Changing my Tune

Papier Mache by Ben Kessler

Bread & Puppet Museum
Last summer's vacation took us northward on a road trip through western New England and into Quebec. We stopped at the Bread & Puppet Museum in Gower, Vermont (see my posting on Abyssal Plain for more images and information!). This was a life changing event for me and has caused me to rethink an entire curriculum.

For many years the 3D Foundations class included an introduction to ceramics. The subject matter that seemed to work the best was masks. I would start the unit around Carnival time (Mardi Gras) and the students would find a culture of their choice to explore online. They wrote a brief paper on the celebratory customs of one of the regions in the world that participate in this rite. You would be amazed at the diversity of festivals. We would discuss culture and religion and how local beliefs can influence more universal belief systems (the Catholic Church).

We looked at PowerPoints on how masks were used in various cultures and eras. Students, again selected a region to explore and research in order to interpret the culture through a mask design. Obviously we also learned a lot about clay... wedging, rolling, slab construction, embossing, glazing, etc., etc.

A student's interpretation of Northwest Tribal art

I had used paper mache for making masks a few times. The beauty of this method is that it allows both large and small forms to be made relatively cheaply and easily.

Large student masks. Note, they choose the scale of their masks. The armature is chicken wire and foam core.

Now, although we had looked at Carnival celebrations and parades, African tribal group dances and images of Native Americans in ceremonial masks, until I visited the Bread & Puppet I did not put the pieces together...masks need to be a part of a performance!

Bread & Puppet Museum
Puppetry is an artform that I have not explored. Narrative art is so powerful...why had I not thought of it?

Bread & Puppet Museum
Again, the props can be made from everyday materials.

Bread & Puppet Museum

Collaborative projects are fun and students could be divided into teams to build theatres, costumes, puppets, write stories and dialogue. Next time maybe I will get it right!