Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pied Piper Costume Workshop at Montalvo Arts Center

Above: Sample of vinyl rat mask.
I will conduct two costuming workshop at The Montalvo Arts Center in a few weeks. These workshops are for children in the theater summer camp Pied Piper production. Below are preliminary sketches of the rat mask and the basic template for the rat mask created in Illustrator. I wanted to simulate the style of Italian leather carnival masks. Originally I thought the children would use colored construction paper or colored foam sheets. But after experimenting found that vinyl that looks like leather works really well. It involves a little stitching down the middle seam, in the ears and in the side tucks of the masks. I will be bringing in several wallpaper books for the kids to cut up for embellishments. I used this wallpaper material for the eyes. Silk tie scraps are used for the ears. I also found great plastic ties for the whiskers in the Montalvo Acts Center Barn. My workshops are kind of a filler activities between rehearsal times and we will be out on the veranda overlooking the beautiful central lawn area. It should be fun. The secondary projects will be Medieval hats and rat tails.

Below is a paper template created in Illustrator. The detail elements are to give the students an idea of how they might embellish their masks.

I experimented with construction paper and foam. I initially thought foam would work the best for this project as it is sturdy and we will be gluing on recycled plastic bits (produce netting, plastic milk jug tops, marbles, etc.) But it is so clear that the below mask of foam is not sophisticated enough. Compare this yellow foam mask below to the sample vinyl sewn mask at the top of this blog. As obvious as this may seem, I have to admit that I didn't really realize how juvenile the mask below looked until the Education Program Manager raised this as a concern. I have never worked with this foam as a material in my classes. I realize now there is a reason for this. No matter what you do with this foam, it screams preschool craft! I decided to experiment with fake leather tonight as this would simulate the material of Medieval masks. I think this resolved the materials issue and the kids will be able to create sophisticated and durable masks. This process of designing this project is a perfect example of being too close to something to see it clearly. It is always good to have feedback from other artists or other arts educators to give one a fresh perspective. This is definitely a project I should have bounced off of a few artist friends before I submitted. Well, that's what this blog is about... the process of designing art and the lessons I learn.

Below: First prototype of foam.

Below: Medieval hat sketches. Secondary project.


  1. Fantastic masks. I am putting on a performance of 'The Pied Piper of Hamlin' in my primary school and the rat masks are perfect. I love the 3D look. Thanks a lot.

  2. Thanks so much for this! My daughter has to make a rat mask for a book report on Racso and the Rats of NIMH. Your creativity and generosity in sharing this with us is HUGE!!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this with us you incredibly talented individual. I'm directing a small scale play for a college class project and the rat template masks are perfect for the trippyness of the play.

  4. This is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and amazing creations. I also absolutely love your Water Dance hat. Thank you <3