DIY: Plaster Cloth Masks

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Studying architecture isn’t all fun and buildings – sometimes we get to play with masks! For what is probably our most bizarre project yet (especially for a history course), last week we had to make masks based on a theatre study and collage we completed earlier in the term. My mask is one of the most traditional in the class, and is probably influenced in no small part by a mask workshop I took part in while studying in England. My concept was based on the prop or set piece, something which may appear complete from one side but betrays its construction on another.

Katie’s knowledge of plaster and scissor skills were a big help with this one. This was my first time using the stuff and it never would have turned out so well without her instruction. Luckily for you, she’s kindly decided to share her instructions below.

What you’ll need:
Newspaper
Tape
Scissors
Plaster cloth/bandage
Large bowl of warm water
Mask base*
Acrylic paint and/or decorations for your mask (optional)

1. After you have all your materials lined up, the first thing you need to do is select a base for the plaster features. For Mike’s mask base, he decided to use a piece of perforated scrap metal cut to shape with tin snips. There are a ton of options for possible mask bases, just make sure whatever you use will be sturdy enough to handle all the plaster you are going to be adding. You can also create a mask base by using your own face (or a friend’s) and plaster cloth (watch a tutorial on how to do so here).

2. Once you’ve figured out the base, start thinking about what kind of features you want the mask to have. For his mask, Mike added a large nose and a well-defined chin, cheek, and forehead. He created the features by crumpling up newspaper in the shapes he wanted and taping them to the mask base. I should note that you aren’t limited to newspaper, you can use almost anything to create funky facial features, such as paper towel rolls or styrofoam. As long as it can handle the plaster, it’s fair game.

3. After you’ve added the features, its time to start plastering! The plaster cloth I bought at the craft store was not pre-cut, so I used scissors to cut it into individual strips. I find strips a lot easier to work with and better at covering all the nooks and crannies of the mask. To plaster: dip the strip into a bowl of warm water, remove, then place the strip between your middle and index finger and squeeze out the excess water. Then, simply place the wet plaster bandage over the top of your mask base and newspaper features. Continue this process until you have covered the entire area of your mask with plaster bandages. I recommend having a couple of coats of plaster over your mask to make it sturdy and smooth (there should be no little holes showing through!). Let the plaster dry overnight or until it’s no longer wet to the touch.

4. If you’d like to keep your plaster mask au natural, then congrats – you’re done! If you’d like to make it a little more colorful, try decorating it with different coloured paints. Mike used indigo acrylic paint to coat the mask, and then mixed it with white and black to create soft highlights and shadows. Similar to adding newspaper, the paint helps give the mask some dimension and depth. You may also want to glue flowers, feathers, beads, yarn, or anything else you can think of to your mask – let your creativity guide you!

Plaster cloth masks are a surprisingly easy craft that are a ton of fun to do. Mike’s already making plans for Halloween!

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