Introduction: Make a Bauta Mask

The bauta mask is probably the most famous of the Venetian masks. It was worn both by the nobility (to protect their identities while they got up to various shenanigans) and by the lower classes (so people would mistake them for nobility). It was used for anonymity during political decisions in the 18th century. You might also recognize it as the mask Heath Ledger rocked in "Casanova." Here I make it with cardboard and paper mache clay.

You will need:

Thin cardboard

Masking tape

Aluminium foil

Paper mache (I use a "clay" made from toilet paper, white glue, and drywall compound, more on this later)


Picture hangers (for the hooks)

A strip of leather for the strap

Step 1: The Form

The form is made of cardboard and very simple. Cut out a piece large enough to fit over your upper face when curved. Cut out eyeholes (you can adjust these later) and a flap for the nose. The oversized lip is a little more tricky, and I find it's easiest just to guess at it and keep trimming until it fits. The lip will help maintain the curve of the face pieces. Use plenty of tape, this is a pretty forgiving process. I'm not providing a template because everyone's face is different but you get the idea.

Step 2: Start Shaping!

Here's the fun part. Using crumpled aluminium foil and plenty of tape, block out the nose, eyebrows and cheeks. This is your chance to get creative. I find that more is better, and you can always add more layers. I prefer to use foil over paper mache because it is dry and holds a shape well. Just keep adding foil and tape until it looks the way you want it. The foil and tape will add structural integrity until the whole thing keeps its shape and is strong.

Step 3: Add Paper Mache Clay

Paper mache clay is easier to use than paper mache and dries smooth and hard. The recipe I used was invented by Jonni Good and is available (free!) on her excellent website, Cover the mask with a layer of the clay and shape the fine details like the eyelids and nostrils. (Before I did this I made the eyes larger and trimmed the lip a bit.)

Step 4: Paint!

For the hooks I used brass ring picture hangers, glued and taped in place. I gave it a couple of layers of gesso and then finished it with an ivory white acrylic paint. Nowadays bauta masks are often decorated with gold leaf, feathers and sequins but I prefer the more traditional look. The strap is just a piece of suede lace but you could use elastic for a snugger fit. Ready for Carnivale!