Italian mask maker Carlo Marega revives 13th-century art

With his handmade maschere—iconic symbols of the Carnival of Venice—the Murano-born artisan is reviving an art form that dates to the 13th century. Join him as he demonstrates the elaborate process involved and shares what he loves most about his historic hometown.

Italian Stories
07/22/2022

Italian mask maker Carlo Marega never has to travel far for inspiration. He merely has to step outside his family workshop. Located in the heart of the San Polo district of Venice, Atelier Marega is surrounded by the streets and squares where costumed revellers wearing elaborate masks have celebrated the Carnevale di Venezia for more than 800 years.

 

A symbol of Venice since the 13th century, the masks were originally intended to give their wearers a way to hide their identities during parties where members of all social classes would mix as equals. Over the centuries, the masks became an art form of their own, one that artisans such as Marega are reviving with beautiful, handmade masks that connect with that history.

 

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Born in 1955 on the "glass island" of Murano, Marega started his career working with glass before finding his specialty: masks inspired by the costumes of the famous Carnivals of the 18th century.

 

"I opened my first business creating objects in glass lampwork using a hand torch and coloured glass rods," he says. "Along with the glass I also sold masks, until the sale of masks took over."

 

In this exclusive video story filled with breathtaking views of Venice, Marega takes viewers into his workshop for an up-close look at the unique process.

 

 

"What do you find today when you enter our atelier? Papier-mache masks," he says. "The base is always the same: paper, water, and glue, but then we add other finishing techniques with gold leaf, feathers, and trimmings."

 

Among the most interesting techniques he uses is one called "screpolato," which gives an antique "cracked" effect to an object.

 

"Screpolato is an effect that occurs naturally in old paintings," the Italian mask maker explains. "It is an added value in masks."

 

Those who want to complete their look need look no further.

 

"In addition to the masks, we also have a costume atelier, for which I have an important collaborator," he says. "Silvia Crepaldi is the creator of everything you find in our costume atelier."

 

Marega believes that masks and costumes give their wearers a truly unique perspective, one that frees them to be their true selves or try on another life altogether.

 

"This is what we like to do: dress up and change people's personalities," he says. "Just by wearing a mask, you understand a lot more about yourself than by looking in the mirror every day."

 

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