I’m on a steampunk kick lately! I made a creepy clockwork doll mask that turned wasn’t really festival appropriate, but I’ll use it for a Halloween party or two, hopefully. The basic mask is straightforward paper mache with a couple of twists. Take that mask you made in 2nd grade to a much cooler place.
My version is inspired by a mix of Mirrormask, Orianna (from League of Legends) and other works in similar genres. It’s not supposed to be pretty, persay, but slightly tweaky and off. If you follow the same methods, you could easily make a more traditionally pretty mask; the materials are pretty, which to me is what makes the wonkiness extra striking.
Materials: Cardboard (or something for the base). Leftover beer/soda boxes work great.
Felt or other non-fraying fabric to glue over the back when you’re done
Any sort of white glue. I used tacky glue, with shiny results. You could also use flour for an even cheaper paste, but you won’t be painting the mask; glue makes for a shinier, more laquer-like finish.
Old staff paper — if you don’t have music just lying around, go to the Petrucci library and print out a few pages. I had a TON of duplicate pieces from jury performances gone by.
Decoration materials: I used decorative gears in different sizes, a leftover scrap of pearlescent fabric, some foil from a wine bottle
Something to secure the mask: A stick, ribbon, pretty elastic, whatever
Cost: $0, unless you need to buy felt and print staff paper. Then, under $3.
Cut out a domino mask face. From the carboard and the fabric (you could also use craft foam).
You can either cut out the eyeholes now (I probably should have), or just paper over them and then cut them out with a drill/dremel later. Don’t rely on scissors! I did, you’ll see below.
Tear the staff paper into strips. (Rough edges work better than cut edges)
Mix white glue with water until it’s a thin paste. I found that a thinner solution worked more like a laminating substance.
If you have a wig base or something similar, you can mold your mask form to a more realistic head shape as you apply paper mache. I just held it to my face between each layer and blasted it with a hairdryer to heat shape the mask, with moderate success. Another option: take thumbtacks or straight pins and pin the mask form to a foam bolster to create a curved shape and hold it in place while you paper mache. I kind of liked the less molded-to-my-face look, as it gave my face additional creepiness.
Apply the staff paper like any other paper mache, letting it dry fully between layers.
My mask was small enough that, at the end, I was able to cut a domino mask out of a single layer of staff paper, stick it in the mache paste, and apply it directly over the top. You can still see the pieces of staff paper behind it, though. In the picture it looks kind of dirty, but in real life it’s kind of neat. If you don’t like that effect, use regular white paper under the top layer. Or just leave the applied strips visible for a more intense look; I wish I’d taken a picture, the staff paper strips look pretty cool as they are.
If it weren’t for the eyeholes, I’d probably have left this the way it is, with the foil fan glued on. I’m pretty fond of it, but those eye holes are really bad. That’s what I get for trying to cut through 4 layers of paper mache, cardboard, felt and glue. Ugh. It also caused those weird ripples you see. I strongly suggest cutting out the eyes before you start. If you’re leaving your mask as-is, you should take some sandpaper to the edges to make them more uniform/professional looking. I would suggest the same if your eye holes look like the ones below.
To diffuse the impact of those terrible eyeholes, I took two layers of sheer fabric and glued them in place over the mask. The under layer is a scrap of soft netting with gold stars all over it, the top a purple/blue pearlescent fabric I had lying around from making bat wings (maybe a later post). I like this fabric because it shows different colors depending on how the light hits it.
I’m not sure that this by itself falls into the category of steampunk. And normally I don’t condone gluing gears onto things. But in this case, I made an exception for some decorative “gears” the Compatriot bought for me. They don’t even look that much like gears, but they are pretty pieces of circular latticed metal. I cut open the eyeholes and took a lighter to the layers of fabric, melting them so they wouldn’t fray. Then, I glued a “gear” over the front of the mask and one over the back. I couldn’t decide which I liked better. The smaller “gears” I used to cover the edges of the ribbon that I threaded through. The holes I poked with a nail were kind of ugly, so a cover was needed.
Would you ever make something deliberately not pretty?