Plaster Masks

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Learn how to make a mask using plaster cloth strips.

By Anitra Redlefsen [Anitra is an artist, educator and art consultant from Medina, Ohio.]

Create a calm environment. This is the most important step as it creates comfort and safety for the person whose face will be the form for the mask.

For a young child, it is a good idea for him or her to have a parent at the mask making session ; the child will have periods of time when the plaster will be covering eyes, nose, etc. and it is very reassuring for them to have a parent’s touch and to hear their voice. The parent present can also assist in the session by wiping/catching drips of water, etc. so that the child is as comfortable as possible.

If you are working in a classroom setting – have a few parent volunteers on hand; you might wish to do “half-masks” in a classroom setting … leaving the nose and mouth exposed.

Lay some pillows or a sleeping bag on the floor; cover with a sheet or blanket; the child can lie down and get comfortable before you begin. Cover the child with a blanket and have some cloth towels or paper towels nearby to use during the process.

If you are working in a classroom setting – slide two desks together to create a “table” for the child to lay on. Children can work in pairs.

Explain the entire procedure … what you will be doing, how long it will take (approx. 30 minutes). Play some relaxing music to make the environment relaxing.

What You Need:

  • petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
  • plaster bandages, fast setting (4″ wide are good; “fast setting” is about 4 minutes)
  • water (and containers for water)
  • scissors
  • comfortable and safe environment

What You Do:

Before the session begins, cut the plaster bandages into strips that are proportionate to the size of the face of the person receiving the mask. (students in a classroom can do this step themselves). Cut strips in various lengths and sizes as you will be overlapping them to form a sturdy surface — the mask itself.

Spread an ample amount of petroleum jelly over the entire face (the “mask person”); be sure to cover eye lids, lips and especially eyebrows!

Dip the strips of plaster bandages into water to wet fairly thoroughly; begin putting the strips on the child’s face, starting with areas that do not cover eyes, nostrils and mouth. Overlap and smooth plaster as you work. The child can decide if they want their eyes, nostrils and mouth covered as this is optional.

Making a plaster face mask.

When all areas that the child wants are covered with plaster and there is a nice firm covered surface, let dry for about 4 minutes or until it is firm enough to the touch to pull it off without the mask falling apart.

Pull the mask off the face by having the child make faces… smile, frown, wiggle etc. so that the mask simply pulls away from the face.

How to make a plaster mask.

The mask can be further smoothed out, added to, patched etc. before letting it dry completely. Add plaster bandages around edges (the edge of the mask; the eyes, mouth or nostrils, for example if they were not covered with plaster) for a nice, finished look. This also strengthens the mask so it will not fall apart.

When the mask is completely dry, paint and decorate as desired.

Plaster face mask.

Display, use and enjoy!

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