(This is the process we use
for our papier mâché masks; the process for Neoprene masks starts exactly the
same, but takes a little detour once the negative mold is cast.)
All our masks are
hand crafted. A great deal of time and care goes into the creation of each
mask. A new mask, from start to finish, takes approximately twenty
hands-on hours to complete. When drying time is figured in, a new mask takes
about two weeks to finish. The first step is the sculpture. A
plaster head (taken from a real person) is used to ensure the eyes, nose and
mouth are in proper places. Clay is placed on top of the plaster head and
sculpted into the shape of the mask. Sometimes the Maskmaker will start
with a drawing, not always. The amount of time taken to create this sculpture
varies depending on the complexity of the sculpture, and how clear the artist is
in her own mind before beginning to sculpt. Often the time used with the
clay is experimental in nature. The clay sculpture must be correct, or the mask
will have problems later in the process.
When the Maskmaker is satisfied with the
sculpture of the mask, a plaster negative is created. A wall is
built up around the sculpture, sometimes with clay, sometimes, as pictured, by
creating a kind of box around the sculpture.
When the negative is
thoroughly dry, several layers of papier mâché are pressed into the negative. (At this point the
process for a Neoprene mask varies).
these layers are thoroughly dry, the papier mâché is pulled from the negative,
trimmed, and several more layers are added on the inside of the mask. When
all the papier mâché is dry, the mask is sanded to remove rough spots.
Then the painting begins. Several layers of a white base coat cover the
front of the mask before the base color, highlights, and shadows of the mask are
started. Once the painting is finished, the back of the mask is sealed,
straps are added and any decorative elements are attached.
For those interested in learning more about
mask making and performance, the
School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, California, usually offers
excellent classes during the summer, as well as their year long training program.
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