Sunday, December 6, 2015

131-Lesson Plan for Plaster Face Masks Lesson

For ages 10 and Up

Aim: To make self-portrait masks
To learn how to use plastercraft to make sculpture

Materials: plastercraft, also called Pariscraft
plastic garbage bags to cover laps
smocks, aprons
newspaper balled up loosely and tape to make face form
heavy cardboard or picture frame without glass
hot glue gun
yarn the color of hair
sharpie marker
acrylic or tempera paint, brushes, palettes
optional: showercaps or headbands to pull hair back
accessories (hats, jewelry, eyeglasses)

Vocabulary: plaster
"death" mask

Procedure: This project was the culminating art experience that students at my former elementary school got to make. They all looked forward to it. It takes several art periods, but is truly worth it.

On the first day, I would discuss self-portraits in general and what a death mask was in particular. I then get a volunteer "Victim." Have the victim put vaseline on their face over eyebrows, lips and around the edges. While he is doing this, I show how to cut the plastercraft into pieces with scissors. Be mindful to explain to kids not to blow the dust around when they do this step. You need about 30 pieces 5" x 1 1/4" or so; 8-10 pieces 1/2" x 3" for the nose and 10-15 pieces inbetween the other two sizes.

Put water in the can or container and place it NEAR THE EDGE OF THE TABLE WITH THE PLASTER STRIPS IN THE CENTER OF THE TABLE. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!! When plaster gets wet it starts to harden and becomes unusable, so you don't want put droplets of water on the strips by mistake.

Dip a larger piece into the water and stroke it. Sometimes you have to stroke it several times to get it to soften; other times, it gets soggy right away. The point is to get rid of the tiny holes in the material. As you pat down on the skin, there should be no holes visible at all. Start on the forehead, do the sides of the face and a little on the cheeks. Next take small pieces and make an X" on the top of the nose. Keep patting each piece down. Work deliberately and carefully. Don't rush the process. Here and there you'll need a medium sized piece to smooth things out. Don't work too thickly, but do put about three layers on each area. I find it works best to make the direction of the strips somewhat random than all horizontal, say. The places the masks tend to break are at the side of the head (temples) and the top of the nose (bridge). DO NOT COVER THE NOSTRILS OR THE EYES. Also, if someone has a nose cold, have them wait to do this until they are better. Breathing through your nose is crucial because the mouth will be covered.

Have a loose form of taped newspaper ready. When hardened (20 minutes or so), pull off at sides. Lay on the form and fill in the eyeballs and nose. The victim washes his face while the perpetrator finishes the mask. Poke a finger gently from the back to round out the nose tip, if necessary. Write the person's name in pencil inside the mask.

When the students do this project, they pair up and take turns on different days doing each other as victim and perp. If you have an odd number of kids, two can work on one mask.

When all masks are completed and dry, have students trim side edges straight OVER A GARBAGE CAN TO PREVENT UNNECESSARY DUST. Then the masks can be glued down on the cardboard with a hot glue gun.

The next art period(s)the students will paint the faces and background. I have them paint the entire face and neck skin color first before drawing on the features. You have to remind them that all things are life sized. Some students will make the eyes too big, so this step has to be approached slowly and carefully. After the skin is dry, I have them draw the almond shape of their eyeballs in pencil on the eye socket areas, using a mirror. They then draw in the iris, which is not a ball, but a part of a ball. They also draw in the eyelid line. These parts can be outlined in sharpie, once they are correct, but not until.

The background should be something fun: a place they love, something imaginary, people they care about, pets, etc. Clothing can be whatever.

The last step is gluing on hair and any real accessories.

These portraits were traditionally displayed at our sixth grade graduation and they looked so fabulous in the hallway.

130--Finger Puppets--Grades 3 & up

I’ve made these at birthday parties with children, making them at beginning, playing games while they dry and then painting them before the cake. They’re ready to take home by the end of the party. If you set up the lesson correctly, it’s really not messy.

To explore the use of plaster craft
To create original puppet characters
To use puppets in student-produced puppet show

Materials: First Session: plaster craft cut into strips (do this over a garbage can, if possible to avoid dust); coffee cans filled with water 1” from top; vaseline; thick styrofoam from packaging with old pencils pushed in for easy drying; optional: aluminum foil/pipe cleaners or other easily bendable wire
Second Session: paint (tempera or acrylic); brushes; water cans; optional: feathers, googley eyes

Motivation: There are many ways to approach this lesson with children. If you have a few puppets already made, you could start the lesson with a puppet show about making puppets. Kids adore it when you make different voices for the characters. Or you could talk a bit about how plays are written and have your students write playlets (either in groups or individually) of their own. The important thing is to have at least two characters that can interact.

Teach your students how to make a beginning, middle and end to their plays and have them keep it short. (Kids’ plays can go on forever. A little editing here will be a good thing.)

In any case, the students should know ahead of time what character or characters they are making.

Vocabulary: character, dialogue, villain, hero/heroine, three-dimensional

Procedure: Gather your students around a large table, making sure that everyone can see. I have everyone take a step backwards to make the oval big enough so no one is blocked. If kids lean forward, people behind him are blocked.

I put a bit of vaseline on the finger I’m going to make the puppet on--usually the non-dominant index finger. Dip a plaster strip in the can and stroke it to remove the holes. Wrap LIGHTLY around finger and repeat two more times. Don’t make it too long on your finger and don’t make it too tight. It will harden quickly and you don’t want it to get struck! Explain this to your students. (So far, I’ve never had a student get one stuck.)

Scrunch a dampened piece or two or three into a ball to make a head and press it down. You have to be very patient doing this, since until it dries, it will tend to fall off. Add a snout, ears, paws, hind legs, a tail, etc. Work quickly so that wet sticks to wet better.

If you want to make something more complicated such as a butterfly, you need to use pipe cleaners to wrap around your form. Fold a piece of aluminum foil over the shapes to make it more solid and then cover with the plaster pieces. Make sure that you “activate” the pieces as you work.

When ready to paint, encourage the students to make a base coat on the sections and then to add details. You don't want little flecks of white showing through. When dry, students may use sharpie markers to draw fine details, if you like. Gluing on feathers, glitter, eyeballs, etc. is also an option. I use a hot glue gun for this, monitoring the students well, depending on their age.

Reflection: Follow-up: Make a puppet theater out of a large appliance box for students to use in the classroom. Add a real curtain.

130--Paper Mache Masks/..and Beyond! Lesson Plan

Paper Mache Masks and Beyond--Grades K (with help) and Up

This is a wonderful technique that can be used in so many ways. I use art paste (methyl cellulose) which doesn’t get moldy or stinky like flour and water does.

Aims: To make an original, wearable mask
To explore the use of paper mache

Materials & Tools
newspaper (lots of it)
masking tape
odds and ends to use for the underbody (styrofoam cups, cardboard pieces, egg cartons, foil, etc. etc.
art paste
bowl or bucket for “slime”
For painting: tempera paint (or acrylic)
Optional: pipe cleaners, feathers, raffia, yarn, tissue paper, fabrics and other decorative items

Procedure: Motivate your students with pictures of masks from the culture you are studying. There are numerous examples from all over Africa, New Guinea and Oceania, Eskimo, Asian Indian, American Indian, etc.

To construct the mask, form a loose bunch of newspapers into the size you want the mask and tape it together. Tape on objects to make the form three dimensional--eyes might be egg carton pieces or coffee cup bottoms. Make sure it is very three-dimensional. Add ears, horns, a beard, etc. with cardboard or styrofoam. Use scrunched-up foil to form shapes, too. It doesn’t have to look good at this stage; it just has to hold together for the covering process. Look at the mask in profile and make sure you have enough things sticking out to make it sculptural.

To paper mache, cover your work area. Mix several tablespoons of art paste into water. A little will go along way. Use you hand to mix and get rid of any small lumps. It will thicken in a few minutes and you may then have to add more water.

Rip lots of newspaper into strips, along the grain. Make them mostly medium-sized--about 1-1/2” by 4 or 5 inches. You’ll need tons of them.

When you are ready to paper mache, dip each piece in the art paste mixture, scissor off with your fingers so it doesn’t drip too much and smack down, going over the piece a few times to make sure it conforms to the outline of your shapes. You’ll need about 3 or 4 layers for a strong mask. Go every which way, not just in one direction. Patting down is key for the surface to look good.

When dry, take out the “guts”. Sometimes you’ll need to cut around the back edges with scissors to pull out the form. You can use an exacto knife to cut out eye slits or nostrils, which you only need if you are going to wear it.

If you are painting you mask a light color, putting on a coat of white first will help block out the newspaper print. References of painted masks will help your students paint their masks more beautifully. Details are important to add at this point.

You may use hot glue to add decorative items like yarn, tissue paper or feathers.

Variations can include covering balloons or other objects to make bowls or constructing free-standing figures or animals.