Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Red, White and Blue Friend

Last week I was pondering how to replicate the art mask given to me by a friend to use as a classroom project. I had thought I would use plaster cloth like the original but try a different sort of hair.
Instead of the plaster cloth, I tried a paper mache version, molding 2-3 layers of newspaper over an upside down bowl. I lined the bowl shape with foil first so I could lift it off the mold easily. When it was dry, I cut around the base to even everything. You could leave the foil on the inside for stability, but I pealed it off and that worked fine, too. Then I painted the whole "dome" with a layer of Gesso.
Instead of shells for the spiky hair, I rolled triangles of magazine paper to make long paper beads (like we used to make for necklaces in Crafts classes as a kid).
 I found I actually liked the paper mache better than plaster for classroom use because it was easier to poke holes to insert the hair. I just used a push pin (you can see it on the lower right), poked a hole and then wiggled it around a little to make the hole large enough for the end of the paper bead to go through.
For the eyes I ended up tying a piece of black perle cotton (like sewing thread, only thicker -- but not as thick as string) criss-crossed - like you were tying a package around each seed pod. I poked holes in the mask, inserted the threads and tied them together on the inside. Then I secured the perle cotton on the inside with a piece of duct tape. You can kind of see the inside in this next photo.
I also liberally applied glue to the inside of the hair spikes. I started using Glue All, and it probably would have worked, but then decided to take Phyl's advice (see last post comment) and used Tacky Glue, too. I also put some Tacky Glue under each seed pod eye so they wouldn't wobble around.

For the color,  I used red acrylic, watered down a bit so I'd get some texture and variation of color. When I had glued all the hair spikes and eyes, the last step was to paint the blue designs. I use acrylics for this step, too.

I love having time during the summer to try things out. To be honest, this was fun to make, BUT I don't think I'll be using it in the classroom because of all the various steps of drying time. All in all, it took 6 different days just to dry, plus the painting and bead-making steps!! GREAT for a "do at home" project with the kids, but it won't work in the classroom setting I have. It also takes a bit of patience and dexterity, so I  probably wouldn't do it with grades younger than 4th.

Speaking of 4th, HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY everyone!!! I'm now off to bake dessert for our yearly barbecue!!


  1. Now that I see what you were doing, I think I would have just zapped all the spikes in with a glue gun. But you are right; for something that looks so simple it does seem like it has a lot of steps! Where did you find those cool seed pods? (what kind of plant?)

    What is the origin of the original mask - it's certainly an odd little thing isn't it? It looks like something that would have some interesting cultural significance.

    1. Hi Phyl,
      Someone commented to me that the pods are from a "sweet gum tree." Whatever they are they come from trees that line the street next to our school, so they are plentiful!! If I were making these masks with a smaller group (my 4th and 5th grade classes are up to 32-34) I would use a glue gun. With that many kids, I'm not comfortable letting the kids use the guns. I did a project last year where I had to do some glue gun reinforcing and had the kids bring their work to me for a few zaps, but it was hard to get everything done in 45 min. -- never again!! The Tacky Glue was a good suggestion, though; worked great on the eyes. As I said above, I have decided not to do this project with full classes, but I will keep it in mind if I ever have the chance to work with a small handful of kids:)

      A friend found the original mask in a small gift store (I think) years ago. I think it may have been done by a local artist. It is an interesting little thing (and now it has another interesting little pal to go with it!!)

  2. A cool, creative project.
    I love the process.