All of our Neutral Masks were designed and built by Audrey Bensel. What follows is her step by step description of how she made these beautiful masks. The photographs below are by Robby Valliere.

    A Bit About Neutral Masks

Designing a Neutral Mask is no easy task. Nothing in nature is truely neutral, and so the concept "neutral" is an intellectual and imaginative construct. Trying to sculpt a Neutral Mask is almost an impossible task, but the basic idea is that it:

    • has little or no expression (therefore it is capable of revealing all expressions)
    • it attempts to be symmetrical in shape (no actual human face is symmetrical. Our faces are asymetrical: one half is in a constant silent dialogue with the other half).
    • it gives no clue to gender

The intent of the Neutral Mask is to depersonalize the wearer, stripping away the idiosyncratic movement or behavior that is "you." Peter Brook, amoung others, has noted the value of mask work on the wearer's psyche:

    "The moment you take someone's face away in that way [in this case with the Neutral Mask], it's the most electrifying impression: suddenly to find oneself knowing that that thing one lives with, and which one knows is transmitting something all the time, is no longer there. It' the most extraordinary sense of liberation. It is one of the great exercises that whoever does for the first time counts as a great moment: to suddenly find oneself immediately for a certain time liberated from one's own subjectivity."

There is a sense in which people wearing Neutral Masks will tend to look and move uniformly. Paradoxically, though, at the same time that the Neutral Mask depersonalizes the wearer, it also essentializes the wearer. You discover more of what is distinctly "you." On each wearer, in fact, the Neutral Mask adapts itself to the wearer. Therefore, what is elicited is actually your individual neutral. As Shomit Mitter explains it:
"As the actor is identified with the mask, the self becomes an external attribute that can be studied."

What neutral is not easy to define. What is interesting, though, is that we seem to have an idea, a concept of what neutral is in our imaginations. And the acknowledgment of this concept is crucial for our training in mask training.

It is easier to see what neutral is not that what it is. Jacque Lecoq, the foremost living authority on the Neutral Mask say that you discover the "yes" of neutral by a series of "noes." He also explains neutral by using the image of the seesaw. Neutral is the fulcrum—the point of perfect balance—when the seesaw is tilting neither to one side or the other.

Phase I


The following directions are for making a mask off of a manikin head or prop head. Life masks follow a very different plaster process. Please do not wrap your head in tinfoil and try to make a mask out of it; if you do, it may result in severe brain damage (which you probably had already) or even death (which you probably deserved.)

Phase 1-
The Plaster Cast

Materials needed:

  • A manequine head
  • Tinfoil.
  • Scisors
  • Tape.
  • Bowl of warm water.
  • 1 Pkg "Rigid Wrap" Plaster Cloth.
  • A lighter.
  • A utility or exacto knife.
STEP #1 (picture 1)

Take the manikin head and wrap a large piece of foil around the face, tapeing it into place. Make sure that the foil is pressed into every feature so that it maintains the integrity of each feature.

STEP #2 (picture 2)

Take the plaster cloth and cut it into 9" lengths. Then take those lengths and cut them into thirds.

STEP #3 (picture 3 and 4)

Dip strips into warm water and place horizontally across face, layering each edge so that the plaster will set well without any gaps. Pay special attention to the nose and chin. You will probably have to cut a few of your strips shorter to facilitate the curvature of the nose and chin. After every other layer of horizontal strips, place 2 verticl strips on both sides of the face to keep things together. Use the entire package of plaster cloth.


Peel the edges of the plaster away form the head. Then pull the forehead of the cast away from the face, be carefull you don't want it to crack. When you get the cast off, throw away the foil

Let dry on the manequine head at least 45 minutes before removing.
STEP #6 (picture 5)

Use the scisors to trim the edges and the utility knife to cut eye, mouth, and nostril holes. When you finish the holes, use a lighter to carefully burn away any lose strings left behind by trimming. If the plaster still feels damp, let it set up overnight.
Phase 2

Materials needed:

  • 1 pkg paper clay.
Step 1 (picture 6)

Using your hands spread the clay as evenly as possible across the inside and outside of the cast. Use your imagination to develope the overexadurated features. Remember, no face is perfect so don't stress about symmetry. Also it is almost impossible to spread the clay perfectly smooth, don't worry if there are small gaps or bumps. Sanding will take care of this problem.
Step 2

Let dry overnight in a dry, safe place.
Phase 3

Phase 3-
Sanding and Painting

Materials needed:

  • Medium Gauge sandpaper
  • A drill
  • Paint/Paint brush
  • Clear Matte spray
  • Clear Gloss spray.
  • 9-12' of heavy ribbon;
    1/2-3/4" wide
  • Beads (optional)
STEP 1 (picture 7)

Sand both the inside and outside of the mask, until it has a soft, raw porceline look.
STEP 2 (picture 8)

Drill two holes on each side of the mask for the ties. Be carefull not to drill too close to the edge or the eyes, you don't want to cause a crack. Use the smallest sized drill bit that you can easily fit your ribbon through.
STEP 3 (picture 9)

Paint entire mask with a light "Terracotta" color. Let dry for 15 minutes then excentuate the features with a darker hue. Let dry for 15 minutes.
STEP 4 (picture 10)

In a well ventilated area (like outside), spray inside of the mask with a gloss acrylic craft sealer, gloss is used on the inside for cleaning purposes. Once the inside is dry, spray the exterior with a matte finish craft sealer. The matte finish gives it a faux leather look. Let dry for about 30 minutes.
STEP 5 (picture 11)

Use ribbon and beads to make the ties to hold your mask on your face.


Absolutely Amazing!