Krampuslauf (Krampus Night) is coming, and this time I decided I wanted to make a really big mask for Portland's annual procession of Krampus and Friends along SE Hawthorne Ave.
In addition to the large, over the entire head mask I am making being potentially much more impressive (terrifying) than the face mask I have worn in previous years, it also offers plenty of room inside to accommodate coronavirus PPE.
Pictured above is the mask-making progress from the past four days. The character is kind of a composite Perchta/Baba Yaga/Winter Crone concept, and she will likely carry a 6' long birch twig broom to sweep away the old year (good riddance!) as well as to serve as a social distancing reminder/reinforcement.
As you can see, the basic head shape was formed over a down-turned 5 gallon bucket using newspaper and masking tape and a plastic garbage bag. Then detail was added with water-based clay. (This technique was adapted from @stringandshadow puppets' method of big mask and puppet head making).
Next, I applied paper mache over a release layer of paper towels. (A method I learned years ago as an intern at Tears of Joy Theater). Pieces of paper towel (TP works too but is fiddlier) are applied directly to leather-hard clay, and then spritzed with a spray bottle of water. This helps them form to the contours of the piece, as well as stick to it. Because they dry quickly (then proceed to fall off) you only want to cover a small area at a time with the towels, with edges overlapping. Then apply your first layer of paper mache directly over the paper toweled area.
For paper mache I am using recycled grocery bags, which are much stronger than newspaper. And for this piece I decided to use watered down PVA glue due to its durability and generally low environmental impact. (Fully biodegradable methyl cellulose was also an option, but I want to stress test that adhesive more before trying it for such a large-scale project).
But just as I did when I made the magpie mask, I apply the glue mixture to each torn section of paper bag using my hands, then scrunch and massage the paper until they it is pliant and fabric-like. This makes it easy to apply the pieces so there are no air bubbles between layers, and to smooth them over complex shapes. Using bigger pieces of paper over flat areas, and smaller pieces on detailed areas.
The first layer of paper mache over the release layer was very time consuming, but subsequent layers will go much faster.