How to Make a Colorful Gourd Art Mask

Paint a vibrantly-colored mask embellished with raffia hair and glass beads.

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Materials and Tools:

half of a cleaned gourd
respirator
eye protection
electric mini jigsaw
wood-burning tool
awl
bleach
paper clay
raffia
twine
glass beads
acrylic paint
water-based varnish
gourdling (small bottle gourd)
copper wire
colored wire
wood bead
wood base
acrylic paint
acrylic varnish

Steps:

1. Begin with a clean, dried, hard-shell gourd, preferably as round as possible. Draw a line in pencil around the gourd from the stem to the base and back, as a guide for cutting it in half.

2. Wearing a respirator and eye protection, cut the gourd in half using an electric mini jigsaw.

3. Discard inner contents of gourd and immerse the two halves in a solution of warm, soapy bleach water. Scrub the interior of the gourd clean.

4. While the gourd is drying, sketch a design for the mask. Determine shape of eyes, mouth and decorative design.

5. Using one half of the gourd, sketch the design directly onto the surface of the gourd.

6. Wearing a respirator, cut out the eye shapes and the mouth using a jigsaw.

7. Use a wood-burning tool to draw over the pencil marks of the surface design.

8. Using an awl, punch holes on either side of the face, approximately halfway down. These holes will be for the twine used to hang the mask.

9. Punch several more holes along the top edge of the mask, evenly spaced. These holes are for attaching the raffia.

10. Separate about three or four strands of raffia for each hole. Fold each group of strands in half, so that you have a loop at one end.

11. Push the loop through the hole from the backside of the mask until you have a 1-inch loop protruding on the front. Bring the other end of the raffia over the top of the mask and through the loop (a Lark's head knot). Pull the knot tight.

12. Repeat steps 10 and 11 for each hole (except for the initial two holes).

13. Cut three 3-foot lengths of twine. Thread them through the initial two holes that you punched, so that they dangle on either side of the face. Knot them on the outside to secure the twine in place. Use this to hang the piece on the wall.

14. Thread glass beads onto the ends of the twine so that they dangle like earrings.

15. Knead a golf ball-sized chunk of paper clay and roll it into a snake. Place the clay along the hairline of the mask and push it in slightly between each raffia knot. Allow the clay to dry overnight.

16. Once the clay has dried, you may need to glue it to the mask if it has not completely adhered to the surface.

17. Using acrylics, paint the mask surface and the surface of the paper clay. Paint the entire face blue; the design around eyes purple, green and black; and paint white dots around the mouth. Let dry.

18. Apply varnish over dry paint.

19. Arrange raffia hair and trim to desired length.

Susan Begin, Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Web site: www.begindesigns.com

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