An artist works on a carnival mask at the Venice Art Mask workshop in Shkoder, Albania.
It’s mysterious and interesting when someone masks around, especially when the masks are as beautiful as the ones made by Albanian artists.
During the carnival seasons, people parade around donning masks done with intricate and uniquely handcrafted artwork. Most of these masks are created by Albanian artists.
An artwork is different when it’s done with passion and love.
Artists who carefully work on decorating these masks do the artwork and make sure tourists would love to own them with the same passion and love that they work on it with.
Albanian artists choose a quiet place to work on these masterpieces.
The artists delicately paint, gild and bejewel tens of thousands of Venetian masks that revellers around the world have been donning for carnival season.
Some 50 staff handcraft the one-of-a-kind pieces from their factory in lakeside Shkoder, which exports up to 30,000 masks around the globe every year.
"At first every (mask) is a mystery, you have to be patient to do it, but you can't wait to see the final product," explained Nora Gjonaj, a 41-year-old artist who has been working in Albania's Venice Art Mask Factory for two decades.
The masks range from relatively simple eye-coverings to towering, ornate head pieces, with costs running from 20 euros to 1,500 euros ($21 to $1,620) in the showroom next door.
While most of the masks are destined for the Venice market -- whose carnival was suddenly cancelled this year amid a coronavirus outbreak -- others are shipped off to some 40 other countries, including France, the US, UK and Australia.
The company also gets orders year-round from those attending masquerade balls, as well as filmmakers and theatre producers looking for costumes.
Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, for example, famously wore two of the studio's masks in the 1999 Stanley Kubrick film "Eyes Wide Shut".
Gold, feathers and pearls
The studio was founded in 1997 by Edmond Angoni, a 64-year-old Albanian who worked in Italy before returning home to open his own shop.
"Each mask has its own beauty, magic and mystery," he said.
The artists start by building a clay mould which they fill with plaster to create the base of the mask. That piece is then smoothed over with papier mache.
A series of other meticulous steps follow, which Angoni says set his pieces apart from their mass-produced counterparts.
"We put a lot of emphasis on the artistic side of the masks, treating them with passion and love like works of art," he said.
The mask showroom is also becoming a attraction of its own for tourists who can peruse the dizzying display of faces, including luxury masks adorned with silver and gold leaf, feathers, diamonds and pearls.
Interested visitors can purchase a mask -- or simply don one of the disguises for the three-euro entrance fee.
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