Friday, 18 June 2010

Papier Mache masks

Papier Mache; an activity that should terrify any sensible teacher - the prospects for catastrophe are myriad!

Key to avoiding disaster is preparation, planning, and plumbing. You can't simply wade in and have yourself, and kids, elbow deep in glue when someone needs a hand in the toilet stat! Avoid getting globs of gooey black newspaper on the walls by wrapping the room in cellophane? Or do it outside, if  you have a parking spot, mini-garden or a balcony. Have your production line ready, and if at all possible, have a practice on your own first and make a couple of samples to various stages of completion, to show each stage of production & what you want to achieve.

Making paper mache is not rocket science, and any number of art crafty books will tell you how. Essentially, rip up old newspaper into the size you'll need, soak for an hour or two in not too much water. Kids love this ripping destructive phase. We are making animal masks,  so our plasticene/nendo needed to be not too warm or thin - floppy is useless! You'll need to help kids roll it flat on a non-stick & non-slippery surface (beware tablecloths). Whatever you are aiming for, simple design is best unless you are a ninja at this kind of thing! Forget the fancy stuff you see in the book - yours will look like the Elephant Man no matter what!

Remember to make a bump for the nose, and generous eyeholes (they'll shrink in the modelling stage). So a nice simple template cut into the plasticene, over which you need to slap on some vaseline to make sure the dried end-product will come off it easily. Sleeves up, smocks on, plastic mat or whatever on the floor, spare bucket for rinsing hands handy...take a deep breath and bung your wallpaper glue into the paper/water gunge. This is the tactile bit, squishing and squeezing. Glue in hair, in armpits, up noses, on chairs, nearby surfaces...be warned!

The bigger the model you made, the simpler the layering is. Finnicky corners/angles, fancy nose job? You are better off going for cro-magnon eyebrows and bold cheek bones! Also, don't overdo it - you can add layers later if you need to; too thick now = too heavy for the nippers. 

You'll not be painting these tomorrow; time the great healer as you set aside to dry. Teacher may want to touch things up before next class anyway, if someone had a 'mare?  Think ahead - the painting stage is wrought with deposit-threatening situations too!  We'll show you ours once they are done.

In true Rolf Harris style, "can you tell what they are yet?"
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