Paper Mache Halloween Story Masks
By Kara Martinez Bachman
Making Paper Mache masks is a fun craft project for kids to do right now, since Halloween is on the horizon. Why not encourage your child to make his or her own costume this year? And to create an original creative story about the mask’s character?
We all remember trying out some paper mache as kids; we recall it as a messy affair that resulted in sometimes questionable “artwork.” But the beauty of our tech-filled world is that we can now easily access the ideas of different artists and crafters via YouTube and other websites.
If you search the phrase “make a paper mache mask” on YouTube, you will be surprised to find complete tutorials that can guide you and your kids through projects that look less like messes and more like the magical artworks they were intended to be.
Making a beautiful decorative or Halloween mask is a multiple-day project, but it need not be a difficult one. It is also an ideal craft for young kids. Except for perhaps the final painting of facial features on the mask, even a kindergartener can handle most other aspects of the project.
You will find that many online tutorials dispense with the old-fashioned messy flour and water concoctions of our youth. An easier alternative is using plain Elmer’s school glue combined with water. Mix it at a ratio of about eight parts glue to two parts water. It is easier, cleaner, faster, and more precise to simply paint this mixture onto the paper mache strips instead of dealing with gloppy strips of newspaper dripping with flour water.
The “form” that the paper mache is applied to can be either made of plastic, such as a milk jug, or can be made of aluminum foil (you can also Google or YouTube these methods). Your mask can be intended as a wall hanging, in which case it is better to draw on facial details, such as eyes. Or, the mask can be wearable, and designed with the eyeholes cut out and with breathing holes near the nostrils. Both make for beautiful masks, but make sure your kids know which they want before covering the form.
Make sure that all work surfaces are covered with newspaper or old drop cloths before you begin the actual paper mache process. A horizontal layer of newspaper strips is applied and then “decoupaged” over with the glue mixture. Then, a second layer is laid vertically. Finally, a third layer of solid white printer paper is glued on. It is important that this has been ripped up into random shapes with jagged edges; this is to avoid the look of “stripes” laid in lines on the final mask.
Once the mask has dried for a day or two, it can be painted with regular acrylic craft paint. The fun begins when the features — the expressive eyebrows, the funny lips — are drawn on.
This is the point at which the mask takes on a character of its own; it is the perfect time for your child to name the character that was just created, and to tell its life story. Is it a jester? A skeleton? A Ghoul? Is it a sad clown, a mime, or an exotic tiki? Is it an elegant Venetian aristocrat, on his way to a masquerade ball?
Let your kids tell the tale; let them invent the magical details. They will have crafted a wonderful story, and will remember it by a fanciful mask that they can hang on the wall — or wear — for many years to come.
Kara Martinez Bachman is an author and editor. Her daughter had a blast making a paper mache mask that still hangs on the wall in our house.