#6 - How I Made the Frankie Masks 

We've all seen a lot of news about N95 masks lately, how about we talk about a fun kind of mask?  

When I finished recording Frankie and the No-Go Road, I knew I wanted masks to be involved in my cd release shows.  That record is a concept album about a hero's journey, a series of steps shared by cultures all over the world in their stories and myths.  Many cultures believe masks have healing powers, or supernatural powers.  I certainly believe in their power of transformation, and I wanted to bring my two main characters, Frankie and Wetiko, to life during the concerts. Thus I needed masks to wear for myself, and for my adventurous audience members.

I knew what they would look like, as I'd already drawn them for the CD art, and had begun an animation project as well.  So, I embarked on mask making, and felt like I was in a free-for-all, unsupervised, hurried, kindergarten craft party. It was fabulous.  I decided I needed to do paper mâché, and I dove in with naiveté and relish. 

[While you look: if you'd like to imagine the Wetiko chasing Frankie, who would be paddling furiously around a concert hall to escape, please go to the bottom of the page and press play for Spirit Canoe, from Frankie and the No-Go Road.]

Frankie and Wetiko Mask Making

1. For Frankie, our hero, I started by pressing multiple layers of tin foil over my face, to make an impression.  Then I covered some of the outside with masking tape.  For Wetiko, our villain, I wanted a much larger face, so I went with a cardboard cut out with balls of newspaper and more cardboard piled on top.  Then I put masking tape all over that.  Ingredients used so far are -- 

Tin foil, Cardboard, Newspaper, Lots of Masking Tape 

 

 

2. The paper mâché began.  It was a glorious mess. I don't have a photo of the process because it was rather impractical, but I did it outside and used a mix of --  

Newspaper, Water, Elmer's glue, and a bit of Flour.  

3. To make a smoother and easier surface for painting, I made the last paper mâché layer out of white paper towels.

Paper Towels

 

4. After they dried, I got to gut them -- tear out the balled up newspaper and cardboard, and tin foil.

 

5. Next, I applied a layer of homemade gesso, which hardened them some more, and made an even smoother surface to take paint.  
I used a mixture of --

All Purpose Joint Compound, Elmer's Glue, and White Acrylic Paint.

 

6. Then it was time to paint! I used acrylic paints from our kids' painting supplies. 

Acrylic Paints

 

7. I realized that I needed something to fill the amount of forehead space, so when I attached my headgear, it wouldn't be flush against my face. So I found some foam in our closet and glued it in with a hot glue gun.

Foam, Hot Glue

8. I wanted hair for both, and I wanted it to cover the back of the head. I bought two Halloween wigs -- on witch and one wizard, and hot glued them to the top edges of the masks. 

Halloween Wigs, Hot Glue

 

9. The "headgear" scheme I chose was to alter some baseball hats. The masks had to be adjustable for everyone (I have a huge head,) and they needed to stay on, hands-free, during some fast movements. 
I found this idea online from a woman who made a bunch of masks for a school production. 
I cut off the bills, turned them around, and sewed them very strongly to the front of the hats. 
This made for a sturdy base to hot-glue to the inside of the masks.

Baseball hats, Thread, Hot Glue

 

10. Wetiko needed teeth, which I made out of some old, hard modeling clay from kid days. I hot glued them to his gums.  Once in a while he'd lose one during a show, but I don't think anyone minded. 
I also attached some bones and feathers to his lovely white hair. 

Modeling Clay, Hot Glue, Bones, Feathers, Thread 

Then, they were done!  Front and inside, fully functional!

 


 


 

 

5 comments

  • Michelle Noe
    Michelle Noe
    Those are amazing, even in a little photo. Powerful stuff going on.

    Those are amazing, even in a little photo. Powerful stuff going on.

  • Rita Hosking
    Rita Hosking
    Hey Michelle! Oh yeah, this was deep work, it still calls to me to explore it more. Someday I'd love to create a musical out of it. Assuming that doesn't happen, I'll settle for another tour of it, but with even more of a multimedia experience!

    Hey Michelle! Oh yeah, this was deep work, it still calls to me to explore it more. Someday I'd love to create a musical out of it. Assuming that doesn't happen, I'll settle for another tour of it, but with even more of a multimedia experience!

  • Bill Apgood
    Bill Apgood
    Wondering if you felt some kind of change when you wore the mask.

    Wondering if you felt some kind of change when you wore the mask.

  • Rita Hosking
    Rita Hosking
    Yes, absolutely. That's why I love the opportunity to have audience members wear them as well -- a step even deeper into the story.

    Yes, absolutely. That's why I love the opportunity to have audience members wear them as well -- a step even deeper into the story.

  • Bill Apgood
    Bill Apgood
    Reading that, it makes me think of those cultures in which mask rituals play such a regular part of the life in those societies. First Nations, Sardinian, and African, the rituals woven into the life in an integral way. There has to be a reason. That is such a neat idea to do that, have (receptive) audience members participate. I have a friend, very sincerly into First Nations observance, (he pledged at Sundance for several years), who had a mask he'd done, studying under elder teacher he called "uncle". I never asked him too much about it, it was over his fireplace. It felt somewhat like your Wetiko, but looked more Inuit. There is definitely something uniquely powerful about masks.

    Reading that, it makes me think of those cultures in which mask rituals play such a regular part of the life in those societies. First Nations, Sardinian, and African, the rituals woven into the life in an integral way. There has to be a reason. That is such a neat idea to do that, have (receptive) audience members participate. I have a friend, very sincerly into First Nations observance, (he pledged at Sundance for several years), who had a mask he'd done, studying under elder teacher he called "uncle". I never asked him too much about it, it was over his fireplace. It felt somewhat like your Wetiko, but looked more Inuit. There is definitely something uniquely powerful about masks.

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