Throughout history, masquerade masks have been popular in many different parts of the world and have been used for many different purposes. Today, masquerade masks are popular at celebrations such as Halloween, Mardi Gras and the Carnival of Venice. Here are some tips and techniques for making your own Venetian and Greek style masquerade masks for holidays, parties and other special occasions.
Making Venetian Masquerade Masks
Venetian masquerade masks have their origin in the Carnival of Venice, which began in the 11th century and which continues today, after having been revived in the late 1970s. Traditionally, Venetian masquerade masks are made from paper mache and are richly decorated. Venetian masquerade masks are easy to make, either from scratch or from an existing paper mache party mask. You can learn about these and more historical facts about Venetian mask making and The Carnival of Venice on the Ombra.net website and on mask shop websites such as VenetianMaskShop.com and SimplyMasquerade.co.uk.
The Handy Goddess on 5min.com recommends using plaster of Paris and plaster gauze to create a mask base. To get started making a Venetian masquerade mask base, cut some plaster gauze into strips that are 1 inch wide by 5 inches long. Mix some plaster of Paris in a bowl. Lay down newspaper to protect your work surface. Smear some petroleum jelly over your face. Dip the strips of gauze in the plaster of Paris mixture, then place them over the upper half of your face, overlapping them slightly. Be careful to avoid the areas around your eyes and the nostrils. Continue applying strips of gauze to the mask until it has about three layers. Allow the masquerade mask to dry enough to hold its shape. Then stretch your face and gently pull the mask away from your face. Lay the mask base down on your work surface so that it can dry out the rest of the way.
When your Venetian masquerade mask base has dried, dip some strips of paper mache in prepared wallpaper paste, then lay them over the outer edges of the mask and the edges of the eye holes to smooth them out. You can also add cardboard strips and paper mache to build up your Venetian masquerade mask and to add decorations such as wings to the mask. If making your own homemade paper mache party mask is too much trouble, you can also make your Venetian masquerade mask using a cheap store-bought paper mache mask.
Decorate your paper mache Venetian masquerade mask using paint, glitter, sequins, beads and feathers. You can use either craft glue or hot glue to adhere the decorations to your Venetian mask. You can also use a 12 inch long wooden dowel to make a Venetian masquerade mask on a stick. Just make two holes in one side of your paper mache mask, then push the wooden dowel through the holes.
Making Greek Masquerade Masks
According to Elias Karayannakos on the GreekTheatre.gr website, Greek masks were used in the theater in ancient Greece to portray a wide range of different characters. The masks often allowed Greek actors to play more than one role. They also allowed men to portray women, who were prohibited from acting on the Greek stage. Historically, Greek theater masks were made from leather, wood or linen. However, you can make a simple plaster and paper mache mask to use as the basis for your Greek masquerade mask.
To make a Greek masquerade mask, cut some strips of plaster gauze and get some plaster of Paris, as in the Venetian masquerade mask project. Spread petroleum jelly over your entire face. Mix the plaster of Paris in a bowl, then dip the plaster gauze strips in the plaster. Look in the mirror as you apply the plaster gauze strips. Cover your face from forehead to chin with the plaster gauze, being careful to avoid the areas around the eyes, nostrils and mouth. If you plan to give your mask a very exaggerated expression like a traditional Greek theater mask, leave a wide gap around the mouth area. Give the wide, gaping mouth a large smile to create a Greek comedy mask, and give it a surprised or frowning expression to create a Greek tragedy mask. Let the masquerade mask dry and harden enough so that you can remove it in one piece. Then allow it to dry the rest of the way. Add newspaper strips dipped in wallpaper paste to build up your Greek mask into a paper mache mask and make it look the way you want.
Put fake eyelashes over the eyes. Paint and decorate the Greek masquerade mask in a manner that enhances its comical or tragic facial expression. If your character is a good guy, give him smooth and pleasant features. If he’s a villain, make him extremely ugly and sinister. If she’s an ingenue, make her very beautiful and elegant. Then glue strips of colored tissue paper or construction paper around the edge of the Greek masquerade mask to create hair. If your mask portrays a male character, you can also add colored paper to create a mustache and beard.
For more ideas on this topic, read How to Make a Halloween Pumpkin Mask, Marie Antoinette Halloween Costumes and Ideas for Greek Costumes and Accessories.
“Venice Carnival, History.” Ombra.net
“Venetian Masks Shop.” VenetianMasksShop.com
“History | Venetian Masquerade Mask Making.” SimplyMasquerade.co.uk
“How to Make a Mask.” 5min.com
Elias Karayannakos,”Masks in Ancient Greek Theatre.” GreekTheatre.gr