Early Venetian mascareri used a variety of materials, from waxed cloth to canvas, velvet, lace, leather, and papier-mâché. Today, a few mask makers craft masks using leather, glass, and even ceramic. However, the mask makers adhering most closely to authentic, traditional Venetian carnival mask types work primarily in papier-mâché.
Today, most traditional masks begin with a clay form that may be used to make a plaster cast. The clay or plaster model may be used again and again to form the basic mask, even though no two masks end up looking exactly the same. The mascarer presses wet paper pulp over the clay form, then leaves it to air-dry. Once dry, the paper will retain the shape of the cast or clay model. Next, the mask maker buffs the mask and cuts holes for the eyes and other facial features, if desired. Finally, the mask is painted by hand using tempera paints.
Most mask makers have a variety of paintbrushes at their workbenches, using fine brushes for gilding and other details. Some complete a piece by covering it with wax, gloss, or polish to impart a shiny finish, but these trade secrets vary from workshop to workshop.
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