Mask Making in Puerto Rico

MA student, Jennifer Luong wrote a detailed blog about the mask-making process taught by Deborah Hunt in the Puerto Rico Study Abroad Intersession Program in January, 2013. Here is an excerpt:


January 15th, Jennifer –

Since the majority of the class is in the Physical Theatre group, I thought I should take the opportunity of the “day off” entry to share my notes for mask construction.

Clay mold:
Deborah had a plaster cast of a blank-neutral face set out on the table – one to each seat. The plaster was used as a guide to work with and was more time-efficient for our purposes. It was on top of this plaster mold that we built the clay mold for our masks.
– Using fishing line with two clothes pins tied to each end, cut a one inch block of clay to place under the plaster mold. This helps give the plaster mold more height to work with.
– Fill in any empty space under the plaster to bring edges of the clay to match the edges of the plaster mold.  Smooth it all out.
– Start building your mask. Deborah reminded us to exaggerate the features and that it doesn’t have to look human. She also reminded us to keep checking the profile of the masks: are the features interesting?

Clay moldPaper Mâché-ing:
– Put a thin layer of Vaseline on the mold.
– The glue we used was wallpaper glue mixed with water.
– Rip off the straight edges of the paper and dump them. Following the grain of the paper, rip (do not cut!!!) strips of paper.
– When paper mâché-ing, be sure to work the glue into the paper.
– Overlapping of the paper is what makes it strong.
– We paper mâchéd our mold in four layers: newsprint, brown crafting paper, newsprint, brown crafting paper.
– Start with the edges of the mold and then work your way in to the face.
– Make sure the last layer is super smooth. This is the surface you will paint on!
– Let the paper mâché out for drying!

Paper Mâché

Cutting and Wiring:
– When the paper mâché is dry, it is time for the mask to undergo a surgery! Using a box cutter, cut along the rim of the mask to free it from the cardboard base the mask is sitting on.
– Then cut the mask straight down the middle of the forehead and down to the tip of the nose. Make the cut deep to make sure all four layers are cut!
– Get a good grip on the paper mâché and peel it off the mold. This is why sufficient Vaseline is important! If there is not enough Vaseline, it will be tough to peel off. If there is excess, the duct tape in the next step will not stick.

Cutting and wiring


To continue reading Jennifer’s post about the mask-making process, visit the Puerto Rico study abroad blog.


For additional information about the our study abroad programs, visit the global programs website.