Mask Making

To make your mask it may be best to work in pairs.

Your mask could be as simple as a face drawn on a paper plate and held in front of the face. Or if you are feeling adventurous you could take on a more sustained design and technology project using one of the methods below. Amalgamate elements of several methods to suit your needs.

Some general tips: white emulsion paint can give a good first coat to a mask. Several thin coats of paint are often better than one thick coat. Wait for things to dry thoroughly before the next step a hair dryer might help. Try not to get materials too wet. Add accessories like hats or jewellery, wool or hair. Kitchen roll is strong even when wet and can add strength and texture.

If you do not want the mess of paper mache you can use gummed brown paper parcel tape. Ripped into pieces, dampened and built up in layers as with paper mache it dries quickly (if not too wet) and is light, strong, and can be painted well.

To make expression on the mask, one person could imagine they are angry (it might help to think of a reason) freeze the expression, draws outlines of the expression on a piece of paper/photograph it. Swap roles and imagine different emotions.

Some of the methods require specific equipment (listed with the method) for most you will need a general craft kit containing:

  • Scissors
  • Newspaper
  • Tissue paper
  • Paste or PVA
  • Paint – to decorate
  • Brushes
  • Elastic
  • Hole punch
  • Sticky tape / masking tape
  • Stapler
  • Craft knife
  • Scissors
  • Mirror (to see how it looks)

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Modroc method

This involves taking a cast of each child’s face its messy and time consuming but the resulting masks are a good fit and the block can be reused as the basis for many masks. This video may help:

Additional Materials:

  • Vaseline
  • Mod roc or plaster bandage
  • Aprons
  • Floor covering cloth
  • Small bowls of warm water
  • Hair tie ups
  • Washing up liquid
  • Drinking straws cut in half
  • Loose plaster of Paris (powder)

Working in pairs one person sits still in a chair. Cover their clothes and tie back any hair away from their face.

Apply Vaseline liberally to their face paying particular attention to hair line, eyebrow and lashes.

Cut plaster bandage into strips about 6cms X 3cms cut enough to build up two layers on each child’s face.

Working quite swiftly dip a strip into the water and stick it to a child’s face work around the edge first overlapping each piece as in paper mache. Then fill in the gaps across the cheeks, down the nose, around the chin, above the top lip.

Leave the eyes mouth and nostrils until last, straws can be placed in the nostrils and removed when the mask is dry. The resulting holes can be filled later if desired.

Ensure a good coverage over the whole face.

The plaster dries quite quickly and warms up as it does so. When it is dry the child can wriggle their face while their partner eases it gently off around the edges.

Hold up to the light to check for any thin spots and reinforce on the outside as necessary.

This is the mould for the next stage place it level on a stable surface. Grease the inside with Vaseline.

Mix plaster of Paris and pour in to fill mould. This may take some days to dry but when it has, turn it out of the mould.

To exaggerate features; eye brows, cheeks, nose etc. they can be built up on the block with modelling clay. Bold features often work the best. Avoid any over hangs as the mask will be difficult to release from the block. Cover the sculpted block with Vaseline it is now possible to use this block to make a mask using standard paper mache techniques.

When dry, paint with background colour. What colours represent which emotion? Add other colours as you wish to emphasise features add hair using fake fur if desired. Old jewellery can be effective too.

If the masks are to speak you need to follow the above steps but cut off above the top lip.

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Tin foil method

This uses the same principle as above to cast a real face but uses layers of tin foil pressed on a partner and so is quicker and less messy. In this method the tin foil becomes part of the mask as layers of paper mache are added so making it stronger.

This video might help (caution loud music – you might want to mute speakers).

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Balloon method

In addition to a general craft kit you will need large balloons – 1 balloon makes two masks.

Blow up balloon ensuring they are big enough to cover a child’s face

Build up alternate layers of newspaper and kitchen paper glued to the balloon as in traditional paper mache.

Leave it to dry after about three of four layers and add more later. It will need to be strong to take additional features.

When dry cut the balloon in half lengthways mark the eyes and mouth. The top of the eye is level with the top of the ear and the mouth is level with the bottom of the ear.

Mix paper pulp with PVA glue a little water and chosen paint colour, drain excess water and build up nose, eyebrows hair/beard using the pulp.

This video might help –

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Box Method

In addition to a general craft kit you will need grocery boxes (each box can provide background for eight masks with careful cutting).

Box method

Tape the box closed and cut the corners off as shown by the dotted lines (experiment with different face shapes long thin, broad and round what character do they suggest?) the flat top/bottom of the box will go on top of the head.

Mark the position of the eyes and mouth (eyebrows level with top of ears, bottom of nose level with bottom of ears) and cut them out (experiment with different shapes triangular, crescent, square or round).

Paint the mask with a background colour.

Screw up paper into balls or sausage shapes and stick on as eyebrows; nose and cheek bones paint these contrasting colours.

Punch holes or use tape/stapler to attach elastic.

Now look in the mirror and practice standing and gesturing as your character (remember big, slow and strong movement and voice).

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The Greek Alphabet

Our word ALPHABET comes form the Greek letters ALPHA and BETA which have the same sounds as English A and B. The table shows the Greek alphabet and what sounds the letters make in English.

Try writing ANTIGONE using Greek letters, what about other names from the story CREON, THEBES, ISMENE.

Can you write your own name using the Greek alphabet? A version of the table below can be downloaded here.

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Vase painting and frescos

Although the Greek civilization was at its height about 2500 years ago we know how they lived their lives because they made pots and vases from clay just as we do. They were decorated with patterns like the Greek key and pictures from daily life or stories.

Below is a large outline of a vase. Use this to create your own vase (click on the image to download a copy). You could choose a picture from the story of “Antigone” or another Greek myth. The Greeks did not use more than one colour on the vases and the background was either brick red (the colour of the clay) with black figures or black with red figures. Don’t forget to draw in boarders. You could use a traditional Greek key design said to represent the sea.

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The Greeks also decorated their buildings with statues of the people who were important to them. They might be famous playwrights, politicians, heroes from stories or Gods. The most famous of these is known as the Elgin marbles. They are figures that are part of a marble decoration of taken from the Parthenon (an ancient temple in Athens) in 1801 by the Earl of Elgin. They are now on display in the British Museum but many people believe they should be sent back to Greece where they belong. What do you think?

Make a class fresco. Ask the children to use themselves to make a statue of the person that they think is most important to us and deserves inclusion in the fresco. They must justify their choice and may have to argue for their inclusion. Assemble all the statues in a pleasing arrangement to make a statement about the people we admire and our values today.

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Questions for discussion

In order for a democracy to work well there have to be definite rules which everyone respects and agrees to keep.

Below are a list of questions you can discuss with your class.

  • What rules do you think an assembly needs to have in order to work well?
  • How are things decided in your school?
  • How much choice do you have?
  • How are things decided in the city?
  • How do we decide what should happen in our country?
  • Who are/is your local councillors/MP and how are they chosen?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of a system of voting?
  • What other systems of decision making can you think of and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What laws would you make if you could?
  • Should we stand up for what is right?
  • How far should people argue for what they believe is right?
  • What can people do to challenge bad or unjust laws?
  • How can we get the laws we think we need?
  • What laws are necessary?
  • Are there any laws that are unnecessary?

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Stage your own Greek play

There are many stories from Greek history and legend that are suitable for enacting and Greek plays were often based on already well known stories. Some stories you might like to stage are outlined below as well as list of others. There are many more.

The choice of a myth may be suitable material for an assembly presentation. Mythos is an ancient Greek word that means ‘a spoken or written story’; but a myth is more than a story, it usually contains a moral message, often religious or social, and it is this message that might make it appropriate for use in an assembly.

For instance in the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Theseus battles a supernatural monster, and becomes the saviour of his people. Although, in keeping with the message that pride comes before a fall, when he abandons the person who helped him defeat the monster, he causes the death of his father.

The stories derive from an oral tradition and as a result there are many variations of detail and allows us to edit the more sensitive relationship issues as we wish to suit our audience.

The form of the play is very important but will help the audience understand what is happening.

Once you have chosen your story decide which scenes you will show and what necessary information the chorus present. Death and battles were not shown on the Greek stage because they thought they would look ridiculous, offend good taste or be bad luck. The scenes that are best to show are: filling in the detail of what has gone before, where information is received and reacted to, where something is debated and a decision reached, where critical action that changes everything takes place, where people arrive or depart  and of course the ending happy or sad.

The chorus is very important, they represent a group of people with a common bond, in our Antigone they are the people of Thebes. Only one or two people in the chorus speak at any one time while the others communicate through movements and sounds that they execute together with big slow strong gestures. They can challenge the central characters by asking questions and expressing their own opinions.

Try to keep the central characters to a minimum; over the time of the Greek civilization antagonist and protagonist were introduced to make a maximum of four distinct characters. With costume and masks that identified them as individuals, the chorus was dressed and masked the same as one another.

Improvise the scenes in the story and the chorus reactions and after discussion write down the best bits to create the speeches collectively.

Decide on what the stage pictures are and how to move between them Remember, Big, slow, strong. Imagine performing outdoors on the side of a mountain with twenty thousand people watching (about the amount that would be at a football match).

Perhaps you could add live music or hang a painted sheet from the wall bars in the hall to help the presentation.

Other stories you might like to enact or tell:

  • Persephone (download here)
  • Perseus (download here)
  • Theseus and the Minotaur (download here)
  • Jason and the Golden Fleece
  • Odysseus and his escape from the Cyclops
  • Narcissus and Echo
  • King Midas and the golden touch
  • The Wooden Horse of Troy
  • Pandora’s box
  • Aesops fables

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