Saturday, May 10, 2008

Death Mask on a Low Budget

[psssst... the original title for this post was "Wrapped in Plastic" but it made me giggle every time i looked at it] When Rachel was in college she learned to make plastic masks cast off of the actors. I've seen some of the lovely ones she had cast and painted; i was rightly amazed. A few years ago she made one for Open Space's production of former team member Annie's play The Stained Glass Phoenix. Again, i was intrigued. I couldn't help but wonder how it felt to have your face covered in warm plastic : how would you breathe, how long would it take, could i possibly keep still long enough? She has always said that someday she would cast me since I was so interested, but we never found the time. This week the issue became a bit more pressing as Rachel is moving to New Jersey today. She had some leftover plastic that she wasn't sure would make a good enough mask to paint, but there are some things in life i just want to experience regardless of the outcome. Thursday night i went over to her apartment for dinner and plastination (ummmm, actually that's something entirely different that i'm not quite ready for). She was working on a mask for her friend Kristen so she figured she could do both at the same time and Kristen could take pictures of the process for me. The first step was to pull all of my hair back and cover my face with Vaseline. Rachel warned that i really needed to make sure my eyebrows and eyelashes were coated so that the plastic wouldn't pull them out. Yikes! Have you ever tried to cover your eyelashes with Vaseline? That is an experience in and off itself. Be warned, the following pictures would NOT go in my model portfolio: slick and greasy is a good look for no one While I was slathering up, Rachel melted the Friendly Plastic. You crafters out there will recognize the brand name as the strips you buy and melt with hot water or an embossing tool to make embellishments. You can buy it in pellet form off of the internet for applications like casting. She put the amount of pellets she wanted into a glass bowl with water and microwaved the whole mess. It ends up looking a bit like frog eggs Once it is hot enough she kneads it into a homogeneous mass, presses out the bubbles, forms a face-sized patty, checks the temperature so as to not scald the skin, places it over the willing well-lubed model, and molds it from the forehead to the temples, over the eyes, down and around the nose. I can't really describe how it felt. It was warm and soothing until I felt it pushed gently over my nostrils. I knew it was coming and wasn't freaked out, but it was certainly unlike anything i've ever felt before. I had to really concentrate on mouth breathing (which is very attractive, as captured by the above pictures). Then it was time to just wait. I did well holding still and breathing, but it was hard not to talk (who's surprised by that?) and when i did try to join in Kristen and Rachel's conversation I sounded like I had a ridiculous cold. I am unclear about how long it took to set; i'd guess between 5 and 10 minutes. It was a really cool sensation to feel it cooling, hardening and starting to pull away from my skin slightly. As it sets the Friendly Plastic turns from clear to white Kristen took a lot of pictures and in this one i held my breath in order to close my mouth so that every image didn't look like a gasping dying fish After it is set Rachel peels off the mask while the model hopes that the Vaseline leaves her eyebrows intact After a thorough face washing it is time to celebrate the finished product Rachel told me how to clean it, prime it and paint it if I want. I haven't decided what i'm going to do with my plastic face casting, but it was amazing to have it made. Good luck in nursing school, Rachel. I know you'll do great. I'll miss the experimental cuisine and will try to find more ways to cook asparagus. ps - thanks for all the stuff you were getting rid off in the move, especially the crockpot and the mini-Cuisinart. I'm gonna go find something to grind and then cook slowly!


Rachel said...

thank you niki! and you're very welcome for everything. thank you for providing me with tastebuds to experiment on!

Rachel said...

oh, and technically it's a life mask, not a death mask... they do those too