Paper Mache Mask Book Progress Report

Several months ago I had this crazy idea that I could finish my paper mache mask book by the first of December. Ha! I’m still not even close, and here it is almost Christmas already.

Well, I may not be very fast, but I’m having a great time with these projects. I’m using positive molds made with modeling clay — no more of the expensive silicone or urethane rubber molds that I tried before. And the paper mache is made with just two layers of Scott Shop Towels®, pasted together with a plaster and glue mixture that was inspired by Mark Morse, who mentioned the plaster-based gesso he uses. The result is a strong mas that is incredibly light because there’s no armature left inside.

And, believe it or not, they’re actually easier to make than masks made with paper mache clay – I found that rather surprising, since the clay makes other sculptures so much easier.

I still have at least four more masks to finish. I wanted to include a Celtic helmet, since the unicorn is wearing a silver ornament hanging from his horn that was given to him by Boudicca, the last queen of the Celts. Unfortunately, I may be running out of space. Printers charge by the page, dang it, so I have to prioritize. Maybe I can still fit it in, though — I should know by next week. And the book itself should be finished by the first of February, so readers will have plenty of time to make their favorite mask for Mardi Gras. (At least I hope I can get it done by then. Wish me luck.)

Here’s what I have finished so far (I still haven’t decided which one should go on the cover. Any suggestions?):

19 thoughts on “Paper Mache Mask Book Progress Report”

  1. First of all… let me wish you and all your creative-mâché fans a very Happy New Year 2012… may it be prosperous and bright!
    I agree with Patch, Jonni! Since it is a book about masks (plural), why stop at one on the cover! They are ALL worthy of a place on it and will, I am sure, add to its inspirational value… widening the possibilities for imagination.
    I was planning to do a mask-making course later this year, and having a book on the subject would be quite an asset. I am now owner of your other paper mâché book… and finding it very useful. I was making some rather thin and delicate votive candle bowls for Christmas… covered in cut out stars to let the light shine through… but didn’t finish them in time… my son had triplets and I had to turn my flagging energies to sewing instead! I used a cooked paste recipe with rice flour in it, to which I added some PVA glue. I am very impressed with the results. Although the bowls are quite thin, they are really strong. However, I’m wondering if I should use some fire retardant on them. Do you have any thoughts on the subject, Jonni?

    • Hi Elizabeth. The issue of fire and paper mache is always worrying, but I’m not sure what sort of product you could use to make them fireproof. Does anyone have some suggestions?

      And congratulations, Grandma! Three at once – wow. I hope mom and babies are all doing fine.

  2. Even though I am a big cat lover, I vote for the bird with the glasses. It’s quirky, and I like quirky! 🙂 It kind of reminds me of a plague doctor mask.

  3. Those masks look great. ic an’t wait to see all of them.

    If you produced the book in pdf format you could include as many pages in as many colours as you wanted. Personally, I’d prefer to be it as a pdf. Would you be interested in selling it in pdf format?

    • That’s an interesting idea. I think I might be more interested in using the Kindle if it goes out as an ebook. That seems to be the direction that people are heading in. But first, it must be printed. I don’t feel like my “project” is done until I actually hold a real book in my hands.

  4. Love the Masks, my vote would have to be for the cat, even if it is a bit evil cat looking..lol
    Want to say Merry Christmas to you and all the readers, may 2012 be happy and creative year for all.

  5. I love the unicorn. Striking as a thumbnail, even better when you view it larger. : )

    This is exciting. I’ve also been discovering the speed and strength of plaster+white glue, and its variations. There is an episode of “How It’s Made” (an addictive show on the science channel) that shows how cardboard dress forms are made — and it’s what they use to stick the layers of cardboard together.


    As for what you can’t include in the book, I’ve seen some authors recently offer supplemental download material for book purchasers — specifically for the stuff they wanted to include but didn’t have room for. You might do something like that.

    I’m really looking forward to your new book. I’ve found myself going back to your previous one over and over again. : )

    • Thanks for the link – I’ll be sure to check that out. And the supplemental online idea is good, too. I have a feeling that I’ll be making a lot more masks – it’s kind of addictive…

    • I just watched that video – that looks like a system that might work for making light furniture, like coffee tables. I wonder if anyone has tried using it that way?

  6. I love them all and I am partial to the Volto mask and the unicorn. That darn cat, I love that too. That reminds me of the movie of the same name. I have a cat, Casey and she owns me, not the other way around and that mask is perfect. So, those are the three that I am really drawn to. That duck mask is too cute and lovely. I will look forward to that book in February.

    • That will work for the back cover, but amazon.com only gives the cover a small stamp-sized photo in the list results. Eyeballs really help grab attention, so just one mask can make it onto the front. There are four more on the way – two half-masks, an owl and a butterfly (it won’t be quite as colorful as yours, unfortunately) and a Texan outlaw with a ten-gallon hat for the younger Halloween crowd. Not sure I can fit in the helmet that I planned for the fourth.

      Thanks, everybody, for the kind words and suggestions. I will keep them all in mind as I work towards my new deadline.


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