Month: February 2014

Art Lesson: Leather Mask Making

Leather Mask Example

As a current 3D I and 3D II teacher I have a ton of sculpture lessons up my sleeve. I like to change things up every year; I keep some projects consistent, while switching others out completely and slightly altering others. While student teaching I developed a Venetian mask lesson, inspired by my trip to Italy a year prior. I spent endless hours planning, researching, PowerPointing, and creating my example.

The original lesson had students create a mask form using plaster strips as a base and liquid plaster on top to create a smooth surface. For the most part the project was a success, the masks looked nice, the students had a good time, but I still felt limited. It was difficult to achieve fluid shapes or add large forms with a material as rigid as plaster. Despite a few doubts I taught the lesson two more times before taking a break.

When I started my new job I returned to the world of sculpture after a two year hiatus. As I planned for my first year as the 3D I and 3D II instructor, I found myself returning to the idea of mask making. While researching my mask resurgence I discovered leather mask making.

I never would have considered this project at my last school. On a shoe string budget materials that contain the word “leather” are automatically turned down do to cost. However, at my private school job with my private art school budget suddenly these expensive sounding words were appealing. I began research and quickly realized leather is an incredible material that can be twisted, curved, cut, and carved very easily. I made a few phone calls and found a leather provider.

After some research I was shocked to discover I could actually get the leather I needed at a reasonable price. Through a company called Brettun’s Village I could get a hide for a decent price. After calling the company I was told they would send me enough leather scraps for a small town to make masks for only $50. I was in, and the leather mask making began.


  • Paper for template
  • Scissors and Xacto to cut template and leather
  • Pins to hold template onto leather to trace
  • Sharpie or pencil to trace around template onto leather
  • Leather (3 oz veg tan leather)
  • Bucket/sink with water to soak mask
  • Towels to help dry mask
  • Hair dryer or heat gun to help dry mask as you mold it
  • Pliers for folding mask
  • Plastic and wooden ribs for folding leather (clay tools and bookmaking tools work well)
  • Acrylic paint and paintbrushes to paint mask
  • Elastic to use to hold mask onto face



Introduce the students to Venice, give them some history and background as a base. Introduce the holiday, Carnivale, the traditional mask wearing holiday celebrated right before Mardi Gras. Show them examples of mask shapes and the meaning behind the shapes. Introduce the idea of symbolism, using colors, shapes, and symbols to represent something specific. Show them work by artist, John Flemming. His work pushes the boundaries of a typical mask. He uses leather to create extreme and interesting mask shapes.


Have students do their own research on masks and symbols. Have them consider their favorite color, horoscope sign, birthstone, interests, and ways they can represent themselves through their mask.


Have students do three full color sketches of different mask ideas. Help them select the best option.


Draw a life size version of the mask. Use an Xacto knife to cut out areas on the inside of the mask, cut the outside shape with scissors.



Cut a piece of leather roughly to the size of the template. Pin the template to the leather using straight pins. Trace around the exterior shape and interior shapes with a pencil or sharpie. Cut the mask out of the leather using scissors and an Xacto knife.


Soak the mask in water for approximately 10 minutes, or until the leather is saturated. Sandwich the leather between two towels to squeeze out excess water.



Have students place the mask on their face and begin forming the mask to their face. As the leather dries it begins to hold the shape. To help speed the drying process use a hair dryer or heat gun on the leather. Once the mask is roughly formed to their face have them add details. Use pliers to round out the edge of the mask or cut outs. Pinch the leather between the pliers to create raised areas. Use a bone folder or wooden rib to press into the leather to create lines and indentations. Use your hands and fingers to round out and roll over areas. The leather can be twisted, dried, and will hold it’s shape. Have the students continuously press the mask to their faces to make sure it maintains a good fit.


Have the students cover the masks in bags if they aren’t finished molding the mask before the end of class. Areas can be re-wet and re-molded. Once their mask is molded, allow the mask to dry out completely.


Paint the mask using acrylic paint. Encourage the students to use light shades to emphasize raised areas and dark shades to emphasize low areas of their design. The mask should be painted inside and out.


Create holes on the edge of the mask for the elastic band to be strung through. Have the students write an artist statement about how their mask represents them. Have a class critique of the completed masks.


This project is a great assignment to introduce history and symbolism into your class. The students also become very invested because of the personal nature of the lesson. If you love this lesson but don’t feel like doing the research check out my Leather Mask PowerPoint here! Check out the rubric I use here.


Thanks for taking the time to check out on of my art lessons. I hope it helps you in your classroom. Help me spread the word about my lessons and art by sharing, tweeting, liking, or whichever social networking method you like best. Thanks for stopping by!


Visual Journal Page 60: When a Door Closes

Visual-Journal-Page-60-When-a-Door-ClosesIt was a beautiful Friday afternoon. The weather was just right, it still felt like spring despite the hot month of June looming ahead. I got home from work, and headed straight to the backyard to enjoy my hammock. As I stepped into the grass my phone began to ring, an unknown number, I knew this was it. 

I often get calls from unknown callers. I never pick up, I assume if it’s something important they will leave a message. It’s my way to avoid surveys, salesman, and other forms of phone call spammers; but this was different. I felt the knot in my stomach as soon as I saw the call, my breath suddenly felt short, I was about to find out if I was getting a new job or not.

I picked up, trying to keep my voice as steady as possible. The school principal was on the other end. He began with thank yous, you were so great, we were so impressed. My heart skipped a beat. In my head I urged him to say the word, that one little word, “congratulations.” He made it sound like I had it, but he wouldn’t say the word.

At the end of his ohhing and ahhing he said a word, but it wasn’t the one I was hoping for, it was a dark and heavy “but.” I momentarily zoned out, I failed, I didn’t get it, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t achieve this one thing I wanted so much. His “but” was followed by a drawn out explanation, one I could barely handle to hear because my eyes were already welling. He explained another candidate, with six years teaching experience and extensive photography experience was given the job. It made sense, I understood, but it didn’t sting any less.

As his words flowed out I was trying to catch my breath, hoping by the time it was my turn to speak he wouldn’t hear my devastation. I gave him my generic thanks anyway lines, promised to apply for future openings, and quickly got off the phone. As soon as I looked up there was Nick, and there I was bursting into tears.

I couldn’t handle it. I was so sure I got the job. I felt good about the interview, I couldn’t have been better prepared, I felt I made a connection with the other art teachers. I had been beat out by four additional years of experience and far more expertise, it made sense, I couldn’t compete. I thought of returning to my school, to the one teacher art department, the overflowing classes, the non existent budget. I remembered my exhaustion, frustration, and the urge I felt every now and then to chew out my principal, storm out of his office, and quit.

After my moment of hysteria I began thinking about my students. I thought of the wonderful babies I would be returning to. I thought about my handpicked AP Art class, my enthusiastic 9th graders, my growing art followers. It would be okay. I would be okay. This was meant to be, I needed another year, I needed to round out my 3 years before moving on.

They say when a door closes a window opens. This became the voice in the back of my head. Who knew what jobs would be available next year, there must be a reason I needed to wait. As I prepared for the 2012-2013 school year I also prepared for my last year. I had a distinct feeling this would actually be it. I would go into this school year, do an amazing job, and end on a high note rather than a bitter one. I would go in with a better attitude, open mind, and an understanding that I needed to treasure each moment with my students because I was determined this would be it.


  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Scissors
  • SCAD postcard
  • Book pages
  • Construction paper
  • Tree painting
  • Fine sharpie


Being an art teacher I receive many postcards, pamphlets, and magazines from art schools across the country. Each one advertising their program, urging me to help them out, hoping to attract more applicants. These items quickly find their way from my school mailbox to my visual journal magazine bin to be cut out and recycled into art.

By far the most interesting images come from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). I look forward to their inch thick magazines at the beginning of each year. I often stash them behind my desk until I have flipped through multiple times, claiming my favorite images, before passing them on to my students. This particular picture, a mixed media piece of a woman with a window in front of her eye, had appealed to me from day one. The poster immediately went onto my wall, rather than into my recycle bin. It was proudly displayed on the majority of SCAD advertisements for the year, and I continuously brainstormed ways to incorporate it into my visual journal.

As my job rejection came and went I suddenly realized this image was meant for this moment. This beautiful picture represented my window opening. I may not have known what laid on the other side, but I knew something would come from this experience. I took the postcard and carefully glued it onto the right side page.

The work of art was already perfect, I didn’t want to add too much to it or take away from it. I opted instead to frame it with ripped up books pages from my visual journal. By taking the page, ripping it, and laying it horizontal it changed the background just enough. Suddenly the horizontal words on the page were interrupted by a strip of vertical ones and off colored paper. It made you look twice before realizing the book page was altered.

After placing the first frame I added a slightly larger frame, leaving enough space to show the base of the page. I then added two strips to the left side page, spreading them out just enough to write words. I took ripped up pieces of construction paper and an extra India ink tree painting from my thank you cards and added it around the paper frames (to read about my thank you letters check out my post here). In between the glued down book pages I wrote the words: “I have to believe it wasn’t meant to be. When a door closes a window opens,” and my page was complete.

I didn’t get the job, it was time to move on, this was my final moment dwelling in the past, considering the what ifs.


Create a page about a rejection in your life. Give yourself a chance to live in the past, feel the pain, and let go.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and read my post! Help me spread the word by liking, tweeting, sharing, digging, and commenting. Share your visual journal pages and your techniques! E-mail me at [email protected] or comment below.


Etsy Shop of the Month: Statement Necklace Giveaway via AquaGiraffe (closed)

Statement Necklace Giveaway AquaGiraffe

I spend a large portion of my life on Etsy. I would like to say the majority of time is spent focusing on my shop, updating, tagging, selling, making my millions… but I have to admit I spend most of my time shopping. My favorite items list is beginning to get a little out of control, and I buy a large portion of the items I end up favoriting. It does make me feel better knowing I am helping my fellow shop owners, I support handmade, I support the arts.

As the days leading up to the holidays grew shorter, my time on Etsy grew longer. I had the majority of my gifts covered through the many offerings of Etsy, including a beautiful green, beaded and braided statement necklace for my mom. My mom’s wish list for my sister and I is always the same, any clothes or jewelry you pick out. She loves nothing more than being dressed and accessorized by us, and I love nothing more than shopping.

I knew I wanted a cute statement necklace, it had to be in the blue or green color family. If you type in “green statement necklace” in Etsy it is unbelievable the amount of items you have to sift through. I was at a point of hitting the “next page” button automatically, and going crossed eyed as I stared at necklace after necklace. Suddenly I saw the braided necklace from AquaGiraffe and I was set. It was cute, fun, trendy, and without a second thought I bought it.

Aqua Statment Necklace via AquaGiraffe

It arrived on my doorstep incredibly fast, was cutely wrapped, and was just what I pictured. My mom was thrilled when she opened it up on Christmas day, and I have already seen her wear it on countless occasions. It works well with a wide variety of outfits and color, and isn’t overwhelmingly large. It can be dressed up or pair with jeans and a t-shirt. There is a possibility this will disappear from My Mom’s closet one day and find it’s way into mine…

giveaway necklace 3

AquaGiraffe, run by Kimberly out of Orlando, FL, has a variety of products in her shop. From head scarves to trendy jewelry she has an adorable selection to choose from. I was very excited when she agreed to participate in a giveaway, and offered her Petal Statement Necklace as the prize. I had already noticed this necklace as I recently browsed her shop, and am slightly bummed I’m not eligible to enter my own giveaway. I just might have to make another purchase in the near future.

Enter to win this beautiful, fashionable necklace by liking your favorite item in Kimberly’s shop here. After you like an item share the link to the item in a comment below.

Want more chances to win? Like my Etsy shop here and link to your favorite item in a separate comment below. Like my Facebook page here and comment a third time with the name you liked the page under. A winner will be randomly selected on Thursday 2/13 using the plugin, “And the Winner Is…” The winner will be e-mail and has 24 hours to confirm their prize before a new winner is selected.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and enter my giveaway! A big thanks to Kimberly at AquaGiraffe for donating a necklace to one of my lucky readers. Whether or not you are the winner don’t forget to support local, handmade goodies. Be unique and find one of a kind creations on amazing websites like Etsy!


Visual Journal Page 59: Thank Yous


It had been a few days since my interview. A few agonizing days of not hearing back. I knew it would be at least a week, after all I was the first interviewee, and they had 2 more to interview the remainder of the week. Despite this knowledge the days passed slowly, I checked my e-mail and phone constantly, I just needed to know one way or another.

After a few days of waiting I decided it was time to find a way to keep myself busy. I knew there was no way I could stop thinking about the what ifs following the interview, so I opted to do a project that related to my worries.

It was my last chance, my last ditch effort to convince them I was right for the job. It was time for heartfelt and handmade thank you cards, sent the old fashion way through the mail. I gathered a few supplies during a lull in class, and began constructing my final plea.

I felt slight guilt making these cards in class. As my students came and went from my table during class they left behind a layer of oohhs, ahhs, that’s so cute, and what are those for? I couldn’t tell them the truth. I couldn’t tell them I was considering leaving. I simply brushed off the compliments and satisfied them with vague explanations. I continued my work trying not to consider the past or the future, focusing on the present.

I felt satisfied with my final products, 3 quirky, fun, and obviously meaningful cards. One card would make its way to the principal, one to the sculpture teacher, and one to the drawing and painting teacher. I added personalized messages to each, thanking them for considering me, gushing about their program, and between each line I hid a little bit of job seeking desperation, please hire me, please hire me, please……

I went home that afternoon, cards in hand, addressed and stamped. I tucked them into the mailbox and let go. I couldn’t have done any better, I couldn’t have done anything else, this was it. If I didn’t get the job I had to accept it was meant to be. I would like to say I mailed off my worries, anticipation, and angst with those letters, but the next three days were just as slow and long. But in three days I would have my answer and I could finally move forward.


  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Scissors
  • India ink
  • Thin paint brush
  • Book pages
  • Construction paper
  • Watercolor
  • Blank cards
  • Sharpie


For this visual journal page I recreated my thank you cards using the left overs from the original. After I completed my set of cards I gathered up the ripped up paper, extra watercolor splatters, and set them aside for this page. When it came time to put it together I began by gluing down three blank cards I had on hand. I wanted the cards to still maintain their individual characteristics, but come together to create one image. I felt the best way to achieve that was to overlap the cards at the top and fan them out at the bottom. To help the cards blend into my book I glued down ripped up book pages and pieces of construction paper around the edge of the cards and overlapping the cards.

After the base layer was complete I began recreating the components of each card. I used India ink and a thin paint brush to paint the tree and branch silhouettes. I painted them on a separate white sheet of paper, this way if I messed up I could easily start a new one without ruining the entire page. Often when I create these small painting I paint a few versions, and pick my favorite to use on the page. After the pieces dried I cut them out using scissors and an Xacto knife.

Before gluing down the silhouettes I layered construction paper and splattered watercolor to add decorative elements to the cards. After the base layer I carefully glued down my India ink paintings. To complete the page I added one more tree silhouette to the bottom right side of the page and wrote the word “thanks” next to it in sharpie.


Create a thank you card on your next page. It can simply be writing, thanking a person, place, or thing for something significant in your life. You could add an actual card and write in it, or you can create your own card and leave it blank. Take time to think of what you are thankful for and include it in your journal!

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