Serving Art Educators
and Students Since 1994
Submitted by: Stephanie Corder, AZ Academy in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Unit: Sculpture, abstraction techniques
Grade Level: 9th and 10th Grades (adaptable to upper elementary - middle school)
Carnival Mask - using clay and plastic mold (below)
Alternate: Plastic Face Forms
Students will learn about sculpture by making a stylized mask using Plaster Gauze to cast a mask of their face, referring to the style of Venetian Carnival Masks.
1. Introduction: Look at references of Venetian Carnival Masks noting the emphasis on fantasy, stylization and the abstraction of features.
2. Have everyone make sketches (at least two) of how they’d like their mask to look, and choose the best design.
3. Divide into teams of two, and designate who goes first. Then have each student draw their partner’s design on their face with water soluble marker.
4. Liberally coat student’s face with Vaseline.
5. Smooth a damp paper towel over the face taking care to stay within the perimeters of the design and not lose any details. If the mask will be covering the nose and/or mouth take care to work around it so the student can breathe!
6. Wet strips of plaster in warm water, and strip off excess liquid. Begin applying strips within the pattern specified by the design. If you’re working around the nose, use thin strips of plaster between the nostrils; this can be filled in after the mask is removed.
7. Once you have at least three layers of thickness, allow to harden (about 20 minutes), and then carefully remove.
8. After completely dry, the students can reinforce any areas that are fragile with more plaster strips.
9. Next class, teams switch so that everyone has a mask of their faces.
10.Once everyone has made a mask, they may paint them with acrylics. Optional: extend mask with mesh screen, aluminum foil, wire - secure with tape - and plaster gauze over all (see the Spanish leather masks)
11. Optional - Attach a painted dowel wrapped in ribbons.
Note: Because the majority of Venetian Masks I used in my reference left the nose and/or mouth uncovered, I didn’t have to deal with breathing issues.
References of Venetian Carnival Masks
Carnival of Venice Photographs (Archive)
Carnival photographs that show many people wearing these masks
Venetian Mask Samples
Leather Masks from the Merchant of Venice - Angel Mask http://www.angel-mask.com/
See these Spanish Leather Carnival masks http://www.anymask.com/leathermasks.html
Duncan Eagleson Shapeshifter Masks - interesting leather masks
See YouTube video on Venetian Masks
Venetian Masquerade Summary
The festival known as Carnival occurs throughout much of the Roman Catholic world. Many Americans, Catholic or not, have attended the festivities in New Orleans. But in Venice, Carnival traditions go all the way back to the Renaissance. For a 10-day period before Lent, from the day after Christmas until Shrove Tuesday, the ancient city comes alive with masked revelers enjoying pageants, commedia dell'arte, concerts and balls.
Carnival (originally "carnevale"), comes from the Latin for "farewell to meat." This boisterous festival marks the beginning of Lent, the time before Easter when Catholics refrain from eating meat. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, simple, pre-Lenten celebrations evolved into what we know as Carnival. But the tradition of masquerading, for which Carnival has become known, is much older than that. It has its roots in a Roman fertility festival where masks were worn by citizens and slaves alike.
The 1700s were the glory days of the Venetian Carnival. In those times, mask-wearing and other unofficial activities continued past Lent, well into the spring. Carnival was a time of nonstop partying, gambling and general irresponsibility for people of all social classes. Jugglers, mimes, acrobats and magicians entertained the crowds. And noblemen held sumptuous feasts and masked balls like the one where Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet first met. But Carnival had its darker side, too. Masks provided anonymity for aspiring criminals, and drunken revelers made easy targets. Behind a mask, a respectable citizen could flaunt conventional rules of behavior and freely explore hidden desires.
The most common Carnival costume (the "baùtta") consisted of a black silk hood, a lace cape and a voluminous cloak. A three-cornered hat and a white mask completely covered the wearer's face. Other masqueraders dressed as historical figures such as Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. The elaborate Carnival masks, some of which were gilded, were made in a dizzying variety of shapes including grotesque or fanciful faces and the sun and moon.
Today, people come from all over the world to attend Venice's private and public masked balls. The music and dancing go on day and night, and there are theatrical performances and an array of ancient games. The Venetian Carnival is a perfect marriage of culture, tradition and wild celebration. (Site this is copied from is no longer online)
Middle School Literature Integration
Venetian Carnival Mask - Teachnet Lesson - "Cask of Amontillado" Edgar Allen Poe
Extension- Caribbean Carnival
Caribbean Carnival History (info - Archive)
Caribbean Mask Making Tradition - Lesson plan to adapt (no longer on line)
Procedures for Caribbean masks:
Begin masks the same way (as plaster gauze dries quicker and is stronger in a shorter amount of time). Add elements with wire, newspaper (wrap with aluminum foil), mesh screen material, cardboard. Securely glue and tape - then Paper Mache (as that is more economical and resulting mask will be lighter weight). Lesson no longer on line.
Adapt this lesson for Mardi Gras Masks
Brief history of Mardi Gras:
Mask example from Christina Salinas, Del Mar High School, San Jose, CA
Ceramic Slab Cultural Mask
Note to Teachers: Links were all verified at the time this lesson was put online. Please notify us when links are broken - or to give me additional resources you found helpful.
We take basic plastic mask molds - cover them with plastic or foil and build up clay in different ways. Then we cast the clay form in plaster gauze cloth. After plaster hardens, remove it from the clay and paint it with acrylic or tempera paint. This unit takes about 2 weeks total with the set up and final assessment. It is always a popular project. (click image for larger view)
Note: Keep this sculpture clay separate from clay you sue for firing.
Submitted by: Christina Salinas, Del Mar High School, San Jose, CA
From Christina: The students start this project with a research paper on a cultural mask. The mask may be from their culture or from another culture. Part of the Criteria when creating their mask, is to change it in some fashion personalizing the mask. They are not to make an exact replica of the cultural mask. The students choose masks from all over the world, which makes it interesting and exciting to see what masks catches their attention.
Add to or Comment on this Page: