Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Plaster Masks

I have been making these plaster masks with kids for a few years now.  The results are always terrific and the students have a great time applying the masks on each other.

Here are some animal masks.

Here are some Mardi Gras or Mi cereme type masks.


- plaster strips,  you can buy these at craft stores (Michaels) but I prefer to get them straight from the medical supplier.  I use Stevens.  Cost wise this will save you a lot of money.  You need about 18 rolls for a class of 24.  I use Gypsona Extra Fast Plaster of Paris.  7.5cm x 2.7m.  I then cut the bandages into  4 inch (10 cm) lengths and then cut each of these into strips about 3cm wide.  I cut these straight into a flat box, you will get a lot of plaster dust so cut in top of a garbage bag or drop cloth.
- containers for water
- 1 garbage bag for each pair of students
- disposable shower caps, I get these at the dollar store 10 for a dollar
- recycled cardboard, paper tubes, egg cartons
- vaseline
- drywall compound, optional
- acrylic paint
- faux fur, feathers
- embellishments
- glue gun

This is a 3 session project


Have the students pair up.  I give them a little talk about being respectful and gentle with their partner.

The one who is getting the mask applied puts on the shower cap.  A garbage bag is laid out on the floor.

Vaseline is applied to the face.  Use a good layer and put extra on the eyebrows.  I only do half masks with the kids so you need only apply the vaseline to the nose.

I tell the kids to avoid the eyes, think that your partner is wearing glasses or googles.  The model needs to keep their eyes closed.

They then get some plaster strips and a container with warm water.

Dip a strip into the warm water and run your fingers down it to remove excess water.  Apply to the face on the bridge of the nose forming an "X" onto the cheek.  Do this 3 times.  This will form the base of your mask.

You need to massage each strip when you apply it to get the plaster into all the holes of the bandage.  I tell the kids to think they are at the spa!  Otherwise it will not be smooth.

You want to do 3 layers of bandages everywhere.  Avoid the nostrils and eyes.

I give each model a few kleenex in their hand so they can mop up any annoying drips but eyes need to be closed.

Make sure to get those 3 layers especially on the sides and try to have no holes.  Don't worry about the edges looking pretty as you can trim them later with scissors when the mask is removed and dried.

If some plaster gets on your clothes don't worry it will wash out.

The mask will start setting up in 15 minutes.  It make get a bit warm as well as the plaster is activated.

When it is hard remove gently from face.  I find it's easiest for an adult/ teacher to remove.  I gently lift from the bottom (by the cheeks) and ease off from the rest of the face.  The eyebrows and hairline are where the mask might stick a bit.  Just take your time and slowly ease it off.
The model can then wash their face and switch places with their partner.  Repeat the process again.  It will take approximately an hour and a half to do a whole class with a switch halfway thru.

The masks can be put aside to dry.  Although firm they will still be damp and fragile.    Set aside.

Session #2

Collect some recycled cardboard, egg cartons, and paper tubes.

Take the base mask and start adding other elements.  Use more plaster strips to attach.  We also used drywall compound to fill in the holes and for texture.  You can also trim the edges of your mask with scissors.  Any extra pieces or stray edges.

Here you can see that paper tubes (toilet paper) are used for the horns,  some cereal box cardboard is used to form ears as well as the muzzle/mouth.

When you are finished adding your extra elements set aside to dry again.

Session #3

Now it's time to finish your mask.  Using acrylic paint, paint as desired.  It's best to paint the background colours first and then add the small details.

Using a glue gun attach feathers or faux fur.  You can also add other embellishments like gems, beads, or sequins.

When the mask has dried you can poke a hole on each side by the eye using an awl or sharp point of a pair of scissors.  Attach string or cord for tying.

That's it.  A great art experience your students will never forget!

I'm off to my Maui again for Easter break.  I'm looking forward to reading, sketching, and lots of painting.

I hope to send you a few blog postcards in the coming weeks.

Have a great Easter everyone and aloha!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mixed Media Face

Grade 1 is studying the five senses.  Here is a face project that at least tackles 4 of them.  You could always add a hand coming off the side (traced on poster board) to make it 5.

I wanted to emphasize the 3D component.  The fact that you can touch the pieces also addresses the missing tactile sense.


- substrate, we used foam board, you could also use cardboard or primed canvas
- flesh coloured and pink paint, liquid tempera or acrylic
- pieces of corrugated cardboard
- cardboard egg carton
- paper towels cut in strips
- recycled container
- white glue, water
- wax paper
- black paper
- large glass gems
- small piece of rope or clothesline
- coloured burlap cut into strips
- sharpie, crayon, coloured pencils


Cut your substrate into a square.  Mine is 10" x 10" or around 25 x 25cm.

Cut a piece of cardboard for the base of the eye. Place the gem on top to measure.

Cut out one of the cups from the egg carton for the nose.
Cut a piece of cardboard for the base of the nose and one for the mouth.  Cut an ear shape out of another piece of cardboard.

Take your recycled container.  Mix glue and water together at about a 1 to 1 ratio.    You will be working on wax paper.  Have your strips on hand.

Place the egg carton piece on your cardboard base.  Start papier mache.  You want to cover the cup as well as the cardboard.  Pinch it in as you work creating a nose shape.

When the nose is done start on the ear.

I added a roll of paper towel for the ridge on outside of the ear and a bump on the bottom for the lobe.

Set both nose and ear aside in a warm place to dry.

Paint entire front with flesh coloured paint.  At school I mix up a big batch.  I also reserve a bit so I can alter the colour if needed.

The substrate may warp a bit.  I tried both liquid tempera and acrylic and had equal warping.  If you have enough paint you could always paint the other side to help with this.

When the papier mache has dried (about 24 hrs) paint with the flesh tone.  Also paint the mouth and eye base.

Take the large glass gem.  On a piece of white paper trace around the gem. That circle shape will be the eyeball.

Do 2.

Draw in the iris and pupil.  Add the shape of the eye as well to one of the eyeballs.

Colour in the iris with crayon or coloured pencil.  Outline with black sharpie.

Cut them out.

 Attach the eyeball to the gem with mod podge .  Do not use glue as it tends to dry cloudy.

Podge dries fully clear.

Set aside to dry.

Cut the black paper to the same size at the substrate.

On that paper sketch out a face shape.

Cut it out taking care to save the outside area (negative space) not the inside.

Put some glue on that frame.

Stick on your substrate creating a face shape.

On the eye base trace around the eye shape that you drew for the other eye with sharpie.

Podge into place.

Take the small piece of rope/ string/clothesline and paint it with the pink acrylic paint.  You can add some pink to the inside of the ear and on the nose where the nostrils are.  When the string is dry glue into place on the mouth cardboard base.

Start to glue the pieces into place.  Add eyelashes to the eyes.

Glue in the ear and mouth and then finally the nose.

Make sure to add a neck line.

Add some hair using the strips of burlap.

Now you can add text to identify the senses.

You can also add shading with crayons or pencil crayon if you want.

Add a ribbon at the top for hanging and it's done.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Papier Mache Robin Eggs

 Kindergarten is studying "living things that come from eggs" right now.

We needed a few good art projects to tie into this theme.

First up is this Robin in a papier mache egg.

Now I know robins do not come from blue and pink spotted eggs but we wanted a bit more colour fun for the kinders.


- balloons
- paper towel cut into strips
- recycled container
- white glue
- water
- acrylic or tempera paint
- Easter grass, optional
- scissors
- cereal box cardboard
- template
- brown fabric
- red felt or fleece
- tacky glue
- googly eyes
- yellow craft foam
- feathers
- flower sprig
- glue gun (adult operation only)
- fishing line
- pony bead or washer


Blow up balloon to the size of egg you want.

We kept ours on the small side.

Mix up your glue solution in the recycled container.  I use 1 part glue to about 1 part water.

Dip your paper towel strips into the mixture and start layering them on the balloon.  You want to criss cross the layers.  Leave a bit of the balloon bare, this will make cutting easier later on.

Every once and a while put a dry strip on to soak up the excess.

Put aside in a warm place to dry.

Turn every day until they fully dry out.  It will take about 48 hrs.

When they are dry cut a hole in each egg starting where you can see the balloon.

Paint with acrylic or tempera paint.

Paint on spots or stripes.

With an awl or knitting needle punch a hole at the top of the egg.

Cut a length of fishing line.  Tie on a pony bead or washer.

Thread the other end of the line thru the hole.  The bead or washer holds the line in place.

Using the template cut out the bird shape out of cardboard.  I've included a large and small template depending on the size of your egg.

Using the same template cut the body shape out of brown fabric.

Cut a red breast shape from the red felt or fleece.

Glue the brown fabric to the cardboard.

Glue on the red breast, 2 googly eyes, and a small beak cut out of the yellow craft foam.

Add 2 feathers for the wings.

Stuff a little Easter grass into the egg.

Bend the little tab at the bottom of the robin.

Add some glue to it.

Attach to the inside of the egg.

Finally you can glue a little branch or sprig of flowers to the bottom of the egg, just to dress it up a bit.

That's it.  You could make this project with different animals themes like turtles, dinosaurs, fish, etc.

I like the Robin as it is Spring themed, you could do a chick for Easter.

See you soon.