Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - A Perspective on Art Education - Activities for Children - Themes & Topics

Drawing & Painting -- Modeling & Sculpting

Fingerpainting -- Mural Making -- Paper-Mâché -- Puppets -- Mask-Making -- Crayon Encaustics -- Crayon Resist Drawing -- Crayon Sgraffito -- Collage -- Mobiles -- Watercolor -- Common Earth Clay -- Salt Ceramic [recipe] -- Clay / plasticene Non-hardening -- Carving in the Round -- Newspaper Modeling -- Paraffin or Wax Sculpture -- Plaster Plaques or Reliefs -- Relief in Plaster -- Relief in Soft Wood -- Repoussé -- Sandcasting -- Working With the Coping Saw or Jigsaw -- Straw/Toothpick Sculpting -- Painting on Window Glass -- Diorama -- Peep Shows -- Whittling -- Wire Sculpture

[From: [Meaning in Crafts. Mattil,, Edward L. Chairman, Dept. of Art, North Texas State University. Third Edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971.]


Masks are among the most universal of art forms. There are few cultures, ancient or modern, primitive or sophisticated, in which masks have not been used. Their use seems to rise from instinctive needs and beliefs common to all men. To understand the meaning of masks, one must know their use. In our culture their use has been primarily for fun by children at Halloween and masquerade parties, but the Iroquois Indians of the eastern United States were mask-makers long before the coming of the white settlers. With their masks, the secret Iroquois False Face Society attempted to aid and protect the Iroquois people by warding off evil spirits responsible for disease and by promoting fertility in their crops. To the Indian the mask was a serious art form, as it must have been to the Stone Age men who dressed in the skins and heads of animals for their special ceremonies.

Masks symbolize what they are designed to depict: animals, heroes, characters in a drama, wind, rain, supernatural beings, spirits of good and evil, ancestors, gods, spirits of nature, and so forth. They have been used for satire and buffoonery, for terrorizing others, as emblems of special groups, to cause laughter or fear, to cure disease, and to impresonate people or supernatural beings. In some countries an actor never appears onstage without a mask. In Japan, India, and Greece the mask continues to be widely used in traditional theatre.

The teacher should capitalize on this universality to make a classroom project with masks that will both provide a means for personal self-expression for each of the children and at the same time develop a better understanding of other cultures and peoples....when we start making masks with our smallest children, we should do so with reference only to those things that might have meaning to them. They would understand masks most through their experiences with Halloween parades and parties, so this would be the logical point of departure. Later, as their interests and understanding broaden, the teacher would refer to masks in the North American culture of United States Indians, Canadian Indians, and Eskimos, and as their horizons expand, the teacher would discuss the cultures of other countries and point out the significance of masks in each of the cultures.

PAPER BAG MASKS (one period)
The easiest way to start making masks is for the teacher or students to acquire a sufficient number of large paper bags so that each child can have one large enough to slip over his head. If these are very large, it might be desirable to cut an inverted U-shape from each of the two sides, so that the bag can slip down over the child's shoulders. The child can locate the position of his eyes, and with a crayon gently mark for eye openings on the bag. Next comes cutting and pasting, developing eyes, nose, mouth, hair, and ears as completely as each child is capable of doing. One must not discourage deviation from reality, for with small children such deviation is normal. Green noses and purple lips are commonplace and should be accepted. Children can easily decorate paper bag masks with crayons if they have used paper and paste frequently or if these materials are unavailable. Sometimes a bit of raffia, shavings from the wood shop, strands of yarn, or a piece of ribbon can be used to set of the finished mask. The teacher should keep a box of these interesting materials in the classroom. Even the smallest children will quickly find appropriate uses for them in their constructions. A milk bottle cap will soon become a nose or a scrap of colored cellophane a hair ribbon. This type of mask is easily produced in one period and always proves to be a source of fun and sitimulation for the children.

Good to try in the middle elementary grades.

1. To give them a three-dimensional quality, the children cut two slits about 2" deep and 2" or 3" apart in the edge of the plate.

2. Overlapping the sides adjacent to each slit slightly and stapling them back together, forms a simple chin cup, which makes the mask fit nicely.

3. The child can locate and mark the position of his eyes and later, with the point of the scissors, make incisions for them. The teacher might illustrate methods by which the nose can be cut on the bottom and two sides and flapped out for an interesting three-dimensional quality, or how a hole might be cut in the center where the nose normally would be, or how other types of noses, such as a cone, pyramid, box, or simply a crumpled wad, can be developed from construction paper.

These first experiments in three-dimensional paper sculpture will lead to interesting improvisations for eyebrows, hair, cheeks, and ears. The teacher should encourage the children at this point to experiment with the paper in as many ways as possible and to develop the masks as a project in paper sculpture.

The child can ornament the edges of the paper with feathers, fur, cotton, or hair to get interesting effects from the type of mask he is making. Again, a scrap box with such things as raffia, yarns, shavings, and steel wool will be invaluable for suggesting new and different approaches to making masks. If these materials are not available, paint and crayons can suffice to make very interesting masks.

4. Finally, a rubber band can be stapled to each side and slipped around the child's head to hold the mask in place.

Whenever possible, the teacher ought to encourage children to be inventive by asking them to create a mood or a feeling, to make the mask look "mean" or look "sad" rather than to make it look "real."

[Meaning in Crafts. Mattil,, Edward L. Chairman, Dept. of Art, North Texas State University. Third Edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971.]



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