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Gourd Mask Tutorial "Angelique" - Step-by-Step Tutorial How to Make a Gourd Mask

Step-by-Step Gourd Mask Tutorial by Nedra Denison

This is my first full step-by-step gourd tutorial. I decided to start with a mask because they are so much fun to do & it allows you to be very creative. Each mask starts with an idea & evolves every step of the way. The more you step outside the box & let your imagination flow the better it seems to turn out.

This tutorial is intended to show you the steps I used to create this mask. You can sketch your own design & then use this as a guide to create your own mask.  

Preparing the gourd, designing the face & putting the design on the gourd

6/16/12: The first thing is to cut the gourd in half & clean the inside. It's a challenge to get it sliced so it sits flat but using a belt sander really helps solve that problem pretty easily.

The next step is to sketch the design on paper. It is a rough sketch that will change & evolve as I work but I have to start somewhere. Once that is done I start sketching it on the gourd. I use a ruler & Repositional Measurement Paper as needed for laying out the design.Lines are burned into the mask to create a dam so paint & ink won't bleed.

Sometimes I start with the design & then look for beads or something to use as my focal point & other times I have something on hand that I want to use & that will be my guide as to the colors I'm going to use throughout the mask.

One thing I've noticed is that some people don't tie the colors together with the feathers, the face & other embellishments they use. It seems like a Hodge-podge. Each mask I create everything is coordinated so the colors all "fit". Once I figure out my colors I mark my paper sketch so I have some idea of the colors. This often changes but it's a starting point. 

6/17/12: Last night I came up with some new ideas for the mask & finished the sketch. The next stepAll the lines on the mask have been burned. is burning the design so the pencil lines don't smear as I work. It also serve as a "dam" to keep paint & ink from bleeding. I just do the main design of the mask & the rest I will work on as the mask evolves because I know there will be some changes in the design.  I use Razertip pyrography tools. My burner is the dual output & the pen I am using for burning these lines is the RTHD14SM SM/Med Round-Heeled Knife. I like this because it's short, blunt heel makes it very easy to maneuver curved lines. One thing to remember when burning on gourds is to keep the tips clean. You can learn how to clean the tips on my Gourd Pyrography & Safety Tutorial.

6/18/12: I made some more changes to the face but that's pretty normal. Until I burn all the lines & start painting nothing is permanent. The lines on the face have all been burned now & if you look at the first photo you can see the changes to the face: around the eyes, cheeks, the nose & mouth & chin. Tomorrow I will do some cutting & carving & then lay out the feathers.

Carving & cutting the Gourd

6/19/12: Today was "dirty" day. I worked in Al's shop cutting out the mouth & carving her cheeks. II used a Microlux mini gourd saw to cut out the mouth. used a Microlux Mini Gourd Saw to cut out her mouth then used a sanding stick to sand the edges smooth. Once that was done it was time for the fun stuff of carving her cheeks. I use a small ball carving bur on my Foredom Rotary Tool. I do a free-form "doodle" design on her cheeks. When I add color to the cheeks, the part that is carved will soak up more color & will appear darker than the rest of the cheek. So, not only does it give depth & texture to the mask but it also creates a nice design. I use Al's shop for all my carving, drilling & cutting out because he has a dust collection system & an air compressor to blow off the dust. Be sure to always wear a mask when working with gourds & I alsoFree-form carving using a Foredom Rotary Tool & small ball carving bur. have a lab coat that I wear. When I'm finished I take the mask & lab coat off & leave it in the shop so I don't carry any gourd dust into the house.

The last thing I'm doing today is to paint the inside of the mask. I paint it a charcoal paint mixed with varnish. Some people cover the back of their masks with fabric but I have found that just painting the back of the gourd black/charcoal is enough.

Because my hands are still recovering from the fracture & surgeries I have to do things a little at a time & carving takes a toll on them so it is time for me to rest for the day.

Laying out the feathers & the colors to the paper design

6/20/12: I lay out the feathers & since this is a "Mardi Gras" themed gourd I already know the colorsFeathers are roughly laid out. which will include gold, green & purple. My plan is to take this to the Louisiana Gourd Society's 1st Gourd Festival. If I hadn't already come up with a theme & color scheme I might use my focal point (such as the beads for the eyes or start with feathers I'm just dying to use) to help me choose the overall colors for the mask.

Today "things" got in the way so I didn't accomplish much but I did get a rough layout of the largeMask colors have been selected & notes added to my design on paper. feathers done....VERY rough but it's a starting point. I have not laid out the small feathers that will be in the front but that is done last. Once I start adding the feathers it will probably change a bit but at least I've got the large feathers picked out & roughly placed where they will remain until I start drilling holes & placing the feathers. I took my rough sketch on paper of the face & added notes on the colors I plan on using. I tested the colors on scraps so I can see if the colors I want to use to see if they will blend well with the feathers I've picked out. The colors are perfect so I'm ready to start painting tomorrow.

Painting the mask's face

While this part of the mask is a lot of fun it's also challenging because I have to figure out what colors & mediums to use. Like every other aspect of these masks, that often changes as I go along.

6/21/12: I start filling in the color on the face. For the overall face I have been using the Memories DyeI have started to paint the face of the mask. Inks. I used Sepia for the main part of the face with Chestnut, Brown & Mango for the nose & chin; Green is used for the cheeks & Black for accents. Where the cheeks were carved you can see the color is much deeper than the rest of the cheek area. This creates depth.

I have added a bit of color around the mask (the real mask on the gourd mask) & below the cheeks. For that I used Aztec Gold Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments mixed with Jo Sonja Polyurethane Satin Varnish. I decided to use metallic's for the mask because it needs to be "flashy". I will be using Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments & Lumiere Metallic Paint.

6/22/12: This is the first time I've put a mask on a mask so it should be fun. The overall mask was done with Lumiere Pearl Violet which really made it pop. The accent colors around the mask & in theThe mask face is painted & ready for embellishments. neck area are: Memories green dye ink mixed with Spring Green Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments, Aztec Gold Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments & Reflex Violet Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments. I also used Lumiere Violet Gold next to the Spring Green on the neck. The Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments really add a lot of shimmer & are more opaque than the Lumiere so they really dazzle.

When using the powders with the dye inks I heat set it but when mixed with the polyurethane varnish it's not necessary to heat set. I like both methods but each produces slightly different results. When you mix the powder with the ink you get a deeper color & depending on what color ink is used it can change the overall color of the metallic powder. It's fun experimenting but it's best to test each color combination on a scrap before using it on your project. When I tested out the Spring Green powder with the polyurethane & with the dye ink I decided the color was richer & more vivid when it was mixed with the green dye ink.

Adding Embellishments to the Face

6/23/12: To create a nice accent I decided to add some small tacks over the mask. I measured &Brass linoleum tacks are used for embellishment. marked the face for placement of holes to insert the brass tacks. Using a pin vice with the smallest bit, I drilled holes to insert the tacks. I use brass linoleum tacks that I found at Lowes because they are a "true gold" color (the ones at Home Depot are not as bright & look more brassy). Al cuts the tips off the tacks so they do not protrude too far from the back of the mask.

Once the holes are drilled I applied Jo Sonja Polyurethane Satin Varnish over the entire surface of the mask. This protects the surface & I can then add all the embellishments over the varnish.

6/24/12: The first thing I worked on today is inserting the brass tacks over the mask. I needed to makeInserting the brass tacks into the mask. the holes slightly larger so I don't have to hammer too much. I used the next size bit & re drilled the holes. Using a very small hammer I gently tap them into the holes. The holes were just about the same size as the tack so most fit snugly but I will need to add some hot glue in the back to ensure they don't come out & to make sure any sharp edges are covered. The pin vice I use has a nice large handle so it is easier to drill the holes. While it's faster & easier using a power drill, the bits are too large for these tack. The photo above shows the pin vice (black handle) & the bead reamer (blue handle) that I use if I need to make the holeMask with mouth finished. a tad wider.

I can't get out into Al's shop again until tomorrow so I can't start working on the feathers until then. Rather than waste time I decided to finished the mouth. I had already painted & varnished a gourd shard to use for the side of the mouth. Using black sinew I stitched the sinew through the holes in a large lavender button & through holes drilled in the shard & then through holes drilled in the mask. So the lacing went from the front of the mask through the button, shard & then the mask to the back of the mask. I laced through the 3 layers twice & then tied it off in the back. Using medium (a little thicker than the regular so it won't run) CA adhesive I secured all 3 pieces in place by putting a drop of CA on each corner of the shard & then through each hole in the button just to be sure nothing moves. Not much will get them apart now! I will be adding embellishments to the eyes but I will not do that until the feathers are done.

Adding feathers to the mask

6/25/12: Your hair is considered the frame for your face & with masks, the feathers are the frame. I'm now creating the frame for thie mask & then only the finishing touches will be left.

Starting from the back of the mask & working forward I start marking off for the placement of the holes. I leave enough space behind the feathers so that when the mask is placed on the wall they do not hitMeasuring, drilling & inserting feathers in the mask. the wall. I learned that the hard way on my first mask. There also needs to be enough space between each feather so they aren't crowded. I mark off one row, then lay the feathers behind the  mask so I can see how they look then I start drilling holes.

I use a drill gauge to make sure the holes are the right size for each feather. You can see it in my left hand with a feather inserted in a hole. The holes in the gauge are the size of drill bits & each hole is marked. I use this gauge for each feather so I'm sure they fit snug but not too tight in the holes. You might still need to add some glue on some feathers but this cuts down on that.

When I lay out the feathers I look at the angle each feather needs to be so that it looks good & then drillThe 1st row of feathers are inserted but not secured in place. the hole at the same angle so the feather lays just right. I usually start with a smaller size drill bit just to test out the angle & then when I find the angle is correct I move up to the larger bit & finish the hole. The 1st set of feathers are inserted but not secured yet. I still have a few more to do tomorrow but this photo will give you a rough idea of what it looks like now. It will look better tomorrow when I add more feathers.

Spacing the feathers is important for each row. The next row will be done in the same manner so that feathers all fit nicely without over crowding but also no large gaps This is a time consuming process to measure, drill & get the feathers laid out just right. But the results are worth it.

6/26/12: Yes, you guess it, I made some more changes when I added the 2nd row of feathers. IThe next series of feathers is inserted into the mask. thought it needed some pizzazz so I added some Peacock feathers with eyes in the back. It really added to the overall look. I also added some smaller feathers on either side. This was a slow day because I had to drill holes several times to get just the right angle & size for each feather. If I jump to the size bit needed the hole might end up being drilled at the wrong angle & I can't change the angle without making the hole too big. It does take quite a bit of time to measure, lay the feathers out & drill the holes. This mask keeps getting wider & it's been a challenge finding a place to hang it for these photo. I think tomorrow it's time to add the hanger in back.

6/27/12: Today was a busy day but not with the mask. I was able to add the rest of the mid-sizedSome mid-sized feathers have been added to the mask. feathers & have been playing around with the small "fluffy" feathers for the bangs. I added some really nice accent feathers to bring out some color & then some "fluffy" filler in between. It's really looking nice now & god only knows how many feathers I've already used. I have used some turkey, pheasant, peacock, ostrich, macaw & not sure what else. I've kinda lost track of what I pulled from my bins.

My goal is to have this finished by Friday the latest but only time will tell.

6/28/12: I finished up the small feathers in the front to create "bangs". This part requires a lot of time & patience to find just the right feathers so that the colors blend & feathers look good on the mask & along with the larger feathers. It also takes a lot of tweaking to get them in just the right place beforeGourd Mask "Angelique" finished. securing them. In this mask I created layers of larger ones on the bottom & then smaller on top. These smaller feathers are not inserted in holes but glued in place. I used a medium CA Adhesive with an accelerator on most but there were a couple that I needed to use a hot glue gun. Once all the feathers are secure then it's time for the last step. I added the glittery gold buttons to the eyes. I used a natural color sinew to attach them through the button holes & the holes I drilled earlier & then tied them off in the back. The mask is now essentially done except for letting it hang on the wall for a few days to make sure I'm satisfied with the feathers as they are.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as much as I did doing it!


Happy Gourding!

Nedra Denison signature.

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