Here in the south Netherlands the end of winter means one thing – CARNAVAL! Particularly in Maastricht where I am, this festival is alive and well and everyone in the city is required to either celebrate whole-heartedly or get the hell out of dodge. I know quite a few people who choose the latter to escape the craziness! I’m lucky to live a little outside the city centre so will at least have a little sanctuary to recover in.
For Mestreechters, Carnaval is a chance to get dressed up and enjoy the city with a sense of freedom and irreverence. Almost everything (except the bars and pubs of course) is closed for the Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of the Carnaval weekend, so there is no excuse not to party hard. In preparation and as something to do in the colder months here, people work long and hard on their costumes – this year my boyfriend and I will be Tintin and Snowy so I’ll have to practice my dog makeup!
Last year we had only been in Maastricht for a few months and had no idea what was going on (see above for photos of 2019 Carnaval)! To be honest, it’s all still a bit of a mystery but this year we will be doing our best to join in the festivities in our own way.
To give you a bit of an idea of the insanity that is Carnaval, check out the photos below:
Since clearly ’tis the season, I decided that this week’s craft group meet-up should be in the spirit of Carnaval. At first I thought some funky headbands might work but since we have a few participants who wear head scarves I settled on masks – and am glad I did. I found some great mask bases for everyone to decorate and we had a ball!
Some additional supplies you might need include:
- HB pencil
- Acrylic paints
- Glitter paint
- Stick-on pearls and rhinestones
- Hot glue gun and glue
- Paint brushes including some old or cheap brushes to use with glue
Skills and Techniques:
This project is another nice easy one which can accommodate a variety of skill levels which is perfect for a craft group or class. The steps below show one way of decorating a mask but I encourage you to try different techniques and use your own skills to really make it your own!
Once you have completed this project you or your class will be able to:
- Decoupage using white glue and tissue paper
- Use various painting techniques to decorate your mask
- Participate in your own Carnaval celebrations with your beautiful new mask!
Step One: If you are choosing to use decoupage as part of your decoration this is where you should start! Rip your tissue paper into small pieces, these don’t have to be neat at all. Using an old paint brush, spread some glue onto the mask and place your first piece of tissue paper on top. Paint over this with more white glue to smooth it out. Place another piece overlapping the first and cover with glue. Continue using this method until you have covered the section you want to decoupage (or the entire piece).
Step Two: When it comes to the edges, use a small amount of glue beneath the paper on the back side of your mask, stick this down, then cover and smooth with more glue using the same method as in Step One. Try to get the folded edge to stick as closely as possible to the mask. To do this, I recommend only having a small amount of overhang and not trying to fold over a large section.
Step Three: Once you have covered your entire mask or chosen section with tissue paper, leave to dry for a few minutes – white glue shouldn’t take too long! Once dry, you can decorate in any way you choose. On my mask, I painted some black ‘eyeliner’ with a fine brush and a steady hand. Acrylic paint works well on tissue paper so you should have any trouble getting it to stick.
Step Four: Once I outlined the eyes of my mask, I decided to add some red paint around the edges. I wanted this to blend in with the copper tissue paper colour so used a tissue and my fingers to rub it in rather than paint it on. One happy accident was that the tissue rubbed some of the glue off too, leaving a cool grungy effect which I really like! If this isn’t your thing, I recommend sticking to using your fingers or a sponge.
I also used this technique later to add colour to the eye sockets, nose and cheeks which can be seen in the final photos after Step Six.
Step Five: I decided I wanted to add some eyebrows to my piece and so carefully drew on some eyebrow shapes with lead pencil (HB works best). Use some white glue with a nozzle or paint brush to cover this shape and then add whatevever decoration you have chosen – I used sequins but beads or glitter could also work.
I also added some stick-on rhinestones along the bottom edge of my mask’s eyes to emphasise the shape. You can see this in the final pictures below Step Six.
Step Six: If you want to add feathers, it is much easier to use a hot glue gun than wait for white or craft glue to dry. Carefully work out where you would like your feathers to be placed on your mask. I chose to glue mine on the inside. Place a small amount of glue where the thickest parts of the feather(s) will sit and carefully push the feathers into the glue. Take care not to burn yourself during this step!
NOTE: This step requires an adult and if you are leading a craft group or class, take special care to keep an eye on the glue gun as hot glue can be very dangerous. I let everyone know when I was turning it on and was the only person to use it. Do not leave a hot glue gun on for long periods of time and always remember to unplug it when it isn’t being used.
And we’re all done! As you might be able to see above and below, I added some dots and lashes with acrylic paints as well as a little bit of glitter paint around the edges and along the top edge of the eyes. I just kept adding bits and pieces until I was happy and in the end I love the way it turned out.
I wholeheartedly recommend that you and / or your craft group take some of the techniques above and see how you can make them your own! If you need some more inspiration check out my DIY mask pinterest board here!
One of the best things about leading this lesson was seeing how unique all our masks were and the ways people had chosen to use the same materials. You can see some of their beautiful results below:
The plan of attack for this project was to let everyone do more or less what they felt like. This isn’t always a good idea but I felt that within the parameters of mask decorating and in the spirit of Carnaval, letting everyone loose with their own creativity seemed like a great way to go. The only thing that a ‘lesson plan’ might have to accommodate is drying time for glue and paint but I didn’t think acrylic paints or white glue would take too long – fortunately I was right!
Overall this lesson was a lot of fun! The room swung from being full of voices chatting and helping one another, and being almost silent with concentration. I think these are probably two of the best signs for a successful project.
- Sparkles, sparkles and more sparkles! I bought a lot of sequins and stick-on rhinestones which went down a treat. I think no matter how old you are, we’re all magpies at heart when it comes to lovely shiny things. The self-adhesive ones in particular were a great find and probably halved the amount of glue we needed.
- Letting people tap into their own creativity and choose how they wanted to decorate their masks was definitely a good plan. The lack of structure meant the results were unique and people who liked painting could paint, people who liked gluing could glue etc. – a win / win.
What I would change next time:
- Less tissue – I found that even though more than half of the group chose to do a little bit of decoupage, I didn’t need any where near as much as I bought. Of course it will not go to waste and if you want a few options you will probably end up with more than you need, but for once I would say go low on the tissue – a little goes a long way.
- Decoupage tutorial – As our group tends to trickle in it can be hard to show everyone how to do something at the same time but I think a quick decoupage demonstration for people who would like to see early in the class would work well. I ended up showing a couple of people at a time and it was hard to get to everyone before they sat down and started painting or using different techniques. This lead to some amazing masks so I am not at all upset but I might try to take the lead a bit more if I were to lead this project again.
Unfortunately I cannot share a photograph of all of us in our masks but you have to trust that we looked very festive and ready for Carnaval! I’m hoping we get to do some kind of celebration next week to finish off our Carnaval themed projects so I’ll keep you updated. I’m thinking cupcake decorating (and eating) might be involved so stay tuned!
As always, let me know if you try this project and don’t forget to tag me in your photos or send them my way as I’d love to see! If you have any questions or would like to share your own Carnaval or festival story please leave a comment or drop me an email. Are there any special celebrations where you live?