Felted mask workshop
On 11th March I attended a felted mask making workshop with Carol Mowl, a textile teacher, at her studio at Beetlefelt in Manchester. Prior to the workshop I drew a few mask designs to follow during the workshop, in which I included colours and some detail that I could base my mask designs on.
First I discussed my designs with Carol to see if it would be possible to create them in the way that I pictured them. There were mask bases with different facial features and expressions to chose from. I chose a feminine mask with subtle features for one mask and a more masculine mask for the second mask.
The process for making a felted mask is as follows. I covered the table with plastic sheeting, with a towel on top, then a layer of bubble wrap, and a piece of thin nylon material similar to fine net curtains. For the lion mask I chose a base colour of off white and covered the nylon with a thin layer of wool tops with the fibres facing horizontally I then applied another layer of the same colour this time with the fibres facing vertically, and a third layer facing horizontally again. For the fourth and final layer I added different colours to detail light and shade, eyebrows, nose and whiskers, with several strands of curly unspun wool to create the mane.
Then came the hard work. I covered the wool with another sheet of nylon, poured lukewarm water over the top, flipped it over to add more water on the back, massaged soap into both sides. Then I massaged the fibres quite vigorously on the upper and lower surface in order to felt every fibre and strand of wool into place. This process took around ten minutes and I kept checking to see if the wool was felting together and to pin point which areas needed more massaging.
The hardest part of the whole process involved rolling up the two layers of nylon including the felted piece and towel into a sausage which I then rolled backwards and forwards with a lot of pressure. I then unrolled it, turned the two nylon pieces by 90 degrees, repeating the process of rolling and turning by 90 degrees another two times until it had gone the whole 360 degrees and completely felted together.
Next came the messy part. I carefully removed the nylon sheets and put my mask into a large bowl of diluted PVA glue until it had soaked through the felting. I then placed the mask over the mask base, manipulated the material until in the right position, moulded it into the mask base shape and added details such as wrinkles, cheekbones and eyes. I pegged the wrinkles to hold them until the piece had dried which takes up to a week.