“Play’s The Thing”: Mask Making and Authenticity

“Play’s The Thing”: Mask Making and Authenticity

Working with the fifth grade ethics class at the Silverlake Independent JCC was an opportunity to use the activity of mask making to explore identity, and the issue and challenge of authenticity.

We started with questions…

What does it really mean to be “authentic”?

Do we wear masks to hide or reveal our identities?

What purposes do masks serve?

We shared about why we might wear a literal or figurative mask, how masks can protect, fool, transform and create, how they can offer us means to explore our identities, perform and present, hide, share, and even become a tool of self-discovery.

We looked at samples of masks and books were on hand filled with images of masks from other countries, societies, cultures and his/herstories.

Fueled by this preparation, students sketched out ideas for their mask characters on paper with pencils and markers.

One later added this drawing to his mask…feeling that he had what he wanted!

Students then made the form, or structure of their masks, seeing how a two-dimensional piece of bright tagboard

can become a three-dimensional wearable piece!

They used the top and bottom areas of the mask for for beards, crowns, ears and hats.

Color choices were made…

Eye holes were cut.  Students worked in pairs to gently mark out where their real eyes were under the masks,

then adults punched a small hole through those marks, so that the students could use scissors and make their eyes any shape and size they chose. Some chose two shapes!

Students then developed their mask characters through embellishment with a range of materials!
They used feathers, “googly eyes”, markers, washi tape, pom poms, shoe laces, ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads and more…

This young artist cleverly used his glasses as part of his mask persona.

Here, a  single googly eyes is centered between two eye holes which bloom with washi tape petals and patterns.

This maker used a paper plate and wooden sticks to build out his half-mask.

A creative choice is made here by crisscrossing the purple feathers at the top.

Great us of lace at the bottom, and washi tape at the top of this creation!

As we donned our masks at the end of class, and gathered once again in a circle,

students had the opportunity to once again introduce themselves, and perform their mask characters…Or were they performing themselves?

Students left class masks on to share with family and friends.

Through the act of becoming someone or something else for a time, the hope is that they are empowered to become more themselves.

And have a blast in the process!



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Keeping the Faith: Inspired by the Storied Quilts of Faith Ringgold

Keeping the Faith: Inspired by the Storied Quilts of Faith Ringgold

WEB2I recently led elementary school-aged students through a project inspired by the storied artist Faith Ringgold, progenitor of the art of the “Story Quilt

WEB9Students used pieces of “eco-fi” (made of recycled plastic bottles) felt, upon which they built their “story”, using pieces of cloth/fabric/textiles, ribbon, more felt, “pom poms“, feathers, fabric tape and so forth. All materials soft fabric or adornment materials.

WEB7Some young artists glued two to three pieces of felt together, some used a single sheet.

WEB1Students learned about gluing different sorts of materials together. How does one glue down feathers to a surface, while retaining their “feather-like” quality?

WEB3Students worked in close proximity at the cafeteria tables where our class is held, interacting and sharing about their pieces as they went along.

WEB4The color and texture of the materials seemed to affect the makers. The young girl above in the flowered dress put her piece to her cheek a number of times, enjoying its softness.

WEB6This young artist displayed incredible patience, cutting and gluing multitudes of repeating shapes onto the felt, bordering them with fabric tape, and even backing the piece with black felt.

WEB8All of the makers displayed relish and joy in the materials, and unbounded creativity. Whether working abstractly or figuratively, the students shared their stories with shapes, color, texture and imagery!

What a JOY!

Inspired by Faith and her Storied Quilts

Inspired by Faith and her Storied Quilts

Teaching a class for the C.R.E.S.T. Enrichment program of Santa Monica entitled, “Making Art Inspired By Great Artists” allows for many exciting possibilities.

The artist Faith Ringgold is a natural for children, as she has written and illustrated for them herself. She created a unique “hybrid” art form she calls the “Story Quilt”, which combines quilting and painting, with a focus on cloth.

WEBjStudents aged 5-9 worked with pre-cut pieces of Eco-fi “felt (made from recycled plastic bottles), and developed their scenes or stories by adding cloth,pom poms, ribbon, leather, textiles, feathers and fabric tape.

WEBiMany of the students chose to glue pieces of the felt together, to create larger works.

WEBdAlthough some look abstract, each holds a story that expresses aspects of the maker’s experience. The piece above holds an ice cream cone, and later pizza was added!

WEBbWhen I asked the talented young artist why she put a dollar sign on the piece above, she shrugged and said simply, “I don’t know.” Somewhere in there, is a story!

WEBaThis young artist kept putting her piece up to her cheek, enjoying its tactile softness.  She said it depicted a “state”.  Did she mean flag?

WEBfWEBgWEBe1It was fascinating to see how several students used pieces of the same textile or cloth.

WEBhThe piece above is actually backed in black felt, and the six-year-old artist framed it with a border , hallmarks of Ringgold’s “Story Quilts”. This first grader’s old’s patience in piecing together all of the felt rectangles, (which she also cut out), is stunning, as is the finished piece!

As all of the “Story Quilts” are.  Inspired, and inspiring!