To read the blog in Italian: It is a beautiful sunny October afternoon and I am in Los Gatos at the gallery of La Gioia, in the company of six other people passionate about Italy. We have come, not only to speak Italian, but to learn the ancient technique of making a Venetian mask. Our teacher is Carla Almanza-e Quant, an artist born in Mexico of Italian parents. Carla at the age of 20 went to Florence to study with Agostino Dessi, a master of the traditional 16 & 17 century Venetian Mask making techniques. Below is a video in which professore Dessi talks about himself and his work.
So in the grand tradition of Italian workshops, I am an apprentice of the artistic technique which has been handed down by masters since the time of Casanova and Carolo Goldoni! These two men, by the way, have much to do with masks; Goldoni was the man who invented the Commedia dell’Arte and the reason why mask became so popular in Venice…and Casanova put in good use masks to hide behind to avoid a jealous husband!
Carla has learned her craft very well from her teacher and is now ready to share her secrets with us. With baroque music softly playing in the background, Carla explains the steps necessary to make a beautiful mask. This workshop focuses on the art of designing and decorating masks. To experience the craft from the very beginning we would need do build the mask form from paper mache. But to do this it would take three days of preparation. Instead Carla has a selection of plain forms ready for us to use, made from quality materials as they did in the past.
Although we didn’t spend three days learning the craft, we intrepid apprentices DID work for six hours creating Venetian masks. The lesson also included how to add gold leaf. And yes! we used real gold! We also learned how to apply a patina to age the masks with a wash of siena paint. In the final phase we chose ribbons and braids and assembled them to the edges of the masks. For the final touch we learned how to paint the flourishes and swirls to make the masks very baroque.
If you would like participate in Carla’s next workshops you can contact Kathy Winkleman the owner of La Gioia Company. By the way there is a link my blog to receive a discount to workshops and products found at La Gioia. It was a wonderful experience working with other artists, chatting in Italian and learning the traditional Venetian Mask making techniques. Can you guess what will be my costume this year for Halloween?