Friday, 4 December 2015


Recently, I did some costume workshops for the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton - if you have never been before it is a fantastic venue, a wonderful producing theatre with a fantastic programme of shows!

For one of the two workshops, I had my workshop group create a mood board from images I provided and, working from it, make a dragon mask. The most important part of the task was that, as it is a costume, they needed to characterise their mask - happy, sad, angry, comical, it needed to communicate a personality as well as being a practical, wearable mask. I found and printed 40 different research images for them to draw inspiration from, a wide variety of masks from different cultures and era's, shapes and purposes, from a variety of different designers. The idea was to give them as many options as possible to design and create from. They were on a strict time limit for it due to the length of the session, and in order to make sure they could do their mood board and mask in time, I decided to make a prototype in the same amount of time I was giving them.
I gave myself 15 minutes for the mood board, and then an hour and ten minutes for the mask, making sure I had exactly the same materials as I was giving them. I had selected two different mask shapes for the workshop, a full face mask and a Venetian style bird shape - very similar in shape to the Venetian Scaramouche mask! I chose to use a scaramouche shape.
The idea of a mood board is to be an inspiration and communication tool, to hold idea's to work from. Bypassing the drawn design stage and working straight from a mood board was, I felt, the best way to communicate their inspiration for their masks in the time frame we had to work with.
Selecting my inspiration photographs and making small notes on personality and design aspects to communicate, I quickly got started on my prototype - I wanted to make an angry dragon, but more sinister, and not to use red but green and gold instead. I wanted to get a lot of texture onto my dragon, and to try and create horns.
To start, I used hot glue to form spikes to add base surface texture. I selected my fabric, a muted green stretch fabric, then added more hot glue to the hardened spikes and pinched the fabric around them to add wrinkles and contour

To create the horns I rolled sugar paper into a thin tube and then twisted it into the shape that I wanted - very much taking inspiration from Maleficent in the horn shape - then using hot glue I twisted and formed the fabric around and onto the horns

To get the more prominent, sunken eyed look I used paper the same way as I did to make the horns, and stuck it onto the mask at the eyebrows before putting the fabric over it. Here is the mask before I dry-brushed a mixture of black and red acrylic paint onto the horns, snout, and into the eye sockets and onto the raised sections of fabric to make the contours stand out more, and then added gold organza underneath to further disguise and distort the performer adding to the characterisation. I felt gold also added to the 'fiery' and 'magical' impression of my dragon.

Here's the finished mask after it was painted, as you can see the paint has really added to the contouring and make it a much more visually impressive mask 

So there we have it! My dragon prototype mask, an angry, green and gold dragon with horns - taking exactly 1 hour and 10 minutes!