How To Make A Papier-Mâché Mask

imagesSince arriving in Denver, I’ve been mulling over ideas, both serious and silly, for Colorado Public Radio’s multimedia arts coverage. There’s been plenty of sober brainstorming in the office with Post-It notes, but some of the most interesting ideas have come from tipsy mind-meandering after-hours with friends.

After rum-laced drinks at a Cuban restaurant in the museum district the other night, my friends Becca and Luke and I had a discussion about whether a series of crafty “How To”  guides might lend themselves to the seemingly-unsuitable medium of the radio.

Becca, a young lawyer with peripatetic passions and a penchant for all things public radio, surprised and delighted me by emailing over her version of one of the ideas we came up with — “How To Make A Papier-Mâché Mask” — yesterday. She obligingly gave permission for me to post her step-by-step instructions online. Here goes:

How to Make a Papier-Mâché Mask in 15 Easy Steps

Step One:  Ask yourself why you want to make a papier-mâché mask.  It is imperative that you do not skip this step, unless you want a mask that reveals more than it hides.

 Step Two:  Visualize your mask.  Most experts agree this is the hardest step.  You must decide between a mask that is fierce, regal, otherworldly, haggard, searing, luminous, glaring, hollow-mouthed, stretched, elliptical, or some combination of these.

 Step Three:  Do not tell about what you have seen.  This is the moment of greatest temptation in the entire mask-making process.  The bridge from visualization to realization is woven from thin reeds slung in casual loops around the stalks of young trees.  It is liable to go down in a moderately strong wind.  The people who see your face every day believe they know what it looks like.

 Step Four:  Assemble your materials.  You will need (1) one large bucket or basin, preferably in a pale white or blue; (2) cool water; (3) flour or other starch; (4) paper strips; (5) Vaseline; (6) a flat surface on which to lie; (7) a pillow in case the surface on which you are lying is hard; (8) a friend or neighbor to place the strips over your eyes once you have closed them and to read to you an editorial from Sunday’s paper or turn on the radio while the mask hardens; and (9) one thick bolt of afternoon.  You may also want to have some snacks on hand.

 Step Five:  Make your mask.

 Step Six:  Decorate your mask with leaves, shells, feathers, coins that went out of circulation in the 1980s, ribbons, magazine clippings, nail polish, rust, and twine.

 Steps Seven through Ten:  Look at your mask.  Note the various things wrong with it.  Decide if you would like to start over.  It may help to put the mask in a closet or other out-of-the-way place while you make this decision.

 Step Eleven:  Hum “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” while you unload the dishwasher.

 Step Twelve:  Try your mask on in front of a mirror.  Turn your head slightly to one side, keeping your chin down.  Observe yourself from the corner of your eye.  Imagine you are a stranger, seeing yourself at a party for the first time.  Dig your fingers into your hair and raise a mane around your mask, then pull back sharply.  Turn your head to the other side.  Sigh.

 Step Thirteen:  Fix a snack.  I would recommend something with cottage cheese.

 Step Fourteen:  Take your mask out on the balcony where it is sunny.  Watch the shadows of clouds as they move across the face of your mask.  Listen to the city shake out its long legs and fold them into the grass.

 Step Fifteen:  Start over.

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  1. says

    How lucky to have a friend who writes something so beautiful. Why do masks so easily move us to a world of magic and ritual? Masks reveal that we only exist because we imagine ourselves to be. When people understand that, they begin to understand the most profound meanings of culture.

  2. baj says

    hi ho , Chloe,
    You obviously have the correct temperament and attitude to be a really good ‘President’ of the USA…..
    so, how about it…?? Drag the Americas out of the quagmire of capitalism and into a ‘no-nonsense’ – open, sharing and friendly community…..