Thursday, May 5, 2011

African-inspired tooling foil relief masks


My 6th graders have been working hard on these. Today I was name-tagging for the art show, and wanted to get pics of these for you before they were all tagged. When more of them are done, I'll post another batch.


The kids were given some basic design guidelines: symmetrical design, exaggerated stylized features, elongated noses, use of geometric shapes and repeated pattern; and looked at a large variety of samples for idea inspiration. Then they were shown the steps for tooling the foil and getting deep relief where desired.

The masks were painted with soap and India ink, and when dry were rubbed with steel wool for an antiquing effect and to enhance the pattern and detail. Then the kids added color as desired with either permanent markers or acrylic paint mixed with gloss.

Kids were offered the opportunity to add to the mask with coiled wire, yarn, raffia, and beads. Finally they picked the color of their choice from a pile of mat board pieces to use as background. My awesome picture-framer gives me the scrap mat board and old picture frames, and I am very appreciative of and thankful for this donation.


I know the mask in the middle above particularly doesn't look African, but as long as the kids stuck with the basic guidelines to start with, I let them take their ideas and run with them. I think sometimes I try to impose too much of my aesthetic values on the kids, so I decided to let them finish them how they wanted. However I did stop the girl who made the mask on the left above from putting heart-shaped beads on the earrings - just TOO tacky for my taste - but I let them go with with pinks and purples and other goofy stuff. They are happy so I am too!

And here's 2 masks that aren't quite done yet. That's Melissa's on the left, with lots of terrific texture, and on the right is Sarah working on her monkey/lion mask. She always takes things a step above and beyond everyone else. Cool. I'll try to post photos of these when they are complete.

By the way, I use tooling foil w/6th grade every year, but don't repeat the same project 2 years in a row. It's more fun that way. Don't tell the kids, but I'm planning on dragons next year...

Years ago, there was a nice article on making these masks in School Arts magazine, and then a couple of years after, I took a hands-on Friday night workshop at our state art teachers conference that was taught by the gal who wrote the article. I got lots of great tips from her for making the reliefs really pop.

17 comments:

  1. These are REALLY remarkable!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! These are all AMAZING! Kudos to you and your kids. What type of soap did you use with the India ink? I love the aged effect these have.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love them... I usually have the kids fold the edges of the foil to keep them from being sharp, but that's on a rectangular piece. What did you do to keep the kids from cutting their fingers?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks! I have a few more done today, and still more on the way to being complete early next week, so there will be more photos coming. Anyhow, here's the answers to your questions:

    Mary, I little hotel bars of soap. I set the kids up w/a dish of water, bar of soap, and brush, and then a dish of ink and another brush. It's kind of an assembly line. When one finishes soaping they move onto ink and so on. We just wet the brush, activate the soap, and brush it on! I do tell the kids ahead of time that the result is never the same twice, but they have the best results on textured/patterned surfaces. It's sometimes hard to get the ink off of flat untooled surfaces.

    As for the sharp edges - as soon as the designs are traced onto the foil, the masks are cut out with a border of about 1/2" or so. After it has been cut out, they lay their mask on the flat table (no felt padding underneath)and use a tongue depresser to rub it really flat and smooth. Once that is done, they are much easier to handle and it seems to smooth away the sharp edges. I don't have any problem with them being sharp at all. And then that flat edge works great to hot glue to a piece of mat board for display.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I saw that article also, it was wonderful and so are your masks!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Phyl,
    These are super cool!
    I have a question for you, but can't find your email address? Can you email me at:
    tisha(at)artwithmrssmith.com
    when you get a chance....thanks,
    Tisha

    ReplyDelete
  7. I absolutely LOVE these! You do such wonderful projects with your students.

    ReplyDelete
  8. They are great. I want to try the soap/ink. I have not had much success adding the patina in the past with out it all chipping off.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, Karen, the soap will keep the ink from chipping off. As a matter of fact, it can be difficult to remove the ink from untooled areas, a point I repeat to my students to get them to tool every surface of the mask, even if it is to just rub the surface with a pop stick without giving it, as we jokingly call it, "poofage". But I do encourage them to make the surfaces rich with pattern and texture.

    ReplyDelete
  10. These are fab- what weight/thickness of tooling foil do you use and where do you order it from?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Gorgeous. Want to be the 2nd to wish you a Happy Mom's Day!

    ReplyDelete
  12. These are fantastic! I did a similar project this year and you've given me some great ideas for improvement!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Miss, I order the foil from either Sax/School Specialty or Dick Blick, and it is 36 gauge. It comes in rolls 12" wide and then you cut the length you want.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks Phyl! I really want to try this lesson if I can get my hands on some foil.

    ReplyDelete
  15. THESE ARE FABULOUS! I love how each one is so different and how they are so big! Amazing as usual, Phyl!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I did this project using aluminum steam trays (bought in bulk at warehouse store). They usually have some embossing already, but we found that after we tooled them, you didn't notice it anymore. It's a bit more flimsy than the nice tooling foil, but works if your budget is tight like ours is. I'm going to try the gloss/acrylic paint the next time around. We added color before the black ink and most of it rubbed off, so now we'll reverse the steps. Thanks so much! These look amazing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a cool idea for doing this project less expensively! Thanks for sharing the suggestion.

      Delete