Like in other traditions, Užgavėnės is a time to scare winter and the cold away and to usher in spring. One of the traditions is a parade with masks made of wood, paper, straw, animal hides and the like.
Here we provide instructions on how to make your own basic paper mask. Once you have the basic mask done, you may create whatever character you wish!
Materials needed for each mask:
- 1 Human helper (you can do this alone, but it is more difficult and it’s more fun to share!)
- 1 Plastic grocery bag
- 2-4 Paper grocery bags
- White glue (e.g., Elmer’s)
- Shallow pan
- Sponge or fabric rag
(These instructions are for using paper grocery bags and white glue, but you can also use pre-glued paper packaging tape, though that can be costly.)
- Cut or tear paper bags into narrow strips of about 1/2″ (tearing will give a more smooth edge and could be used for finishing layers).
- Fill a shallow pan with a bit of water. Mix in enough white glue to make a watery paste the consistency of a very thin crepe batter.
- Cut handles off of plastic grocery bag.
- Tie plastic bag onto head, making sure you cover the hair.
- Using one long strip, run strip through the glue solution, using the sponge or rag and the side of the pan to remove excess.
Note: If the glue doesn’t want to stick, you may leave the strip in the solution for a minute or two, but not too long so the paper is completely soaked as that will make the paper prone to tearing.
- Encircle head like a crown with first strip.
Note: If you have sensitive skin, you may simply use glue at the connection points so that no glue comes into contact with your skin.
- Run the second strip from the top of the head, under the chin, and then back up the other side to meet the beginning of the strip.
- Using shorter strips, continue to build the top of the mask until the crown is completely covered.
- To finish the face, the next strip goes under the nose and connects with the second foundation strip on either side of the face.
- Run a strip over the end of the nose, connecting with either the second foundation strip or the strip running under the nose.
- Last foundation strip will be over the top of the eyebrows.
- Keep building on these foundation strips until the face is completely covered, leaving the eyes and the mouth/below the nose uncovered. At this point, it is OK if your edges are uneven. You can trim them once the mask is removed.
- To remove the mask, you may carefully slip it off if possible. You may need to cut if off. If you do this, be careful not to cut the hair underneath.
- Let mask dry.
This type of mask is made to fit only the person it is made on or someone with similar sized (or smaller) features and head. If you wish to make the mask more universally-sized, you may cut the back part of the head off and attach elastic or ties to hold it on.
Once the mask base is dry, you may continue to build on it to make traditional characters like a stork, bear, wolf, or goat. If you do not wait until the base is dry, you run the risk of warping the mask, making it more difficult to get it on and off later.
After your sculpted mask is dry, you can either leave it natural with the brown paper bag finish (assuming you used the unprinted side) or paint it and use embellishments like yarn for hair or fur, or fake fur.
You can also use this method to build around a balloon at the end of a stick to make a stork, for instance.
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