The First One

Right front of large, mottled-brown cloth-mache mask with ancient animal appearance. Ridges run down its face and around its head forming dark, recessed areas.

Primary materials: Cloth, glue, metal mesh, tape, aluminum foil, acrylic paint.

This is the first thing I ever made using cloth mache. It’s also the first in a set of masks based around the same general shape (the other two being Liliana and Grace).

This project went through several iterations. I originally wanted it to consist of two sections that would be held together by magnets. Getting everything to line up correctly, while also learning how to use a new material, was just a bit too much to chew on. I built this up several times and then cut it back several times, trying to figure out the shape, and trying to find a workable solution to the split design. Eventually I decided to just go with a single piece instead.

Left front of mask. Ridges run down its face and around its head forming dark, recessed areas.
Left side of mask. It has a flared-helmet shape. Ridges sweep back from its face to form angular patterns that wrap around its head.

I wanted to make this a flared-helmet shape because I had never done that before. Early on, for the face design I drew inspiration from the Witness mask on the SyFy TV show 12 Monkeys. Some other shapes that inspired me were the Space Jockey head from Alien, and the leg anatomy of robber-fly pupa. Looking at it now, I think you can see its pedigree, but I also think it’s become its own thing.

For painting, I had seen a tutorial online (lost to time now, I think) that showed how to make something look like bone. I generally followed that, by painting the whole thing white, and then adding yellow ochre, raw umber, and many thin layers of these colors also mixed with some black. This is the first time I’d painted something like this, and I’m happy with how it turned out.