Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to make an Amate Paper Cutout

This project is based on the Amate (bark paper) cutouts of the Otomi people of East Central Mexico.  It is one of the projects I did in Fernie.  It is also a great project to discuss the principle of symmetry with students.  In Fernie we discussed some of the stone sculpture by the Aztecs and how it was symmetrical.  It also teaches kids how to use the center fold when designing symmetrical projects.  Something I use constantly when making patterns and templates.

- resource/reference material, see here
- brown kraft paper or paper bags
- wax paper
- oil pastels or crayon
- scissors
- pencil
- tempera paint
- paper for mounting
- glue
- an iron

Take a piece of brown kraft paper or part of a paper bag.  Cut to size.
Now scrunch up with your hands, try not to tear it.  Unfold and scrunch it again and again.
Flatten out on your workspace and smooth it out a bit.

Using oil pastels or crayon rub a little color onto the paper.  It works best if you take the wrapper off and then use the side.

Fold the paper in half with the color to the inside.

Take a pencil, here I'm using a sharpie so you can see, and draw out one half of your design using the fold line as the middle.

Cut out your design.  Use your other hand to keep the paper together so it doesn't shift as you are cutting.

You can cut out inside parts as well.

Open up your design.

Add tempera paint for a bit more color if you want.  Lots of ancient sculpture was painted, sometimes with very strong color, but it has weathered away with time.  Even ancient Greek sculpture, which we base classical forms on was brightly painted, not that clean look that we see now.

Sandwich your cutting between 2 pieces of wax paper.

Place your "sandwich" on top of some newspaper and use an iron to press and melt some of the wax onto your cutting.  I have a special iron that I use only for crafts.  If you are using your clothes iron make sure to put some newspaper on top as well so you don't get wax on that next shirt you iron!  The wax paper adds some weight to your cutting and it melts a bit of that pastel and crayon giving your cutting a weathered look.

Peel back the wax paper to release your cutting.

Find a nice piece of paper to mount your cutting on.  Glue into place.  Lay down that wax paper on top again and then add a few heavy books and let your cutting set for a while.

Here are some more examples.  This is always a successful project and they look terrific on the bulletin board.


Don't forget to enter the giveaway for "Daring Adventures in Paint" by Mati Rose McDonough.  I will be making the draw this Friday. See my last post for all the details on how to enter. 



  1. Love what you did with the Amate paper. Nice work. Last year I did a project of 20 faces. All faces were on Amate paper that a blogger friend from Mexico had sent me. I loved working with it. You've done a great job. Thx for the process.

  2. Simple and Clever idea
    love it

  3. Love it. Thanks for sharing, I'll certainly use this idea.

  4. Love this project. Thank you for sharing.