Learning to create masks.
When it comes to making masks, I am still experimenting and learning. Finding good information on the internet is sometimes difficult especially if you don’t know what you are looking for. Sometimes you don’t start with a plan, you just start making and see where it goes. This is how the ‘Apocalyptomagic Mask’ came into existence.
It started with making a paper mache slop for the ‘Horny Cyclops’ hat and I had plenty of the said slop left over. I got the recipe off the net somewhere and stored it in my memory, which in hindsight was probably not the best idea. I pressed the slop to a steel bowl and waited for it dry. After some days, I detached it from the bowl and it sat in the studio for a while until I thought to poke some holes into it.
It suddenly became obvious that the ingredient I forgot from the seemingly great recipe was what made it stronger. You see, while filing the holes to make them smooth, the mask bowl fell to pieces which in turn made me somewhat sad and thus I decided to spend the rest of the day binge watching a series.
After gathering myself and the bowl pieces together, I decided to give it another go. I had some muslin (cheesecloth), which is like bandages but a lot cheaper, that I covered in plaster and PVA Glue and then stuck many squares of it to the bowl to reinforce it. This was followed by some cardboard tube for the eyes and mouth, which got attached with building glue and more muslin.
At this point I still had no idea of what the mask was going to look like. My first thought was to paint it but that seemed like a cop-out. This needed to be different; organic yet reminiscent of the destructive side of humanity.
I stood out the front of my house. The hot Australian summer sun was close to setting. A lot of bark had fallen off the tree out the front. Even they had to take some extra clothes off in this damn weather. The bark provided the perfect inspiration for the surface finish. I gathered a boxful and started gluing it to the mask. This was quickly followed by some natural jute twine on the eye and mouth tubes.
It didn’t take too long to see that finishing the ends of the tubes would prove difficult. Fortunately it didn’t take too long to figure out a solution which was to cut some very short bits of tube and wrap the string around it. These were then attached to the longer tubes and it started to look like a finished mask.
Finishing the Mask.
The bark was not very agreeable with bending around the back edges of the bowl, I could have steamed it but I was in a bit of a hurry to finish this. I used some very thin goat leather instead, which got cut into squares and stuck on with building glue and ‘thumb-tacks’. This lead to an uncomfortable contrast between the vegetable tanned leather and the bark. I used a mahogany coloured leather dye to get it to match the bark but it was too dark. The only logical thing left to do was to cover the whole lot in leather dye! It worked really well! The bark became a lot darker and after a varnish everything looked perfect! Well, except for the hot-melt glue I used to fill in the gaps!
The last step was to attach some black mesh inside the eye holes, an old belt to use as a head strap, and some felt on the inside for comfort.
In the end, the mask was not very comfortable to wear for long periods. The thin felt was no substitute for some foam. It proved a bit heavy and didn’t attach very well to the user’s head. Something to think about for the next creation.
Thanks to artist Jem Ham for modelling the mask.
See his surreal artworks here.