“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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“Be My Valentine”

“Be My Valentine”

What was planned as a Valentine-making workshop, turned into a Valentine bookmaking experience instead…with the creative participants learning how to fold an accordion book with pockets, and adorning, embellishing and enhancing it with all manner of sumptuous materials!


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Participants glued together prepared strips of high quality drawing paper, which had the pocket folds set up for them. The pocket folds were folded, then unfolded, so that the participants did not have to measure them out. Each paper strip was also folded in half, and organized in sets of two.

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After choosing their strips, gluing them together, then re-folding the pocket folds and then the center fold, the participants went on to fold the rest of the accordion structure. They added the covers which were cut to be wider then the width of the accordion sections, and folded the edge of the covers into the book, creating flaps or vertical pockets, or trimmed them off.

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Then the real fun began. Decoration! Adornment! Embellishment!  Ribbon, lace, stickers, washi and fabric tapes were used to create design, text and image.

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Participants employed all of the materials in fresh and imaginative ways, combining, layering and playing with them to create complex, whimsical and elegant Valentines that became a delicious feast for the eye, while the pockets offered a place for secrets, and possibly poetry.


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Glittery stickers, resembling crunchy sugary treats were a hit, transforming the books into sparkling sculptural reliefs,


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personalizing their pieces.

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Participants used tapes to create patterned borders, 

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ribbons to hold their books closed,

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and ruffled laces to add that “je ne sais quoi” and finishing touch to their creations.

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And of course, there are a million ways to say, “I love You!”

A personalized handmade work of Valentine book art would do just that!

Here’s to Amore!

We Wrote The Book: Notes From the Field1

We Wrote The Book: Notes From the Field1

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I am always amazed at the hunger people of all ages seem to have for not only making a book, but filling it. Often immediately. What they, You, fill it with, is called content. If you engage in this process,  you may find that the content of your book begins to resemble, uncannily, the content of your life. Or, it may just start out that way.

Whatever they, you,  fill it with, whether it be words, images, text, poetry, collage, drawings, painting, stitching, lace (!), the content created and the method, media and materials they, you, choose to use, inevitably expresses, and becomes part of, their, your, story.

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I encourage a method of “Found Writing“, which may be similar to “Found Poetry”, as the process often yields up poetic self-awareness.

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Makers simply respond to words, phrases and text they are drawn to, adding it to their book without self censure or judgment. The results are nothing short of remarkable: expressive, moving, and often a signpost as to the direction the maker is moving, or wants to move in their lives.

WEB1The “Flag Book” structure, invented by book artist Hedi Kyle, provides the perfect place for poetic text…

WEB2and images…cut up and reassembled in a new way through the book’s flag pages. Some content seems to be a message in a bottle, yielding up meaning as it is created and  contemplates, while some

WEB3 speaks for itself, in a very direct way. No second guessing  the message here, it would seem!

WEB2Above, students busily create envelope books, which will contain an invitation to their parents to attend our end of class bookmaking event…

WEB1Some brave souls share theirs.

WEB3Sticker letters are a hit,

WEB1and translate into the family activity, which employs the humble (OK- this is a fancy one I lucked upon in our local 99 cents store) file folder. You can use the manilla ones.

WEB2I usually insist on no tape,wanting the students to learn how to glue (UHU Glue Stics are a favorite- acid-free too) and sew, but do make an exception for the joys of washi tape!

In bookmaking, as in life, you can use just about anything to tell your story. It is all grist for the storymaking mill, whether you are conscious of it or not, so, why not get started???!!! You ARE the StoryMaker!