Giant Masks for Mardi Gras or a Party (Feb, 1938)

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Giant Masks for Mardi Gras or a Party

ANYBODY has enough of the sculptor in him to mold giant masks like those worn in the photograph by beach beauties posing for inspection at the annual Mardi Gras held at Venice, California. True, the result of your first attempt at papier-mache sculpturing may not be a thing of beauty, but so much the better, since the exaggeration of features to the point of grotesqueness is usually the sculptor’s objective. You will bear me out in this statement, I think, when you have run your eye along the row of faces supported by the nine young ladies in the picture. These masks, by the way, are good models to shoot at in shaping something similar.

The method of modeling a giant mask is shown in diagrams Figs. 2 to 8. The first requisite is a modeling platform, and, if the mask is to be as large as those in the photograph, this platform must be at least 36 by 40 inches in size. A sheet of plywood, a half section of a ping-pong table, inverted, or boards battened together, as suggested in Fig. 2, will provide the necessary working surface.

Clay, newspapers, cheesecloth and wallpaper-paste are required for modeling materials. The clay need not be selected modeling clay. Yellow or blue clay from a building excavation is good enough, so, if the subsoil in your locality is clay, you will save this cost item. You can use wet sand as a substitute for clay, though it is not as satisfactory. The amount of clay may be cut down by using bricks, stones, earth, sand or other filler in the center of the head.

Selecting a clown’s face for your initial mask, draw the outline upon the platform with chalk or pencil. Figure 5 shows a graph pattern which will be easy to reproduce. Next, build up the clay face as shown in Fig. 5, following the front and profile views patterns (Figs. 3 and 4), and work up the features with modeling tools or with a pointed stick and a knife. The features of the completed mask will be no better than those of the clay model, therefore make them sharply defined.

When the clay face has been completed, get together a pile of newspapers, including colored supplements, and tear them up into small strips; also, cut the cheesecloth into strips. And mix the cold-water wallpaper paste. Coat the clay face with grease. Then cover it completely with paper strips, wet but without paste. Overlay this layer with four successive layers of strips dipped in paste so that both sides are coated. By using strips cut from colored supplements for alternate layers, it is easier to keep tab on what portion has been covered and what not. After the fourth layer, apply a layer of cheesecloth strips. Follow this with three additional layers of paper strips, another layer of cheesecloth strips, and two final layers of paper strips.

When the strips have dried, smooth the overlapping edges with fine sandpaper. Then apply several coats of flat white paint and a coat of flesh color. Use crayons and cosmetics to complete the features and for make-up.

The giant mask will separate easily from its form, and it will prove lightweight, stiff and substantial.

This project offers the opportunity for many original designs.

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