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puppet, mask, and musical performances since 1979

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Here is an easy way to make a mask out of an ordinary manilla file folder.

What you will need:

1 manilla file folder for each mask you want to make

1 elastic or rubber band

pencil & scissors


art supplies/materials to decorate your mask (this can include crayons, markers, paints, fabrics, sparkles, feathers, etc.)

Figure 1 - the pattern drawn on the file folder.

Using the pattern drawing as a guide, sketch your mask onto the file folder with the fold of the folder at the center of the mask face (indicated by the arrow at the left of the drawing.) You may need to make your drawing larger or smaller, depending on the size of your head...some experimentation will help you decide just how large to make it.

After you have drawn your pattern on the file folder with pencil, you can cut it out on the dark lines. DO NOT CUT THE FOLD OF THE FILE FOLDER OR YOU WILL HAVE TWO HALF MASKS. The dotted line around the nose is optional. You can cut it off completely and let your own nose stick out there, or you can cut it partially so that it covers your own nose and sticks out some. Also note that this pattern is for a HALF MASK. If you want to make a whole face mask, you can draw the jaw and chin on the folder before you cut out the mask, or glue or tape a jaw on.

CUTTING THE EYES- Before you cut the eyes, assemble the mask as shown in Figure 2. Note that tab #1 (shown in figure 1) connects to tab #2.

Figure 2 - assembling the mask. Now that you have cut out the mask, open the file folder and bend down the top tabs to meet the side tabs. You can tape the tabs together temporarily or just hold them there to try on the mask.

CUTTING THE EYES, CONTINUED- It is handy to have a helper here. Have a friend hold the mask up to your face so that your nose fits in the nose opening. Reach up and touch on the mask the place where you think your eye would be (you could pretend to try to touch your eye through the mask) and mark that spot for both eyes (don't poke anything through the mask toward your eye!) Now remove the mask from your face and with a pencil or other sharp object poke a tiny hole where you think the center of your eye would be. Now try on the mask again. even though the holes are small, your should be able to see out of them if they are in the right place. Adjust their position by making new holes (after removing the mask) if necessary, then cut out your eye shapes. The larger eye hole you make, the better you will be able to see with the mask on.

DECORATING YOUR MASK - Now you are ready to give your mask the style and personality that you want. You can paint, color or decorate the face by gluing additional file folder shapes on, or sequins or scraps of fabric, feathers, etc. Be fanciful and have fun! The side and top tabs will be on the side and top of your head, so keep that in mind when you are decorating the flattened mask.

ASSEMBLING YOUR MASK - Once you are done decorating your mask you are ready for the final assembly. All you have to do is attach the tabs together again (like you did when positioning the eyes) and attach the elastic or rubber band so that it will go comfortably around the back of your head.

GOING ON TO MORE ADVANCED MASK PROJECTS - There are lots of creative ways to expand your mask making from this simple start. Below are a few tips you can try.

Scoring- If you take a cut out shape of file board paper you can score it, then lightly fold it (to create a tent shape with the score as the top of the tent.) A score is where you take the point of the scissors and use the point to draw the line, cutting part way through the file card. Then when you fold the file card, it folds on your scored line. You can score the line in a curve and get some very nice shapes that way.

3-D shapes- Once you get good at scoring, you can create animal faces and other shapes by cutting and gluing various shapes of file board paper. You can build up noses, brows, make 3 dimensional ears, etc. I would suggest a book on paper sculpture from your local library; it will give you many tips on making 3 dimensional shapes for your masks.

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