Two takes on an owl mask to inspire you for the season
I love dressing up for Halloween, or Carnival, or parties, but I often want to wear a costume that is really time consuming and elaborate and takes months of preparation to create. The past few years, I haven’t had space or time or money for such a thing, so I haven’t made any ambitious costumes. But then there have been days or moments when I want to join in the festive spirit, and wished I had a quick, easy costume that didn’t require planning.
I also live in Roermond, Netherlands, a city that loves Carnival and has annual opportunities to dress up. So a few weeks ago I suggested to Denise that we both make owl masks (since the owl is the Carnival mascot of Roermond), and share them on Halloween. My hope was to make something that I could toss on spontaneously if I wanted a costume, but that wouldn’t take up a lot of space or energy otherwise.
My mask design was really defined by two characteristics:
- Proportion. An owl’s facial proportions are very different from a person’s. I really wanted to use the shape and proportion of an owl’s face, which meant making something very round and flat and disc-like.
- Eyes. I was stuck for a long time on how to achieve big, glossy, black owl eyes that I could see through. I know there are a number of different ways to achieve this, but none of them seemed easy to me.
I suddenly thought to use lenses from an old pair of sunglasses to make the eyes. Then I realized that if I used the entire pair of sunglasses as a framework, I could achieve both the eyes and that flat, disc shape in one blow. So I did this:
The entire mask is attached to a pair of sunglasses. I’m a genius!
To make the mask,
- I cut the mask shape out of cardboard, and cut holes for the eyes and nose/beak.
- I cut up a cereal box to shape the nose/beak area, leaving enough room for my own nose on the inside.
- I added a layer of paper-maché to the entire front of the mask, securing the nose in place, and adding a piece of wire that spans the front along the brow line, embedded in the paper-maché.
- I used textile glue to add a piece of fabric over the entire inside of the mask to make it more comfortable against my face.
- I used a needle and thread to sew the cardboard mask to the sunglasses, making sure that each stitch wrapped around the piece of wire on the front. The wire should prevent the stitches from wearing away and/or pulling through the cardboard over time.
- Just for extra security, I added a bunch of hot glue over the stitches on the inside.
- Then I covered the front side with fur yarn, adding it in rows to try to simulate the pattern of barn owl feathers.
I actually ended up using a matte eyeshadow palette to “paint” the brown shading onto the fur, and used a fake fingernail to make the tip of the beak. I’m actually pretty pleased with the outcome, and happy to have something that I can just toss on if an occasion arises!
I began with a cardboard framework, covered with paper maché – like the Youtube video https://youtu.be/wCxRyZbLq6A of Japanese Kitsune fox masks. I decided to make a mask that covered just the upper half of my face.
When the paper maché was dry, I applied a coat of DIY paper clay.
The texture of the paper clay wasn’t right; I decided to add a thin coat of wood putty, and texture it to simulate feathers. The beak is cut from a wine cork.
Apply acrylic paint and voila!
We got together for a reveal of our separate efforts. It was interesting to see the choices we made and the results we got. And it’s a total coincidence that we both chose to make barn owls!
We both think it will be fun to take on similar separate-but-together projects in the future.
And now I have a mask to wear for Halloween, and for Carnaval (that’s how it’s spelled in Dutch) – and it also looks good hanging on my living room wall!