Mask Making and Performance is a great way to get everyone in the class on their feet and engaged! What’s unique about this project is that the masks require the student to use their entire body, movement, dance and gestures to express their creation. I’ve used this project to help students gain empathy through imagination, creating “Power Masks” that have personal meaning to each artist, combining this project with spoken word poetry, dance-routines, theatrical storytelling, and more.
For a clay-base mask, a stuffed plastic bag is covered in a layer of clay (so it’s not just a solid mass). This clay is sculpted into the desired shape and details, then layers of paper-mache form the actual mask. When dry, the mask is taken off the base, painted, and details can be added. This process can be quite messy, but it’s also a reason why it’s so fun! The students benefit from exposure to multiple mediums in one project: Clay, Paper-mache, paint, and decoration. In addition, movement and performance can catch those high-energy students and give them a place to shine. This project is best for grades 3 and up. I generally recommend this for a 2-week project; unless working with older students or exceptionally crafty classes who learn fast and focus on the task. For most students, it takes time to get comfortable with each step of the process, and make it just the way they’d like. In addition, a 2-week format allows us to spend more time on movement-skills, choreography and/or storytelling through masks.
A second type of mask-making, pictured above, are Paper-plate-base masks. This project is great for K-3. Students use a simple paper-plate, bend and staple it, and tape on crumpled newspaper, pieces of egg-carton, or cut out cereal boxes to add on noses, ears, beaks or horns. This is covered in paper-mache, and painted. The results are colorful, fun, wear-able, and adorable. Perhaps you can see, in the images above, how students’ projects often reveal elements of their own personality. This is a 1-2 week residency.