Decorative masks are significant in many cultural traditions, religious activities and ceremonial dances. Native North Central and South America, Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa, Maori and other tribal groups incorporate ceremonial masks in their traditions. Here are several easy, recycled mask making crafts to help students explore the tradition of the mask.
Paper plate, paper bag or Styrofoam mask: This is the easiest mask making craft and it incorporates recycled, ‘green’ materials. But don’t think that because the materials are simple, that the cultural significance of masks cannot be conveyed in a paper bag or paper plate mask. Most all ceremonial masks are made from ‘found’ and local materials: leaves, grass, mud, clay, pebbles, shells, animal fur, skin and hair, human hair, seeds, nut hulls and other natural items are used to design masks. That’s what makes the masks so fascinating: the artisan’s ability to create such wonderful designs from natural objects.
The teacher’s role in mask-making is simply to provide the supplies. Students of all ages understand the concept of a mask and if left to their own devices, will create some amazing works of art. For the youngest students, an adult may draw and cut the basic eye and mouth holes for the mask. Older students should be left to explore different facial features and eye hole and mouth hole designs. They may wish to add teeth to the mouth shape, or create eye holes shaped like stars, squares, diamonds or any other unique shape their imagination can invent.
Here are supplies for paper plate and paper bag masks:
recycled paper or Styrofoam plates
large paper grocery bags, turned inside out to hide advertising print
hot glue or Glue Dots (click here for pricing) Glue dots are extra tacky, easy to work with and reduce mess. If glue dots are too expensive, school glue will work.
recycled pot pie tins or egg cartons for glue and paint holders
Q-Tips cotton swabs
Decorations (ask for donations from parents and families; try to purchase as little as possible and recycle as much as possible)
assorted dried seeds, beans, popcorn and legumes (these make excellent teeth)
assorted colored yarn scraps (provide lots of scraps for hair; unravelled yarn for knitted projects makes excellent curly hair)
tissue paper, wrapping paper, construction paper and magazine scraps
gift wrapping ribbons and bows
assorted recycled pom poms, tassels and fabric accessories
raffia or reed scraps
twist paper scraps
paint or markers (don’t allow students to simply draw a design; encourage them to create a 3-D mask)
egg cartons (make nice 3D mask textures)
plastic mesh from orange bags (excellent for decorating)
recycle bin container lids from pop bottles, milk rings, small lids, jar lids, etc. (nothing sharp and all thoroughly washed)
clay or play dough: mold into embellishments and decorations, allow to dry, glue in place, paint.
Provide pictures and examples of native masks. Encourage students to choose a basic mask theme (animal, facial expression) and sketch their mask ideas on paper before beginning. Encourage students to use a collage of materials.