In The Workshop
Making A Paper Mache' Mask:
-In the workshop-
I begin with The Captain -a character from Italian medieval theater, commedia dell'arte - face form/base. –I go into the making of a face base and appliances to go on them (noses and snouts, mostly) elsewhere [less pages pending all the time].
I finally got the first layer finished. Most everything in the middle of a face curves in two directions, and noses are especially bad to fit the paper around, especially with thick, cut, not-terribly-narrow strips of paper - but I got it done w/ a minimum of wrinkles and disjoins. I don't always bother to get the entire middle of a face with construction paper...
-Note that I'm not covering the entire face form, leaving off the top and bottom. An arch has more flex to get off the base later -and beLIEVE me, that MATTERS- and is more comfortable to wear. Including the very top of the face would also cover too much, unless the Captain was supposed to be bald - and I can actually cut out a nicer, square-jawed, profile during trimming if I leave out under the chin.
-It doesn't stand out in the pics, but I went over the outside edges with another layer -the edges are where I've always by far had the most problems with masks holding shape- before I switched to the newsprint.
So, it's not necessary to do all the strips in a layer in one direction -and some troublesome shapes let a strip lay flat better in a particular direction; the lips would work better for horizontal than this vertical- but it IS easier to keep track of what's covered and what isn't this way,
Like the first layer, I start the second -cut newsprint, now- on the edges. I'll do a few rows on one side and turn the base around and do a few on the other, working inward. -With the construction paper beginning, I tried to avoid overlapping strips as much as was practical -that thickness is surprisingly forgiving about a double-thickness, but still- to minimize distortions to the final outside shape. I went for touching, not overlapping, where I feasibly could. Newsprint is thin enough that overlapping is desirable; stronger that way, and an overlapped edge can't decide to stick up while I'm not looking.
Note here, the latest strip went up against a nostril and needed to curve around, so I let it veer off over the lips at a funny angle.
When I get to the cheeks and brows, I start tearing off/ending strips as I reach them and doing each row in two parts. The cheeks and brows are double-curves that are trouble to get a strip to lay flat over, and I'd be breaking up the rows even if I wasn't leaving cursory gaps -which will save me a minute during trimming- over the eyes. When you tear off and end a row early, you can continue in a slightly different direction; a great help in negotiating the complex shapes, like around the nose.
Sometimes, I can rub out a wrinkle with the blunt end of a sculpture tool.
This gets used most around the top of the nose, where it's curving into the brow/forehead, and down the inside corner of the eyes next to the nose, a deep bit tough to cover without making sloppy wrinkles in the paper.
The forehead covered now, I begin on the nose - it gets separate rows from the top and bottom pof the face...
The nostrils are a [girldog] to cover, pretty much every single time.
Covering the complex curves at the bottom of the nose left many strips haring off over the lips and chin at angles...
Not a lot left to cover at the bottom of the face, now...
A closeup under the chin, layer finished. The yellow paper is the vaseline-separation strips...
Note how the strips converge and overlap under the chin.
They do so to a lesser extent at the top, but converge non-trivially, they do - and must, lest that edge come out all wavy...
Layer two done.
Taking pics and writing it up is adding to how long it takes, considerably. I began over eight hours ago - and should have finished by six or less ago, normally.
-Losing patience, methinks I'll switch to torn paper a little early, and hope wrapping it up a layer or two sooner is made up for by I don't always bother with the tricky bits in the middle (nose) in the first layer…
Something more than one more layer - especially around the edges of the face. (The outside edges is where you'll have the most visible distortion in storage and over time if you skimp on strength/thickness...)
It came off the mold base fine this morning, without a lot of trouble.
-The separation strips sitting on the vaseline coat at the beginning are a terrible aggravation at first, wanting to move around as you work, but save you much worse aggravation at this stage, when you’d otherwise find yourself damaging the mask and the face form separating the two.
Now awaiting trimming...
I do the trimming with scissors (mostly the outer edges) and a sanding drum on the dremel (mostly eyeholes, also nostrils and mouth slit).
That’s still frequently a creative/artistic part of the crafting, not mere scut-work cleanup.
The overall shape of the mask often matters to the look beyond neatness of craft, and note the shape of the eyeholes here – the Captain (think the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island, only more full of himself) is a smug, vainglorious, fellow, and I raised one eyebrow and pootched up the cheeks and raised the nostrils in the base-crafting, to give him a self-satisfied smirk; the wide eyes and arch of the lower edge of the eyeholes follows the bunching-up of the cheeks and nostrils to convey a smile/smirk. Note also below, that I was careful to cut the bottom the give him a square jaw (to go with the exaggerated dimpled chin I built up on the base) in profile...
I could, incidentally, trim a mask off this same base to look enraged, despite the original intent; make the mouth opening large and squared-off, taking out much of the (smirking) lips, and cut out the eyes narrowed and slanted upwards slightly… There definitely can be art to how you trim the mask…