On a sheet of cardboard, mound clay and form it into the shape of the mask...
building up the brow bone or stretching out the nose and making indentations
where wanted, etc. (This is the mold, basically, and allows the masks to be
very realistic or animalistic or fantastic...big or small)
The clay is then covered with plastic so that there are as few air bubbles as
possible between the plastic and the clay. Grocery produce bags work fine for
this. (save 'em all year long or see if a store will donate a roll).
Then paper mache using a combination of 2x2 inch newspaper and grocery bag
paper. (The theatre DOESN'T use the flour/water variety due to its ability to
attract rodents--ewwww. I don't know if wallpaper paste is appropriate for kids,
either.) with one layer of newspaper, one layer of torn brown grocery bags,
another layer of newspaper, then two layers of brown paper. The brown paper adds
stability and the final layers prevent the newspaper ink from seeping through
When the mask is dry, it is pried off the mold OR the cardboard is pried off the
back so that all of the clay can by dug out--it should be fine for its
"intended" use. Even the plastic can be reused.
Eye openings can be cut out, if needed, at this point. If the mask is to be worn
(as they are for this theatre's parade), a cardboard armature can be attached,
for that purpose, as follows: Take a 1 inch strip of cardboard and wrap around
the kid's head, then staple into a loop to fit their head. Then take another
strip and staple it to the loop just above the ear, than over the kid's head to
the other ear. This structure--don't know what to call it--can then be attached
to the mask. It's kind of like a baseball cap skeleton.
At this point, the mask is ready to be painted and/or have other things added to
it... raffia, twigs, ???
Again, these suggestions come from a theatre experience I've had so I don't know
if they're suitable for the classroom or not. If not, come to Minneapolis and
see how they're used to bring an entire community together on the first Sunday
in May. It's pretty amazing in that regard.