Mask Making Workshops
A universal phenomenon that spans centuries, masks have been used to interpret and illustrate the beautiful, the grotesque, the sublime – and everything else in between. Masks are accessible and playful; anyone can put on a mask and instantly become a character. Masks provide the wearer with great freedom and Charlotte Dillon, founder of Head of House, has been using them as a powerful empowerment tool at the workshops she runs.
At the Secret River Garden we offer workshops that fit the wild, free spirit of the gardens to help guests escape their day to day environment and when we met Charlotte we knew we’d found the perfect match. Charlotte offers a range of creative services and is able to design masks and create sumptuous event settings that complement the garden, riverside and woodland setting. In addition to commissions, she also runs mask making workshops that give participants the chance to create something unique whilst exploring behaviour, identity and encouraging a sense of adventure. Creatures of the river and animals of the woods beware!
Find out more about mask making workshops in our interview with Charlotte Dillon.
Where do we start in describing you?
I am an opportunist and an ideas person – I was involved in the creative festival scene from a young age which is where so many creative businesses cut their teeth. My interests have always been in playful, immersive and interactive experiences that connect people through art and science. I studied Art & Design at Saint Martins and Business Studies at St Adates, Oxford then worked in theatre, fashion in Milan, hospitality, dabbled in publishing and I then went on to set up Kinetica Museum – the first museum of kinetic, robotic, sound, light and tech art. We ran workshops and events to educate and inspire people to be creative. I now do the same thing with the medium of masks. I do what interests me and my love of psychology.
What is it about masks that fascinate you?
It started as a favour to a friend when I made 6 masks for a festival act. When I witnessed the effect of the animal masks on the audience and how the masks came to life and made the audience react I was hooked.
Masks have an ancient history dating back to the beginning of most cultures; the oldest evidence is in cave paintings that are 36,000 years old! Anthropologists have theories that masks were the starting point of the humans concept of other realms or higher beings. The mask has an incredibly powerful effect whether it be fear or fantasy, the theatre world explores the effects in great detail but unless you studied theatre you would rarely get a glimpse of this unique world, I enjoy sharing it with everyone.
How did you start running mask making workshops?
Following a few successful commissions I was asked by many friends to make them masks but to save time and money I developed a workshop that could allow people to make their own. Over time I saw patterns of behaviour in the making processes and I knew then there was something bigger to explore.
How do you enable participants to relax and connect with their inner creativity?
The key to this is to understand that there is no ‘wrong’ – creativity is a journey, an enjoyable one! We live in a time of deadlines, targets and people are afraid of making ‘mistakes’. This journey is a personal one, it’s time for yourself and everyone is out of their comfort zone. My style of facilitation is to inspire and guide people but they make their own decisions – a huge part of my world is getting people to connect to their intuition and build confidence in their decision making – that gut feeling!
Why do you think transforming your face gives people freedom?
We make a mask that we connect with and have chosen how it looks, if you like it represents how we are feeling at that moment – a part of us has come out to play. This enables us to express something other than the norm – a bit like putting different outfits on for work/the gym/a wedding etc
We predominately communicate with our facial expressions or the words we use but when you take those 2 forms of communication away you are left with your body, others can’t read us so accurately so we find other ways to express ourselves.
When did you set up Head Of House and what inspires you?
The company was set up in 2014 following my festival brand, which was The Masketeers. I find inspiration in nature, when you really look at an animal or plant you see so much more than first meets the eye. I love form and structure and I love to be inspired by sculpture. New ideas energise me and playing with materials is also sometimes a starting point.
What could people expect at one of your workshops?
I have a wide range of workshops that I offer from reconnecting with creativity, empowering work through to full blown decadent parties but they are always fun, revealing, social and hopefully inspiring.
Who your clients and and how do they use your masks?
Again a huge range of projects as each one is individual, for example I have worked with musicians to create their look on stage such as the LED crown for Rudimental’s last tour, I was sponsored by Swarovski Crystals to make a headpiece for a charity auction, I have made masks for Indie films such as White Island starring Billy Zane. I’ve done many private commissions for party goers from Burning Man to hats for the Dubai World Cup horse races – one of them won The Most Creative Hat Award!
Each brand project is tailored to their needs, for example I work with Don Papa Rum who have beautiful award winning bottle design with animals from the Philippines on the illustration. We have taken those creatures and created masks of them for the guests to decorate like a decadent banquet alongside their delicious cocktails in beautiful lush jungle spaces.
Recently I did a talk and workshop for the Family Firm Institute conference in London which was all about emotional reactions and the unique individual so I restricted their choices of materials and we observed their behaviour under time pressure.
Universal studios did a workshop to focus on being bright, energised and expressing yourself so I created a bright colour palette with loud and bold materials for them to use.
Hendrick’s Gin wanted a dark and moody party with a circus feel so my team and I created showgirls headpieces and animal heads with blackened feathers, lace, crystals and stretched PVC for the dancers and hosts.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating the masks?
One of my favourite parts of my work is experimenting with materials, I’m currently looking into recycled plastics for a beach party idea and I’m always on the hunt for bits and bobs that could be used in unusual ways. For the commissions I use all sorts of materials depending on what the effect we are after from resins to faux furs and metals but for the workshops the structures are made out of one of the most amazing materials – cardboard! You can do anything with cardboard and a glue gun! Once the structure is built then comes the decorating, the workshop kit comprises of a sumptuous array of fabrics, faux furs, feathers, silk flowers and leaves, trinkets, jewels, ribbons and anything else I’ve have found on my travels.
How have your masks been used to bring events to life?
The masks can also be used to decorate rooms, we recently did the launch of a Sherry cask for the Don Papa Rum with masks on sticks that where part of the flower arrangements for a fabulous dining experience. After dinner guests wore them and it was a brilliant photo opportunity for their social media campaign.
They have regularly been used for charity work to raise awareness, such as for Save The Rhino charity cycle rides, as they never fail to attract the photographers eye.
But at events they create a feeling of freedom and fun, we did an event with Michelin Star chefs for Eating Sound where the waiters wore masks that represented the food they where serving, after each course the masks where put on the table for the guests to play with so after 6 courses all the guests had something to wear, it totally transformed a formal dining experience into a playground!
How can people tailor your mask making workshops?
We make it fit to the client’s brief, whether it be the meet and greet hosts of an event or the waiting staff and dancers, wearing commissioned masks or a mask making workshop , we can adapt everything from timing (we can do from 40 minutes to a full day) to colour palette, the style and size of masks, be it mythical, traditional, creature based etc.
We do gift boxes sent out to the guests before the event or a mask dress up area for photoshoots. We even have a Creative Creatures set up with mobile pimping stations, a bit like the old fashioned cigarette girls with their trays as they wander around with the guests decorating masks for them.
You’re also a founder of Roundtable. What does this involve?
I’m Co-Founder and Creative Director of Roundtable which is a leadership and development company that specialises in connecting the corporate world with the creative world. I help to develop experiences to reengage with our imaginations and creativity. We are a global company and work in Asia, the Middle East, USA, Europe and now Africa delivering programmes with unique philosophies that focus on education, empowerment and environmental change. It has been fascinating to see how similar we all are no matter our age, sex, cultural upbringing, privilege, it all bubbles down to the same basic human emotions.
What you’ve been working on lately?
I have just had the busiest year so far with a lot of travel including empowerment graduate programme in Egypt, a few Don Papa launch events in Paris, Lyon, Brussels, Cologne, Naples, Rome, Venice, but the most recent was a massive Halloween party in NYC where I sent 270 pre-made masks for dancers and guests. In London I did the FFI Conference and soon to launch a Bar of Masks concept and then back to my second home, Italy!
With so many different experiences do you have a favourite?
That’s really hard question! I did a wonderful party in an amazing cave in the north of Ibiza once which was a flow of people being creative throughout the night and the array of different creations was a wonderful sight! I also love the moments when someone’s light shines again when they discover the glue gun and it doesn’t matter if I’m in Bahrain, Tokyo, Brooklyn or Richmond, it’s the same joy!
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To get more ideas or help with your event talk to the team on 020 7610 2808 or email email@example.com
To discover the Secret River Garden, the perfect location for summer parties – and holding mask making workshops! – click here.