The Mask Maker of Venice

It’s amazing what you discover when you chat to people that you meet. A couple of years ago I was staying at Mira Porte, a really pretty village, about half an hour from Venice. I was preparing for a ‘Writer’s Retreat’ a one-week long event including workshops, teaching sessions, and visits to Venice. The trip was designed to fuel creativity with visits to local historic houses, lots of wonderful food and wine and the opportunity to meet local people too.

One evening when my planning was finished for the day, I was sampling the home-made pasta in a local osteria and I got chatting to the young woman running the restaurant. It turned out that she’d lived in London for years and we had lots in common. We chatted for ages. A few days later my new friend Evelin messaged me and said, I want to introduce you to my friend the mask-maker, her name is Roberta and she’s a really skilled artisan. She makes fabulous Venetian masks and I’d like you to see them.

We met up and enjoyed a ‘spritz’ which is the local Venetian aperitivo as the sun was setting over the historic water mill at Dolo. Roberta was charming and very skilled, she’d brought samples of masks with her for me to see. She explained in great detail how she decorated and designed each mask, all by hand, to create a unique finished article. The masks were so colourful and elaborate. Roberta uses feathers and glitter, lace and silk ribbons to create beautiful and delightful artistic creations.

Venice - Mask maker at work
Venice – Roberta the mask maker at work
Roberta was asked to create masks as gifts at a wedding, the colour scheme was pink, gold and ivory

A year later when the ‘Writer’s Retreat’ was taking place in Mira Porte I invited Roberta to come and visit our group, of about a dozen writers, and to provide a mask-making workshop. The event was a great success. We learned about the mask-making tradition in Venice, which has it’s origins in two important historical events. Firstly the need for respectable citizens to conceal their identity at Carnival time. Carnival was the opportunity for Venetians to let their hair down, and attend all types of parties, which they did with great enthusiasm. Secondly the masks were used during times of plague to attempt to keep nasty diseases at bay.

The mask-making tradition is still strong in Venice today. In fact in the lead up to Carnival (the two weeks before Lent) shops are filled with masks for locals and visitors to buy. Roberta has made masks for many of the high quality shops in Venice and she also has her own web site. She accepts commissions and is happy to create a mask to the exact specification and colour required. I’ve bought a couple of masks from Roberta which I absolutely love. The most recent is a green and gold ‘Columbina’ mask which has matching green and gold ribbons. One of these days I’m going to go to a proper Venetian Carnival ball and I’m going to wear that mask, it can’t just be for decoration………….

Venice - my recently purchased mask - luxurious finished in green and gold
Venice – my recently purchased mask – luxurious finished in green and gold
Venice - masks at Carnival time - an essential part of a carnival outfit
Venice – masks at Carnival time – an essential part of a carnival outfit

Notes:

Happy Reading and if you can support the artisans of Venice please do!

Venice - mask selection by Roberta - visit: www.maskerelle.it
Venice – mask selection by Roberta – visit: www.maskerelle.it

To discover a cornucopia of travel articles about Italy, France, Mediterranean, British Isles – www.educated-traveller.com

The widows weeds - she wears them well! Carnevale 2020 - a perfect example of 17th century social distancing
The widows weeds – she wears them well! Carnevale 2020 – a perfect example of 17th century social distancing

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