Tag: art assignment

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.

SUPPLIES

  • 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

HOW TO

STEP ONE

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.

STEP TWO

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.

STEP THREE

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

STEP FOUR

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.

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STEP FIVE

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.

STEP SIX

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.

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STEP SEVEN

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.

STEP EIGHT

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.

STEP NINE

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.

STEP TEN

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.

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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.

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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!

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Art Lesson: Collaborative Relief

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At my previous school I always taught a lesson on the grid method by creating a collaborative grid with my students. Each student would get a section of the original image, and they had to enlarge and re-draw it. In order to accurately re-draw the image they had to pay attention to where lines and shapes intersected the outside edge of the image, which in turn taught them the basic concept of the grid method (read more about this here).

In the process of changing schools I also changed my teaching title, which meant a lot of new lesson planning was ahead of me. I was now exclusively a sculpture teacher, teaching 3D I and 3D II classes. Although I had taught sculpture in the past, and spent a lot of time in ceramics class in high school and college, I felt a lot of pressure to re-create assignments, and think outside of the box. After all I was moving to a private school with an established and impressive art department, I felt I had big shoes to fill in my new work environment.

Although it has been stressful at times trying to produce examples and create new projects, I have loved every minute of it. It truly is amazing how different a class can be when you actually have the budget to support it. I now had the ability to teach interesting, complex, and creative projects, without the fear of running out of supplies with no money left in my budget.

As excited as I was to have a new challenge in my life, I did miss some of my old projects, including my Intro to Art collaborative grid assignment. One day while reminiscing on the past, as I often do, it dawned on me that I could do a collaborative grid project in sculpture, by focusing on relief carving. I had my doubts that everything would come together during the project, but once all of the pieces were in place, I couldn’t believe how amazing it looked. I am so proud of my students and I hope another sculpture teacher can find an interesting way to implement this into their class.

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THE ASSIGNMENT: Collaborative Relief

OBJECTIVE: For students to learn the history and techniques of relief carving, and apply those techniques in a collaborative relief carving project.

SUPPLIES:

  • Lizella Clay
  • Rolling pin or slab roller
  • Ruler
  • Needle tool or knife
  • A variety of clay tools and textured items to carve and add texture
  • Low fire underglaze (I used blue, green, red, brown)
  • Low fire clear transparent glaze
  • Kiln
  • Wood panel
  • Black Paint
  • Heavy duty glue

STEPS:

1. I began this project by introducing my students to the artists, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, and the famous Florence Baptistry doors competition. I had the students vote on which “Sacrafice of Isaac” relief they liked better, and we continued to discuss the doors as well as the Gates of Paradise doors.

2. After the history lesson I introduced the assignment. I explained that I would randomly hand out a 1″x1″ section of a larger image, and they would have to recreate it as a relief sculpture on a 6″x6″ clay slab. We discussed carving techniques and looked at the variety of tools they could use to create different textures.

3. After the assignment was explained they got to work. Before they started the project I had taken an image of our Fine Arts building, divided it into a grid, and put a number and letter on the back of each square (1A, 1B, 1C, etc.). I made sure to make a few copies, the students tend to misplace their squares and it helps to have extras on hand. As soon as the students got their slab square cut they had to flip it over and carve the letter and number into the back of it.

4. After the students completed their squares I fired them and had the students glaze them. I knew every line and shape would not line up in the image, so my goal was to create a sense of unity through the glaze. I instructed the students to loosely paint underglaze onto their tile (I set up a few colors of blue, green, brown, and red) allow it to dry, then wipe it off with a wet sponge. This technique caused the underglaze to stick in the textured areas, and wipe off of the smooth area, giving it a loosely painted quality. Once the colors were added they painted a layer of clear glaze on top, and once again wiped it off. I loved the shiny vs. matte look this created.

5. Once the pieces were fired a final time I glued them to a piece of wood I cut to size and painted black. My plan is to eventually add a black frame and display it in the Fine Arts Building.

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My students were as impressed as I was with the final product, and it was a huge hit at our annual art show. I love how each piece is important to the whole, and how it truly came together in the end.

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Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope you find useful information you can use in your classroom! Please comment if you have additional tips, ideas, or have done something similar in your class! Thanks for helping my spread the word about my blog by liking, tweeting, commenting, and subscribing! I couldn’t do it without you!

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