Week 13 – in which I went to a masquerade ball with a homemade mask

TOo BUSY TO READ THE BLOG – WATCH THE VIDEO:

(More details on the ‘how to make a homemade mask’ below in the blog)

This week I decided to challenge myself in the ‘craft department’. The challenge turned out to be less scary and more creative.
 

STEP 1: GET YOURSELF SOME INSTRUCTION

Good News! You are already taking the first step towards making a truly sensational and bespoke mask. You are reading these instructions. However to get an even better idea of what your options and design choices are, I suggest you look up ‘how to make a mask’ on YouTube or even consider getting a book. I used ‘How to make masks!’ by Jonni Good.
 

STEP 2: FIND SOME FRIENDS CRAZY ENOUGH TO JOIN YOU

While I have now done a plaster mask of my face on my own and find that process actually more comfortable and quicker, if you are doing it for the first time it might be easier to try it on somebody else. Not to say: more fun!
 

STEP 3: MAKE A PLASTER CAST MASK OF YOUR FACE

Go online and purchase some plaster of paris bandages. Cut them into small strips (they generally come on a roll), dip in warm water and either put on your own or your model’s face. Before you get started, make sure you have put ample Vaseline on the face, eyebrows and hairline. This ensures you can actually get it off in the end.

Once you feel the mask has dried, after about 15 min depending on the number of layers you have put on, start stretching your face to loosen it. The sensation will be strange and you’ll probably think you’ve cracked something. Don’t worry. That’s all normal and part of the process. You can’t actually break much.

 

Steps 4 and 5 are optional and can be done in reverse. Step 4 is only needed if you want to change the basic shape of your mask.

OPTIONAL - STEP 4: GIVE YOUR MASK SOME ‘JE NE SAIS QUOI’

 The Lady Liberty Stage

The Lady Liberty Stage

I decided to put a couple of spikes onto my mask, as you can see in the video. Initially I had planned to put spikes all around the mask, but that made me look like Lady Liberty. Instead I settled for three, cut them out of cardboard and glued them on with hot glue. Personally I am a huge fan of glue guns, even though I keep on burning my fingers every single time.

 

OPTIONAL - STEP 5: REINFORCE AND GLAZE YOUR MASK

 Plastering on damp Scott Shop Towels to the mask

Plastering on damp Scott Shop Towels to the mask

Again, this is a purely optional step. Your plaster mask is certainly sturdy enough to make it through a night of partying, provided you don’t sit on it. As a child I had masks that lasted for years, (quietly rotting away in the cellar).

However I wanted to try Jonni Good’s papier marche method. While I didn’t have a replica of my face (Jonni’s preferred method, especially helpful if you are planning to make several masks), I thought I would use it to reinforce my mask.

Jonnie recommends using Scott Shop Towels and a mix of a quarter cup of white glue and a quarter cup of plaster of paris, 1 tablespoon of water and one of vinegar. (The vinegar slows down the drying process, to give you more time to work). You then rip the towels into mask-size shape, dip in water, stretch over your mask and brush on your plaster mix. Turn around the corners for a smooth finish. Et voilà, your mask is sturdier and more smooth.

If you wanted to smooth out any imperfections, a slightly watered-down version of the plaster-based paste works a charm. Jonni suggests: 1 tablespoon of white glue, 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of plaster of paris, ¼ tablespoon of vinegar and an optional dab of white craft paint.

 

STEP 6: MAKE IT LOOK PRETTY (OR AT LEAST TRY)

 I had to paint over the first layers of gilding, as they looked too much like a leopard

I had to paint over the first layers of gilding, as they looked too much like a leopard

a.     By painting it

I used acrylic paint for the finish, and would recommend you do too.


b.     By gilding it

If you want to make it really fancy, you can then stick on some gold leaf, (or as in my example bronze leaf – much cheaper and does the job just as well). I used Annie Sloane’s bronze leaf and gold seize (normally used for furniture projects). They worked a charm.
 

STEP 7: WEAR YOUR MASK WITH PRIDE

Make sure you attach a stick or elastic headband to your mask, something I conveniently forgot until I was about to dash out the door to head to the ball. As always, my glue gun came to the rescue, and didn’t ruin the manicure completely.

However you end up decorating your mask, wear it with pride. You can’t imagine the number of compliments I got, especially when I casually let drop that it was homemade.
 

Over to you, - have fun!

Thank you to Fiona and Hillary for plastering with me and to Theo, Edward, Ed and Georgie for putting on such a fabulous ball again!

Please check back next week, when I’ll be reporting on how my war rations dinner party went.