While commonly seen today, Venetian masks have a rich history that many people are unaware of. Made from papier-mache and gaudy accessories, these masks have been used for pageants, decoration and even for hiding for centuries.
Venetian masks were first made in Venice, Italy, beginning around the start of the medieval period.
Venetian masks are made from a papier-mache base, and are then decorated in a variety of ways. These accouterments can include paint in wild colors, beads, jewels, feathers and even fur.
The original purpose of the Venetian mask was to provide its wearer with anonymity, during a time of religious and moral persecution.
There are a number of different Venetian masks, from the Bauta (a full-face, heavily gilded mask with no mouth line), to the more famous Columbino (a half mask which is attached to a stick that is held up to the face). There are more types, including Harlequin pattern of checkered black and white, and masks with huge noses and pursed lips.
How to make Paper-Mache
Ingredients are water, flour and newspaper. To make this paper mache paste, simply mix together 1 part flour to 2 parts water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes until a consistency like thick glue appears. Add a tablespoon of salt to help prevent mold.
How to make a mould for the mask.
With a pair of sharp scissors, cut the milk jug in half from top to bottom. You can use the handle side of the jug or the other side, whichever looks like it will produce the most interesting mask. Soak and remove any labels. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Hold the jug half upside down and envision what your paper mache mask warrior will look like. The jug handle will serve as a nose. Using a craft knife, cut eye holes in the jug. You can make them round, triangular, or rectangles.
Use the natural lines, circles or other physical characteristics of your particular jug to enhance the design. We used the round indentations on the milk jug to make big saucer-like eyes on one of the masks pictured here.
Dip a newspaper strip into the flour mixture to coat, and apply it to the mould horizontally. Add another strip slightly overlapping the first. Continue this process until the entire mold is covered. Wrap short strips around the eyeholes from front to back of mask. Let the first layer dry completely.
Each layer will take up to 24 hrs. to dry,so cover your leftover flour mixture and place in the refrigerator overnight to prevent spoiling. When you’re ready for the next layer, just microwave it for about one minute. This way it’s nice and warm to work with!
Apply a second layer to the mould, this time angling the strips in a horizontal direction, and overlapping. This second and final layer should be made from torn strips of white computer paper. This allows for easier paint coverage when it’s time to decorate.
On The Other Hand: One can buy pre-made masks in any good art shop for approximately 90cent per mask and just paint!