This project has been quite a long one, but there has been many aspects and processes to it. Above all it has taught the children patience ….step by step they have seen their designs develop into these amazing masks. Children from the ages of 5-11 years participated in this project and I am very proud of all of them and their work.
We started off discussing about Maori culture and I showed the children some pictures of Maori people and their houses, boats and jewellery etc. Art has always been an important part of Maori culture and this can be seen on many of their posessions.
Kowhaiwhai are beautiful patterns that look like painted scroll designs. The Koru is the most basic shape of the Kowhaiwhai. Koru is the Maori word for loop and its shape is based on the new unfurling frond of a fern. The shape symbolises new life, regeneration, growth, strength and peace.
So, we started off drawing the Koru shape, to help the younger children I created a template that they could draw over until they felt confident to go it alone. Once we had the idea the children created a Koru inspired picture using oil pastels. This particular drawing activity was inspired by the one on Kinderart.
Now, on to the masks. I bought some plastic white masks from Baker Ross. I cut large circles of card and used pizza base packaging big enough to leave room around the edge of the mask for drawing. The process is quite simple and is as follows:-
Centre the craft mask on the cardboard circle and secure with masking tape. Scrunch up some newspaper to form a forehead shape and tape in place (make sure it is secured on the inside of the mask too). Some children added cardboard cut-out feathers to their mask at this point.
Strips of newspaper were cut ready for the paper maché. Mix PVA glue with a drop of water or you can use Scola-Cel glue (please note that a couple of photos show the paper machéing being done with wheatpaste glue which I made as a try-out, it doesn’t work so well as it gets brittle when it dries).
Begin to cover the mask with paper strips dipped in the gluey solution. Make sure you cover the cardboard circle too and feather (if you have them), going over the edges and onto the back just a little. Once dry, paint with white acrylic paint (you can use poster paint too), we gave the masks two coats.
Now the children had to design their mask. I found that it was a good idea to photocopy a few shapes that I drew onto an A4 sheet of paper as a starting point. We talked about symmetry and how to reflect a shape so that the mask looked the same both sides. I decided that the most practical way to demonstrate reflection was to use tracing paper. I got the children to practice on some plain paper first, They traced over a Koru shape with a pencil and then flipped the tracing over, placing it in the correct position, they then traced over it again. The first pencil mark pressed through to the paper, when the traced shape is flipped back again and traced in the correct position for a second time, the children can see how their design has been reflected.
Using a pencil the children began to draw their shapes onto the masks, most children used a mixture of traced shapes and freehand drawing. Once they were happy with their design they went over their pencil lines with a black sharpie.
The Maori patterns were painted in the traditional colours of red and black (there were a few children who couldn’t resist mixing the two colours, so some masks have a brownish tinge but hey, the children loved it and that’s what matters). Finally we added a hanging loop at the top of the mask.