For those who costume on Mardi Gras, the Saturday that Krewe du Vieux parades is an important time marker.
“If you’re not done by Krewe du Vieux, you’re late,” R.P. Smith, 35, said Saturday as he used strips of corrugated cardboard, contact cement and brown kraft paper to create what the Green Project calls a “fast-drying papier-mâché mask.”
“By now, if you’re not sticky and filled with glitter to all parts of your being, if no one is telling you at work, ‘You have glitter on your face,’ you’re not doing it right,” said his husband, John Marc Sharpe, trying unsuccessfully to unlock his phone with a thumb covered with lumps of contact cement.
While beads, cups and toys are still the bulk of a parade rider’s throws, it's the one-of-a-kind, hand-decorated, themed items that make Carni…
He shrugged the shrug of someone so devoted to costuming that a temporary lapse in phone access didn’t bother him. “A small price to pay,” he said, putting his phone back in his pocket.
Actually, the two men long ago completed their costumes, with 22 of their closest friends. They’ll be the Fabulous Flock of Flamingos on Fat Tuesday.
Smith and Sharpe are among that portion of New Orleanians who plan, sew, glitter and glue all year long. They came to the workshop on Saturday because they saw it as valuable costuming preparation for the future. “This is just a skill every New Orleanian should have,” Sharpe said.
But on Saturday, the Green Project on Press Street hosted a mask-making workshop for the rest of the city, those who have a more spur-of-the-moment approach to Carnival costuming.
Two students from Benjamin Franklin High School, Rebecca Jacobs and Amina Stahler, both 16, spent the afternoon working on matching dragon heads that they plan to debut on Mardi Gras.
Occasionally, they sought advice from instructor Kevin O’Sullivan, 27, who learned the fast-drying mask technique in 2015 at a workshop hosted by the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. That year, he created a pink pig mask. Since then, he’s used the same technique to make a new mask for every Mardi Gras and Halloween.
Compared to true papier-mâché, this technique creates masks that dry much more quickly and are lighter in weight, he said.
The technique got an enthusiastic response from the Whitson and Amos families, led by sisters Page Whitson and Amy Amos, 51 and 47. The two families spent several hours Saturday creating monster masks for this year’s Mardi Gras family costume, which may involve a rolling bed and an entire family of scary monsters that come out from under the bed.
Olivia Whitson, 10, created a long skinny alien that she’ll top with two eyeballs, glitter and paint, she said. Her brother Joshua, 12, made a helmet-style mask that will be his base for hanging the Styrofoam tentacles he needs to create a scary squid-octopus-style monster.
Their cousin Izaura Amos, 10, completed a round-headed monster to which she’ll add two big google eyes in front to make it frightful, she said.
A few feet away, her dad, guitarist Blake Amos, 53, used contact cement to add spooky gill fins to the side of his own mask, based on the prehistoric beast featured in the movie "Creature from the Black Lagoon." “It scared me when I was a kid,” he said. “I plan to conquer it on Mardi Gras.”
O’Sullivan helped Jacobs plan how her mask could fit on top of her hair, then advised someone else to be careful about structuring a jaw too tightly, lest he not be able to drink while in costume.
Though this was O'Sullivan’s last workshop of the season, the Green Project will again cater to the last-minute crowd with its Mardi Gras Grab and Craft event next Saturday. Customers can bring half-finished costumes and rummage through boxes and shelves at the Green Project’s craft room for the perfect finishing touches.
O’Sullivan himself may be there, with his roommate Andrew Labuzienski, 26, a member of the Slow Danger Brass Band, who may play trombone in his brand-new alligator mask during Sunday’s ’tit Rex parade.
But they can’t put away the glue guns and glitter yet. One member of their household, their dog Dude, still lacks a costume for the Krewe of Barkus, which rolls Feb. 24.