Here's a preview of how the mask is looking so far! Things finally came together last night, but this mask has been a challenge this past week. Here are three things I will do differently next time.
- This is the first time I have made something this big by myself--the 15 hours of paper mache time it took to get to this point rather caught me by surprise! So next time I will recruit help from family bubble members. (The mask has 5 layers of heavy paper, plus I still need to add an additional layer in the inside to smooth it out.)
- In my rush to meet the Saturday PDX Krampuslauf procession deadline, I left a box fan running next to the mask the first night, on the first layer of paper mache layer shown in my previous post. This caused the clay to shrink too quickly, and resulted in uneven rippling of the surface of the paper mache. After adding 4 more layers of paper on top it is much less noticeable, (and perhaps the cragged effect even adds to the character!), but dealing with an uneven surface certainly added to the total paper mache time. So, lesson learned--don't rush drying time until the paper mache layers are thick enough to resist a shrinking armature.
3. The third lesson occurred yesterday, in the process of pulling the core or armature base (bucket, newspaper, masking tape, clay) out of the head.
In the past when I have worked on very large paper mache props and puppet pieces I have used wallpaper paste for the paper layers. But both brands of paste I like have been discontinued over the years, and I have not been able to find a paste replacement free from irritating chemicals and safe for the environment. (Methyl cellulose has potential, but I want to stress test it further--it may not be strong enough for a very large piece).
Anyway, I decided to use dilute PVA white glue for this mask, because it is labeled "Non-toxic", it is extremely strong with paper, and the Material Safety Data Sheets indicate it breaks down quickly and is not considered an environmental pollutant as long as not burned and is kept out of bodies of water. So while it is not "natural" as is my preference, it seemed like an adequate compromise for this project.
And it worked great! In fact, maybe too great... Unlike the wallpaper paste I used in the past, it soaked right through the paper towel release layer adhering it to the clay sculpt. In 20 years of doing paper mache with this method, I have never had this issue! So much of yesterday was spent digging and chipping the clay layer out of the inside of the face. Then today I will use a wire brush to remove the last dry bits from inside, (followed by that one last layer of paper mache on the inside to cover the remaining shreds of paper towel).
Anyway, NEXT time I will use Methly cellulose paste for the very first layer of paper mache that goes over the paper towel release layer. (Subsequent layers can then be PVA glue without worry of it soaking through onto the clay).
This mask has been a good teacher!