Fugli's Fantasy ForgePaper masks

Historically, masks have been around as long as history has been recorded. While clothing covers the skin for both decorative and protective purposes, a mask can hide the identity of an individual, adding mystery. Ancient Greek theater drew heavily from a tradition of masks, but the form that I will work with here is more typical of the renaissance or later. By placing the mask on a stick, it need not be attached to the wearer's face, and is more easily utilized as an artistic prop.


  • paper making supplies
  • a mask form
  • non stick cooking spray
  • tempera paint and brushes
  • one foot long by about 5/8 inch diameter dowel rod
  • a wire coat hanger
  • twine (and a tapestry needle)
  • glue
  • other stuff for decorating as you see fit

Since I am making a paper mask, the first step I will go through is to make a sheet of paper. Paper is very malleable, and it will keep the form of however you allow it to dry. So, I will use a wet piece of recycled paper to create the basic shape for my mask.

To give my paper a form, I have purchased a basic mask form from an art supply store. Wet paper has a tendency to stick to many surfaces when it dries, so I gave the plastic form a light spray of oil and rubbed it thinly all over the outside surface.

You can use either the inside or outside of the mold, but I prefer the outside because it tends to accentuate the raw nature of the paper by keeping all the wrinkles and folds present on the finished product. If you prefer a smoother finish to the outside of your project and want to hide all the bunches and folds, use the inside of the mold.

The raw paper is easy to mold when it is still wet. You will want to sponge or towel dry it as much as possible, keeping in mind that the less moisture remaining, the stronger the paper will be.

Remove the wet paper from any screens you may be using, and gently press it over (or into) the mold. Start from the center and work outward. If the paper stretches too much, it will tare. If a hole occurs, take a small piece from one of the corners and gently press it into the torn place like a skin graft. When it dries, the paper will fuse in place, fixing the hole.

Set it aside for about a day (or two) in a dry place. When the paper is dry to the touch, it should easily pop off the mold.

[The dried mask will hold the form of the mold.]

The molded paper will hold its shape. You can cut it with scissors, a knife, or use a hole punch on it if it is not too thick. Although it may feel strong, remember it is paper. You can tare it, and it will get weaker if you fold it anywhere. I did not like the corners, so I gently tore them off.

You can use any sort of paint on it that you normally would on paper. I tend to use tempera. If you paint small areas, the mask should be fine. Remember there is moisture in paint, and any liquid soaked up by the paper will make it weak until it dries again. If you intend to paint the whole mask, you may want to leave the form under it until it dries the second time.

I prefer to just paint small portions and allow the colors present in the paper to give the mask its character.

In order to hold the mask on a stick, I will need a study method to attach it. Using a pair of wire cutters and my fingers, I have twisted this hanger into a shape that will both support and lend stability to my mask. Using the dowel rod that I will eventually pair with this mask, I wrapped the wire around it from the top down. The wire cutters are then used to clip off all the loose ends.

I spray painted the hanger black and allowed it to dry before I began attaching it to the mask from the inside.

Using some twine and a tapestry needle, I attached the wire frame to the inside of the mask. The outside decorations that I have chosen are serving double duty as anchors for my stitching. The paper is soft, and can be stitched like cloth as long as you are careful with it.

Because the paper can tare so easily, it is a good idea to reinforce it with a little bit of glue where it is most likely to rip. I also like to place a drop of glue on any knots to make sure they do not slip.

Twine and glue are also handy if you want to decorate the stick. I was not thrilled with the light wood of the dowel rod, so I stained it with a mixture of acrylic paint and water. Then I attached some garland to it to accentuate thematic unity with the mask.

You can make many alike, or no two the same. I find the fun is in changing every time.


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