How is a Venetian mask made?Because of the carnival, trips are planned and thousands of kilometers are covered. To be someone else even for a short time is the intention of millions of people around the world. The desire to mask is as old as humanity itself, and we discover how carnival masks are made in a factory located in Shkodër.
While in Italy, the cradle of carnival, the making of masks in the traditional way is dying out, Venetian masks have been made in a small workshop in the northernmost Albanian city for 25 years. Entering their exhibition space is going to the world of creation, dreaming, hints… an expression of emotions. The showroom of this factory is one of the biggest attractions of Shkodër, which is increasingly visited by tourists from all over Medrijan.
How is a Venetian mask made?
Over 1,700 different models of carnival masks were made on the outskirts of Shkodër in two and a half decades. A special mould is made for each mask. The manufacturing process is a craft – an artistic gift, an art. From immersing paper in water, fixing… decorating.
When making a Venetian mask, the artist decides what he wants to show with that mask, what expression the mask will have, and whether it will be a sad face, a happy face, or a face without emotion… After that, a model is made in clay, which must be made of modelling plaster, and when it dries, a mould is obtained.
A special soft paper is placed in the mould, which allows you to do whatever you want with it, and you can make curves and folds. They are arranged in layers, and glue is applied in between. Only natural materials are used because the masks are designed to be worn, so that the skin can breathe.
The mask is dried in a place where there is air circulation so that all layers will be dry. When the mask in the mould dries, it is then removed. It takes time to draw the mask shape. The excess is cut off, followed by finishing, “opening” the eyes… The most demanding part is the decoration.
It is painted with acrylic paints, decorated with different decorations that are available, or that the creators themselves make. Masks are decorated with Swarovski crystals, feathers, and lace, it all depends on what you want to show with the mask and how it should look.
One simple mask takes three to four days, but the collection includes masks that took up to a month to make. Artistic work also includes inspiration… if the worker is tired, he rests and continues to work.
Today, this factory employs about 35 workers. Every detail is made by hand. Before starting work, employees in this workshop are trained for three to six months. Some have graduated from the Faculty of Art, but painting on canvas, painting in the three D’s is completely different and requires skills.
It is interesting that 10 people work on making one mask and each of them is in charge of a specific job, that is, the work process. This is how the mask is transferred from “table to table”. When choosing motifs, the inspiration is often the works of art of great artists such as Gustav Klimt.
The price of the mask reflects the relationship between the time and effort invested in making it. Thus, in the factory in Shkodër, you can buy a mask for 25 euros, but for the pleasure of masking, you can pay several thousand euros. The bigger the mask and the more time it takes to make it, the more expensive it is.
If you ask which model of the mask is more in demand… the factory says that it is difficult to answer that question. Everything is made by hand and they are mostly unique… Even when two or three masks of the same motif are made, there is a difference because hand-made always has the stamp of the one who created the object.
It is interesting that the mask for Tom Cruise in the movie “Eyes Wide Shut” was handmade by Venice Art Mask Factoy in Shkodër. This is the curiosity of a unique factory in the Balkans.
The manager of the factory, Erton Rokaj, points out that the owner, Edmond, is originally from the northern region of Puka, and he had a vision to develop the production of carnival masks in Albania, which he sells in as many as eight stores in Venice.
The factory in Shkodër says that their large masks are mostly ordered for casinos, hotels… Casinos from Las Vegas order masks that are made in Shkodër.
From this factory, the masks arrived in Paris, England, and Australia, they even have their own market in China… and in Montenegro, in the souvenir shop in Kotor.
However, the largest number of masks are specially made for the famous carnival in Venice. Carnival fever is not abating. In mystical Shkodër, a stone’s throw from Montenegro is the spirit of the tradition of Venetian carnivals.
Photography is prohibited in the factory.
The creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of this factory is confirmed by the fact that right in Shkodër you can rent a carnival, luxurious ball gown for a unique masked dance.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience the magic of the carnival, to feel a bit of mysticism, inspiration and “travel to another time” in this space in Shkodër, let yourself enjoy the unimagined possibilities of human imagination.
The travel agency AVE tours take you to special places in Albania, and this is a trip you will not forget and you will be happy to recommend mystical Shkodër to your friends.