Thursday, March 8, 2012

Oaxacan Papier Maché Snakes

I love papier maché, even though it is messy! Many children seem to love it as well (although there are a few who don't like the goopy paste on their hands!). In my Art Around the World 2 Class, we studied the art of Mexico and I had the children make snakes from papier maché and decorate them in the style of Oaxacan woodcarvings. So beautiful!

Beautiful colors and patterning!

About traditional Oaxacan carvings:
The folk art carvings from the state Oaxaca (pronounced wa-HAH-ka) in Mexico are colorful and unique and steeped in generations of tradition. Carved entirely by hand from copal wood, each piece is then uniquely painted with bright colors and patterns. Carvings can include figures such as mermaids, saints and everyday people or any sort of animal, both real or imaginary.

While this art form is centuries old, it is thought that one carver, Manuel Jiminez popularized the style that we see today. There are many great artists in Oaxaca and their carvings have become so popular they can be seen in museums and private collections from around the world!

This project idea came from the book "A Survival Kit for Elementary & Middle School Teachers," by Helen D. Hume. I have mentioned this book before. The projects are for upper elementary school students and each project has a "teacher page" and a "student page." The original lesson encouraged students to make whatever animal they wanted (there were size parameters), but I wanted to keep the lesson somewhat under control since this was the first time my students would be doing papier maché.

I was able to show them images from two wonderful books: "Oaxacan Woodcarving: The Magic in the Trees," by Shepard Barbash and the children's book, "Dream Carver" by Diana Cohn. Both of these books are wonderful and full of a variety of images that will get student's creative juices flowing! The book by Barbash does contain figures with some cartoon nudity so may not be appropriate for all ages.

Oaxacan Snakes

Supplies Needed:
  • Aluminum foil
  • Ripped up pieces of newspaper
  • Papier maché paste (recipe to follow)
  • Waxed paper sheets
  • White tempera paint
  • Elmer's glue
  • Paint brushes
  • Water containers & paper towels
  • Acrylic paints

1. Mix up a batch of papier maché paste:

Papier Maché Paste
(from the book "The Little Hands Art Book" by Judy Press)

3 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups flour
oil of peppermint (optional)

In a heavy saucepan combine the flour and water.
Cook over low heat until the mixture thickens to
a creamy paste. Cool and then stir in a couple
drops of oil of peppermint to act as a preservative.
(I didn't, but I used the paste right away).

2. I gave each child two pieces of aluminum foil about 3 feet long. I had them lay their pieces on top of one another, so that there was a double thickness of foil 3" long. I then had them twist and bend the foil into the shape of a snake. We discussed different positions a snake could be in: straight, zig zig, ready to strike, curled up in its nest, etc.

3. Take a newspaper piece and dip it into the paste. Use your fingers to squeegie the excess paste from the newspaper and then lay it onto the foil snake form. Repeat until the entire snake form is covered with a nice layer of newspaper. Let dry on waxed paper (this can take a day or so).

4. Apply another layer of newspaper and paste. Let dry on waxed paper (this can take another day or so).

5. When your second layer of newspaper and paste is completely dry, mix one part Elmer's glue with one part white tempera paint to make a gesso or base coat that will cover the ink on the newspaper and make a nice surface for you to paint on. Paint on a coat of the homemade gesso and let dry thoroughly (a couple hours).

*If you don't want to use homemade gesso, you could paint a coat of white acrylic paint or just paint on a couple coats of whatever paint you are using.

6. Decide how you want to paint your snake and begin by dividing it into sections and painting the base coat of each section.

7. When the main colors of your sections are dry, you can add a second coat if needed. Then use Q-tips, small paint brushes and/or the wooden end of a paintbrush to dab dots and paint lines and patterns onto your snake in true Oaxacan style! The sky is the limit with your designs. Have fun and be creative!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, these are great! So glad you liked the Dream Carver book too. Thanks for sharing :)


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