The word papier mache is used inaccurately because this term indicates a method involving paper left to soak in water and then beaten to a pulp with glue, creating thereby a kind of paste.
More precisely it is question of using paper strips or pasted paper because the technique does in fact involve strips of paper pasted on top of one another.
Mask-making is a rather time-consuming craft: The first step is to make a model in clay over which liquid plaster is then poured to make a mould. Once dried and hardened the mould (which is now in negative) is then lined with gum lack and Vaseline for isolation, and then wet strips of absorbent paper are laid in it.
After having covered the entire surface it is advisable to apply firm pressure over the surface with the fingers to ensure the paper is attached to the mould and to smooth out air-bubbles or folds.
An abundant layer of wall-paper paste is applied followed by more paper. This procedure is repeated several times until the desired thickness is obtained, which can vary from 3 to 5 layers according to the size of the mask.
Once dry the mask is extracted from the mould and finished with sand paper to render the surface as smooth as possible, any imperfections being corrected with stucco.
At this stage excess is trimmed from the edges, the eyes are cut out and then the first layer of white distemper is applied, after which the mask is ready for the second phase, that of decoration.
Today it is very difficult for an untrained eye to distinguish an original mask made of papier-mâché (or paper strips) to those in circulation unfortunately made of plastic or cardboard printed or imported.
Surely the irregularity of the mask is a good sign of the ''handmade''.
Decoration gives full reign to the imagination and involves various techniques and materials including : enamel, tempera, acrylic, varnish, lacquer, stucco-relief, gold leaf, liquid bitumen (for aging), cloth, lace,macramè, strass and many others . . . .
Traditional masks are decorated in period style, adding however a personal touch to distinguish them.
The more elaborate ones allow us full creative scope and are enriched with gold leaf, stucco-relief, strass, trimmings and flowers, and many different forms are created for wearing during Carnival or for decorative purposes, displaying old master copies of famous artists like Tiepolo, Boucher, Longhi, Klimt and many others.