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Mask Making

by Jacqueline Gikow

Mask making: Decorative masks adorned with feathers and string.

Decorative masks adorned with feathers, string, and other ornaments. Mask making instructions are provided below.

Mask making has a fascinating history. Masks have been created in nearly every culture since the beginning of history. They have been used as camouflage, for ceremonial observances, as part of a holy ritual, for protection, or for a celebration. Ritual masks are exceptionally valuable and in some instances worn only by a tribe's leader because they were thought to include supernatural abilities.

The Egyptians created masks to be used as part of their burial ritual. The masks were placed on the face of the dead and often included spells meant to protect the spirit on its voyage into the hereafter. These masks were normally painted with gold and had precious stones embedded in them.

Halloween masks were derived from the Celtic culture. They were created to perplex the spirits that emerged at the end of the harvest season. Fearsome masks were often made because people believed they would scare away malevolent spirits.

Mask making is an entertaining project for both children and adults, and it makes a great group project. Some professional artists specialize in designing masks for theater, fantasy, or decorative use. As a beginner you can start with a plain, unembellished plastic facemask form. Decorated facemasks are appropriate for most holidays. Mask blanks can also be constructed from paper plates, thin cardboard, foam core or paper mache. The embellishments can be made from some basic, inexpensive supplies and your creative imagination to produce an interesting, multimedia facemask.

Masks may also be made more inventive by embellishing them with materials such as feathers and foliage, or by adding second hand materials, such as left-over straws, beads, colored paper, yarn, and so on.

A finished mask can be uncomplicated and stylish or massive and ornate. A wearable mask can be the face you wear at a costume party or you can make an object of decoration to communicate your style and talent. Match your mask to your outfit or simply let your creativity loose and make something truly distinctive.

Mask Making Instructions

1. Set up a workspace with newspapers or plastic sheeting on a table. Fill up a pail with water and collect a bunch of worn out t-shirts or paper towels to mop up water or paint spills. Assemble an assortment of brushes, acrylic or tempera paints and metallic glue paint.

2. Start decorating the mask blanks by painting them with a coat of colored paint or gesso.

3. Spray the undercoated mask with a coat of clear spray paint, to establish the mask's base. Do this outdoors or in a well-ventilated area to prevent any unpleasant effects of paint fumes.

4. Supplementary adorning of the mask can be done by gluing paper designs, sprinkling glitter, pasting feathers and sequins, using beads and ribbons. String or ribbon may be added at the sides of the mask to tie it to the head. Masks also make elegant wall decorations by adding a hook or hanger on the back.

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