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Paper mache masks are decorative face coverings made from molded newspaper and crafting embellishments. Mask making is a popular grade school art project, as it is a fun and inexpensive way for children to express their creativity. The primary supplies needed to create paper mache masks are an easy-to-make flour-based paste, plenty of newspaper, empty one-gallon milk jugs, scissors, and a craft knife. Once the masks' structure has set, they can be decorated with embellishments such as paint, glitter, beads, and feathers.
To construct paper mache masks, first make a flour paste by combining ten tablespoons (150 milliliters) of water and two tablespoons (16 grams) of flour in a saucepan. Boil the mixture, reduce the heat to low, and allow it to simmer for three minutes, stirring often. Remove the saucepan from the burner and let the mixture cool. It should resemble a heavy glue. Once the mixture has fully cooled, transfer it to an airtight plastic container.
Next, make mask molds by cutting gallon milk jugs — one per mask — in half lengthwise. The jug’s handle, which will form the mask’s nose, should be centered on one of the jug halves. Discard the other jug half.
Now, eyes, mouths, and any other features which the mask creators wish to be cut out of their masks should be added to the molds using a craft knife. As these knives are very sharp, this step of the project is best done by an adult supervisor. The supervisor may ask the mask designers to describe or sketch their visions, and then cut away the masks’ features according to their descriptions.
Once the molds are complete, designers can begin building their paper mache masks. Tear several sheets of newspaper into approximately 1 inch by 8 inch (2.54 cm by 20.32 cm) strips. Dip one strip at a time into the paste mixture and pat it onto the mold, allowing the strips to overlap each other slightly. Preserve the cutout features by tucking strips around them, securing strip ends to the mold’s back.
After a complete layer of strips has been applied, the mask must be allowed to dry for 24 hours before a second layer can be added. When this drying period has passed, apply the second layer of newspaper strips. Dry for an additional 24 hours.
The paper mache masks are now ready to be decorated. This part of the process offers mask makers a chance to express their creativity. Paints, feathers, beads, glitter, construction paper, and many other craft supplies can be used to create designs that match the visions of their makers. Masks can also be decorated to represent a certain theme, such as Halloween or Mardi Gras. To make the mask wearable, punch a small hole at each temple and attach a strand of ribbon or elastic.