Let’s Get Started


Quite often students are limited to working in 2 dimensional media. This lesson will help students gain experience working three dimensionally. They will create a mask using simple papier maché, inspired by a mask created by Ned Bear.


This is a messy activity so tables need to be prepped by covering them with garbage bags. This will make for easy clean up and save on time. A large amount of newspapers can also be collected which will be needed for this art activity.


Note:  Have the example image of Ned Bear’s mask entitled Namoya Otehiw Ayasawac (Pawakon Mask), on display for the class to refer to see an example of art masks.

  1. Students will discuss the fact that masks can tell stories and also express emotions. The teacher can ask the class what emotion they think the mask is displaying. Ask students if they can think of a story for why the mask was created. Following the short discussion, students will be told that they are going to create their own mask using papier mâché.
  2. The students will start with plain newspaper and crumple it up until they have the base of a mask. This base needs to be taped together with masking tape and then covered with plastic wrap.
  3. The newspaper should be crumpled into an oval shape about 1-2 inches thick. Layers of masking tape will keep the newspaper in place. The plastic wrap will allow for the real mask to be removed from the base form without difficulty.
  4. Students will be told that that they are going to build up a mask on the plastic wrap layer by tearing up pieces of newspaper and dip them into the papier mâché mix. (1 part flour to 2 parts water.)
  5. After they are dipped, begin layering these pieces up and eventually build up facial features including noses, lips, eyes, etc. If students want to deviate from the typical facial features they can do so, they will have the freedom to express whatever they want through their mask.
  6. The base needs to be about 2-3 layers thick. These base layers will not completely cover the plastic base, because it if does then the base will not detach from the top mask. It will not go more then ¼’’ of the way down the side of their 1-2 inch thick base shell. The ‘built up’ pieces also need to be dipped and slowly formed into the facial features.
  7. It is possible that the masks may be quite sticky and at this point, the students may want to take a break, about 5-10 minutes, and the teacher can use a hairdryer to help harden the pieces.
  8. Alternative material: This can be done with prepared plaster material. This method allows for more detail, but it is more expensive. If financial resources are available it is a better method to use. The set up and basics are still the same with the newspaper base shell and plastic wrap.
  9. The masks need to be left to dry overnight. Depending on how many layers of papier mâché are used, it may take more than one night. After the masks are completely dry, the students will take the opportunity to paint their masks. Tempera paint works perfectly for this task. Students will be allowed to paint the mask in any way they please, keeping in mind an attempt to express what they are feeling, or a story they are trying to tell.
  10. For students who have completed their assignment they can try to help their fellow classmates with their masks or try to help clean up the classroom, as there will be quite a bit of mess from this project.
  11. After all the masks are complete, students will have a sharing/talking circle where they show their masks and explain their story or expressed feelings behind the mask.

Tips and Tricks

Construction paper can be used instead of newspaper when building up the mask, so that the mask has a base colour.