What is cartapesta?
Well, basically, it's italian for papier-mâché. But the technique I use for the masks was adapted, to give a better finish. When people ask how I make the masks it's always a bit complicated to explain that cartapesta is not exactly the most commonly known form of papier-mâché, which uses pulp (paper dissolved in water to make a paste). It is actually made with strips, but still not exactly as you'll see on papier-mâché tutorials.
Most of the pulp and strip techniques you'll find online are quite messy. You have to use a lot of water, and a lot of glue, and lose a bowl forever by filling it with adhesive and macerated or striped paper. And have glue all over your hands through the whole process. That's a no no for me.
The technique I use I learned from the amazing mask maker Agostino Dessì. You can see pictures of the courses he gives on his facebook page.
So how is it done?
- To start we need a negative of the form (a negative means it is a concave, you'll be seeing the inside of the form). It will look like this:
- The strips are molded one by one inside the plaster. I use a squirt bottle to moisten them as much as I need before putting them down, so no big bowls full of water. After a few were adjusted to the plaster, I put on some glue with a paintbrush. It will start looking like this:
I was using used coffee filters for this one
- After I completed the form I put on a coat of glue on all of it and let it dry
- And voilá. When it's really hot I can take it out in about 5 to 6 hours, but usually I'll leave it overnight. After that it will receive a coat of glue on the outside, which was facing the plaster, and after a good dry my fingers will die trimming the edges and opening the eyes (the paper becomes so hard, you have no idea)
That's about it! Takes a long time of practice and experimentation, but it's a very nice technique that makes smooth, strong, and durable pieces.
Hope you enjoyed the post, and see you next time ;)