When we think of masks, we usually think of Halloween, but they have so many other uses—as props in dramatic productions, as decorative objects, or simply as entertainment for a long school break. This papier-mâché mask is the perfect project for your budding middle school artist. As he brings form to his masterpiece, he'll immerse himself in the creative process and develop his aesthetic eye.
A cautionary note: this project spans several days and can be quite messy, so make sure you read through the steps and understand the time investment it requires before you begin. But don't let this warning scare you away! Making art takes time, and this project is no different. And in the end your efforts will be richly rewarded: your child will have a stunning piece of art, made by his own hands, that he can truly be proud of.
What You Do:
- Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil that is a little more than twice as long as your child’s face. If you want to make a half mask, measure the foil from your child’s hairline to his upper lip and double that length.
- Fold the foil in half to create a double layer. Center the foil over your child’s face and, starting with the nose, gently press it in so the foil takes the form of his face. Once the nose is formed, pause a moment and have your child very carefully poke holes in the foil over his nostrils with the cotton swab so he can breathe while the mask is being formed. Make sure all the facial features are impressed into the foil, including his eyes, lips, jaw line, chin, etc.
- Gently remove the foil from your child’s face, taking care not to disturb the facial impression, and lay it on your workspace. Place some crumpled newspaper under the foil mold to give it support.
- Create the paste by mixing three parts water to one part flour in a large bowl. You can experiment with the thickness of the paste by adding more or less water. The more flour added, the stronger the paste will be.
- Dip a strip of newspaper into the paste so that it is completely coated, then run it between two fingers to remove excess paste.
- Place the strip on the forehead of the foil mold so that it is smooth, taking care not to disturb the mold.
- Continue adding strips to the mold until it is completely covered with a single layer of newspaper, making sure the strips overlap slightly. Allow the mask to dry completely, at least 24 hours.
- Repeat steps 5-7 until the mask has 4-5 layers, making sure each layer dries completely before adding the next one.
- Once the final layer of papier-mâché is dry, carefully cut holes in the mask for the eyes. If making a full mask, poke holes for the nostrils. If making a half mask, cut away any parts that cover your child's nose; the mask should rest on the bridge of his nose.
- Use paint to decorate your mask in whatever theme you choose. You can also add hair, eyelashes, or other three-dimensional features.
- If desired, poke a small hole in each side of the mask at the temples and thread a piece of ribbon or elastic through. The ends can then be tied together to hold the mask on your child's face.
Use the mask to put on a play and hang it as art when you're done!