Sunday, February 18, 2007


Venetian Carnevale came to Galway, Ireland last Thursday night Feb 15th.

Carnevale meaning 'farewell to meat' is traditionally celebrated before the beginning of the Lenten season culminating on Shrove Tuesday and dates back to the middle ages.

Mardi Gras...french for Fat Tuesday is celebrated in the America's coming up to fever pitch on the last tuesday before lent begins.

Venetian Carnevale began to be popular in the eighteenth century. It began the day after Christmas and lasted for six weeks. Everyone wore brightly coloured costumes and masks and because they were disguised the social class system was turned upside down during Carnivale time. Nobility could mingle with the lower social classes undetected and vice versa... they had a ball!!

The festival would begin with a series of balls and was be followed by many smaller parties. Partying went on until midnight on Shrove Tuesday, when the bells of San Francesco dell Vigna tolled to announce the beginning of Lent, the end of Carnevale, and a return to the rigid socal restrictions.

The Venetian government encouraged the street theatre, juggling, acrobatics and organised games.

Lindsay and Dermot, together with The Italian Society at The National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) decided to organise a Masked Venetian Carnevale Ball to benefit the Hospice Foundation and twisted our arms into going!

My Carnivale mask began it's life several years ago in 2002 when an art teacher helping with our Brownie Pack made masks with the Brownies using plaster bandage.

The results were so good and the technique so fascinating that when my children were both at home we decide we would have a go.

Three of us volunteered to have our faces smeared with Vaseline and trust our greasy faces to the skills of another. Their dad was non so keen!

The technique was to apply small pieces of plaster bandage that had been soaked in warm water, over the Vaseline. I really can't remember if we put cling film on top of the Vaseline. Plaster bandage used to make plaster casts on broken legs etc was readily available in our art shop.

Layers are built up evenly until the mask is about three layers thick, making sure not to go too close to the eyes and leaving spaces for the nose and mouth.
The plaster quickly begins to harden and the mask can be removed from the face. All in all a very strange experience especially releasing the suction hold to the face.
Then leave the plaster to dry completely.

The results were excellent if a little grim. This is Criss's mask.

The really funny thing about the three masks we made was...if she put on his mask it was like she was wearing his face!!! Even now as I still have them it is easy to recognise the owner!

They were decidedly ghoulish so we decided to have another go and make Venetian style half masks as we had done with the Brownies.

She styled my mask with a longer more pert nose more like a Carnivale mask, much nicer that my nose!!

Twas only when the masked ball come up that I remembered out efforts.

First job was to cut them to a more refined shape, tidy up all the rough edges and add more ordinary plaster of Paris to make them smooth.
Here is my mask ready for decoration.

Then I painted it with two coats of gold paint, real gold I think. Judson's Gold Paint consists of gold dust which is mixed in with a kind of varnish. The results are always stunning, it looked like something from King Tut's tomb!!

Since feathers are a part of many masks, it was suggested that my tatting and feather headdress that I made for her wedding (see my posts of Aug 2006) would go well with the mask, I chose to decorate it in gold and aubergine. The outfit that I wore for her wedding could have another airing too. I always thought that it was more suited to a fancy dress occasion, but I guess thats what a wedding is anyway!

Traditional masks often have rick rack round the edges and sequins surrounding the eyes.

Decided that it was to have a row of tatted split rings round the eyes finished off with an amethyst swarovski crystal.

The thread I used is Kreinik's very fine braid in light gold. This is a lovely thread to work with and really looks like spun gold.

Along the top edge I used the same thread to make arched chains with long aubergine (Flora 20)trefoils falling from them studded with beads and AB swarovskis to give a bit of sparkle.

I think it looks pretty good with the tatted orchids and feathers.

So you want to know about the ball.

Lindsay and Dermot are masters of fancy dress, look at my Halloween post Oct 2006 to see that.
They looked stunning!

Dermot had made his traditional mask in papier mache. It was such a good fit to his face that he didn't need to tie it on at all. The tricorn hat did give him a better sense of security tho.

Masks made on your face are so comfortable as it is like wearing a second face!

Lindsay didn't have time to finish her hand made mask and fell for this beautiful genuine traditional mask from Venice. It was stunning and even looked good on me.

Better than my own I thought but it was a lot of fun as always making one and I think it turned out well and quite authentic.

Hubby looked pretty cool too in his mask and evening outfit even tho he did get covered in silver sparkle.

The NUI Galway Juggling Society brought a real touch of carnivale to the event. At the beginning of the evening the juggled outside the hotel with flaming brands, and dabolo's. Later inside it was with streamers, and clubs added. The carnivale costumes and masks were super.

About 165 revellers attended the event and most were masked and made it a great success. The meal, dancing and spot prizes with a carnivale twist were all great.
I really should have taken more photos, but there is always next year...
Oooo I shall have to think up another mask!

Here are just a few photos to give you a taste of the atmosphere.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Brownie Tatbead and more

If you haven't seen Jane Eborall's Tatbead family, then you must. They are delight, she constantly comes up with something new and these are a wow.
Jane designed Brownie Tatbead especially for me, and she is so cool that I just had to stop everything I was doing and make her. She is very fiddly bit of tatting but then I love fiddly things and she was well worth the effort.

It's the detail on her that makes her so cool. I wish all of my Brownie Guides turned up dressed so smartly in their full uniform every week!! there are always missing/lost neckerchiefs,woggles and sashes.

I have been a Brownie Guide leader for 26 years and still love the kids.They really keep me young and there is nothing better to boost my ego than 24 adoring!!! little girls who notice when I have had my hair done, got new spectacles, jewellery etc.

This is me being presented with my silver 25 year service badge, that's the highest accolade. They mustn't expect us to last much longer that that!!

Not that it's always complimentary of course. I recently told them that I was too old to join in a raucous game. Later when we were in our Brownie ring, a little lassie holding may hand asked if I was a grandma. "No" I replied, "Phew!!!" she said in relief. Must be very uncool to have a grandma as your Brownie leader!!!

The uniform that Brownie Tatbead is wearing is relatively new and much more child friendly... sweatshirt top and tracksuit bottoms, scarf and sash to hold all the badges so they don't have to be washed regularly as on the old uniforms. How the kids used to hate those scratchy woollie hats!

When I first became a leader we had just got a new uniform which looked so smart.
I made this doll as part of a test for a Dollmakers craft badge. The brief was for a standing character doll with a moulded face. the face is felt stretched over stuffed balls of felt and she stands with the help of copper rivets in her shoes.

She was so much fun to make to get all the details right. From the side views you can see that she has earned a few badges. Two stripes above the wrist mean that she is a sixer in charge of her six.

People always ask why she is dressed in blue if she is a Brownie. The origin of the name comes from a story about the little fairy people, the brownies who helped out with chores round the house when no one was looking, just like our little lassies should be doing today.
When the little sisters of the first Girl Guides wanted to join in they were given the name 'Rosebuds'!! not very apt for these mischievous little imps.