MASK MAGIC by Carolyn Meyer


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In a how-to book that also makes good reading, Meyer supplements her instructions with historical material on the role of masks in rite and drama and their various functions in different cultures. Rather artificially divided into four seasonal chapters, the projects range from the simple paper half (or eye) mask, which can be cut and painted to represent a variety of emotions (""remember to exaggerate"") and can be ""quite elaborate"" depending on how it is finished, to papier-mâchÉ head masks for Carnival (Janus, king and queen, dragon) and papier-mâchÉ face masks made from plasticine clay molds--not directly from the human face, a once-popular practice which Meyer reports nearly suffocated Thomas Jefferson. The Iroquois False Fames, Meyer reports, were carved onto living trees and then cut away--a bit of news that might create dissatisfaction with her brown-paper-bag version. But as she points out, apropos the construction-paper Kachina mask, ""the idea is to suggest rather than to look like the real ones."" This open-ended approach is evident in her instructions, which are careful and extensive but, happily, only generally suggestive about finishing, decorating, and adding on. (The absence of step-by-step diagrams, though, might limit the book's appeal for visually, rather than verbally, oriented craftsmen.) Though Meyer doesn't convey the mystery and power of masks as do Christine Price (below) or Byrd Baylor (1974), her combination of projects and background is attractive.

Pub Date: April 11th, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich