Lately I've been playing around with paper mache in my grade 5/6 classroom. I've done paper mache before with my grade 5 classes - in the past we made canopic jars in our Egypt unit for social studies. That was a lot of fun and the kids enjoyed themselves (though it took weeks to complete the project). I don't go for the "traditional" paper mache flour-and-water paste - I cheat and use white glue watered down (it's easier and the results are great). Those jars created a huge mess every day we worked on them because I went with the dunk-and-squeegee method with the newspaper strips - the kids got glue EVERYWHERE. This time I learned. We're using the brush-and-patch method. It's just like decoupage except we're using small patches of overlapping newspaper instead of strips and we use paint brushes to soak the patches with glue and push and smooth them into place - It is MUCH neater and we don't waste as much paste as the other times.
This time we're making masks as 3-D sculpture for art class. This has definitely moved the kids out of their comfort-zone of simple 2-D drawings and cut-and-paste activities. I've been having a hoot with this and decided to try and really expand my kids' imagination; so I introduced them to some of the more fanciful examples of masks like Venetian carnival masks, and Mardi Gras masks and Comedia dell'Arte masks and Steampunk masks. That really got their attention.
For my ongoing example to demonstrate the process, I chose to try and make a Comedia dell'Arte mask - I've never made one before or any paper mache project with this level of sculptural detail.
We started with a paper template that was transferred to a piece of regular cardboard. By using relief cuts, and crushing the corrugation inside the cardboard and A LOT of masking tape to hold things in shape, I showed the kids how to transform a 2-D sheet of cardboard into curved 3-D mask shell. Once that was given a layer of masking tape, it was then given 3 layers of paper mache to make a strong and rigid foundation to build the 3-D sculpture of the mask.
For my mask, I demonstrated how using crumpled up newspaper, lots of tape and a little imagination, a person could sculpt anything they wanted. The kids were amazed as the nose, nostrils, cheeks, jowls, forehead and wrinkles took shape (... personally, so was I). For their masks, I also allowed the kids to use found or re-purposed objects as details for their masks. Some are struggling with it - others are really enjoying it (like me).
After all the 3-D details are sculpted, the whole mask gets 2 layers of newspaper and a final top layer of brown paper towel to cover up all the ink colours and give an interesting texture to the mask. The final step is painting ... I'll post the results when I'm done.