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Paper Maché Masks 101

I just completed a 3-day work session on the art of making paper maché masks. Wow!

My teacher was the puppeteer Mathieu René, who has developed his tehnique over the years, creating puppets, marionettes and masks for puppet companies and collectors. Mathieu is also known on the Web as The Creaturiste. It took me 2 years to finally decide to attend his course. You know how it is. Time flies and I am pretty busy all the time at work and at home. However, a new challenge was brought to my attention lately : my son wants a Spartan mask/helmet costume for Halloween! So it was the perfect opportunity to start.

Paper maché

I have always been fond of paper maché. I admire artists who use their talent in creating unusual jewelry, objects, figures, puppets and masks, revealing the infinite side of paper textures. I think of Marjorie K. Schick, whose colorful and extravagant jewelry was recently featured at Victoria & Albert Museum in London, U.K., or this fabulous book from les Éditions de la Martinière, about the work of plastician artist Isabelle de Borchgrave, a book to die for!

Paper, whatever some may think, is a wonderful material, noble, earthy, authentic! Mathieu René’s masks are so refined that you may think it is pure delicate leather, but they’re 100 per cent paper and glue, and they are surprisingly strong.

I won’t share the techniques I have learned over here since they belong to Mathieu, and he is by far the best teacher to show them.However, here is the picture of my mask/helmet, once we removed it from our plaster head on the first day. I still must refine its surface, sand it and prepare it for paint. It will be painted with metal pigments (to imitate metal) and I might add some accessories and details according to the era it belongs to. I’ll post new pictures once it’s completed. Here are a few links from Mathieu René’s bookmarks.

Nina Barlow

Faustwork Mask Theater

Mondo Novo



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