loved the dramatic final effect of a half-wolf face.