Monday, October 18, 2010


One of our most popular art projects with our art students are the African masks. It's a labor-intensive project, especially for Bonnie, who has to press clay into 4 different molds every night for about a month or more, so we have enough for all our students. We don't do the masks every year because of the time commitment in making the masks, but they are always a hit with the kids. And though we have students who've been in our program for years, it is always impressive to see how different their masks are each time they decorate and paint one. And since we did the masks last year, Bonnie proposed that the kids make their own this year.

Recently, she and her daughter were introduced to the Yup'ik Indians from southwestern Alaska. As they learned about their culture, they were impressed by the masks they made. The masks were designed to tell stories, to educate, to entertain and to pass on traditions.
Though the majority of their masks were made to be worn over the face, the Yup'ik people also made small finger masks, kind of like puppets that we are all familiar with. Made in pairs, these small masks were place over the fingers and used in ceremonies as well. We thought this would be a similar, but different "mask" project for our kids. I'm excited to see how they eventually turn out, but I have below, the 2 samples I worked on.

Though I didn't find oodles of information on the Yup'ik Indians online, the following websites were helpful and I had fun sketching out the masks I found interesting.

From the sketches I had drawn, I picked my favorite and was inspired by the shape of the mask and the asymmetrical features.

I let my two sample masks dry for a couple of days before decorating. My "eyes" and "nostrils" didn't stay on, so I just glued them on with hot glue.

I used acrylic paint I had on hand...the paint dried very quickly on this just soaked up the paint. I didn't stay with the muted, natural color palette that the Yup'ik Indians did, I wanted to go bright and bold.

Once I finished painting and glued on feathers, I adhered the masks onto heavy black board to complete the project.

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