The Determinist

Stern, dark bronze papier-mache mask with a black line running down its forehead, left eye, and cheek. It's eyes are black and there are holes drilled in its mouth area.

Primary materials: Paper napkins, glue, acrylic paint.

Every time I make a mask it’s an experiment to a greater or lesser degree. Here are the things I did for the first time on this mask:

1. Made a form using clay.

2. Made my own papier-mache out of napkins.

3. Put slots in the rim of the mask to hold the straps.

4. Made straps that involved sewing by hand and machine.

5. Used a new type of plastic mesh for the eyes, instead of sheer cloth.

I started by making an aluminum-foil impression of my face, and then covering it with tape, and filling it in with paper. I used this as the base to sculpt on with some really old polymer clays.

Homemade head form for building mask covered in bright, multi-colored clay.

This wasn’t optimal. The base beneath the clay needs to be solid, and this was squishy. I didn’t have enough clay to do anything more than cover it in a thin layer. And I don’t think polymer clay is the right substance for this application. But often you can still make something neat even when the materials are not all perfect. I want to do more with clay in the future.

I ground up paper napkins and mixed them with glue. This makes a hard, light papier-mache that is strong even when quite thin, and has a tiny bit of flexibility which keeps it from being brittle. I like this homemade stuff more than the stiffer commercial papier-mache I used before.

Application onto the clay form went pretty quickly. Once the mache dried I sanded it a little with a random-orbital sander, and used a rotary tool to take off some rough edges. I left most of the mache’s natural texture. It would have taken a lot of sanding to get rid of, which I wasn’t interested in doing for this experiment anyway, and in the end I think it adds some interesting character.

Right front view of mask.

Left front view of mask. Its rough texture is clearly visible.

The holes in the mouth were not originally planned. I put those in after holding the mask up to my face for a little while and realizing that it needed some sort of ventilation to be wearable.

Painting this took a while. I generally knew where I wanted to go, but hadn’t done a “toned-down metal” paint scheme before, so I ended up putting on several unnecessary layers.

I’ve wanted to make a mask with a stripe across one eye for a couple of years now. I kept not doing it for one reason or another. This one seemed perfect for it and I like how it turned out.