Kartaruga is one of the most important ateliers of handmade masks in Venice, famous for having worked with leading film and theater productions, such as the cult film Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick – becoming part itself of the legend that surrounds the famous scene of the masked ball starring Tom Cruise (check out this short documentary to learn the true story about it) -, Casanova with Heath Ledger, Gambit with Cameron Diaz and Colin Firth, the Louis Vuitton commercial starring David Bowie, or the Cirque du Soleil shows. The art of mask-making brings us back, in fact, to the fascinating world of lavish secret parties, disguise and transgression.
The masks are closely linked to the history of Venice and its Carnival tradition: a celebration that saw its peak between the 17th and 18th centuries when it used to last many months and the mask was a popular status symbol to be worn across all classes of society.
Today, Franco Cecamore and his daughter Francesca continue this art, creating a wide variety of masks according to the ancient, traditional method. Starting from the model of the “face” made in clay, a plaster negative mould is filled with various layers of papier mâché (in Italian “cartapesta”); the rough mask is then extracted, finished and finely decorated.
You can pay a visit to the Canovaccio store for the mask of your dreams, or book a workshop at the nearby Kartaruga Atelier to learn the secrets of Venice Carnival and have fun decorating your own mask (that you can take home with you).
The Venetian masks are made of papier-mâché, a recycled product made with waste paper macerated in boiling water and then shredded; the ideal material for their realization because it is very light, resistant and practically unbreakable. In addition to its lightness and accurate finishing, a true Venetian artisan mask can be recognized, in fact, by the accentuated irregularities on the back, typical of the manual processing of papier-mâché.