II. Mask-Making Steps and Procedures:
A note on preparation: I consider it a kind of "sacred space" when I work with clients or groups to make their Life-Masks.
For me, thoughtful preparation and inquiry by the person making the Life-Mask is one of the most important and valuable aspects of the mask-making process. (Even kids have incredible personal insights, and take home something far more valuable than a "cool art project" if you give them the opportunity for some self-inquiry prior to and throughout the experience.)
So, when I make masks with clients or in groups, I do several things to help them get the most out of the experience, using a series of questionnaires, dream work, journaling, and guided visualizations I've developed. (I'll have more of my own tapes, interviews, and processes available in the future -- stay tuned...)
Ok, here we go with your face mask!
Start by putting a wide head band on your client (or yourself if your making your own mask). Try and cover the hair line all around face as well as possible. I often just tear an old piece of sheet and use that as a head band.
Apply a good even coating of petroleum jelly to the entire face –being sure to put extra along hair line, on eyebrows, eyelashes, and lips. (you can substitute petroleum jelly for something more "appealing" but make sure it's a heavy cream (I've used vitamin e-oil with a little wax and other herbs – combining mask making with facial!).
In one of your plastic bowls, put about 1/2C of warm or cool water and sprinkle in about 1/3c Plaster of Paris (Always add plaster to the water, not the other way around). This light plaster/water mixer makes a smoother finish (and a faster set time) for the plaster gauze strips.
Dip one plaster strip at a time into the water/plaster mixture and apply to face (see diagram for hints or refer to references to order my booklet which goes into more detail)
I start along outside of face.
Make sure each strip overlaps with previous strip and smooth into close contact with face with your fingers.
I put small pieces around nostril area early on (and while clients eyes and mouth are still free) so that your subject is certain of his/her ability to breathe. (that includes you, if you're doing yourself).
Having the eyes and mouth covered with plaster depends on what you (or the client) wants for the finished mask. If you want a mask with a screaming mouth for example, you might want to leave the lips free of plaster.
If you want an inner mask, often the eyes closed (covered) is more powerful. In either event, I save around eyes and mouth (if the subject wants these covered) for the end.
Let the subject know when you are about to cover the eyes or mouth, taking care to smooth the wet strips into place so you get a good mold without poking too hard.) (If you are doing this on yourself in front of a mirror, I suggest you keep your eyes uncovered …duh! – though I've done myself covered a few times).
When all areas of the face have been covered (2 layers is usually fine for most places with a little extra layering along the outer face line and jaw line.. (This is because this is where the most stress is place when taking the mask off.)
Finally, I add a little more plaster to the water bowl (so its a thick cream texture) and I work to really smooth and finish the mask.
While your subject is still under the plaster, its a great time to (wipe your hands and) snap an instant photo! (After the experience, people love the mysterious look of themselves completely sealed under a plaster mask – its quite evocative!