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The Corner Toolkit  >  Themed activities  >  The Corner goes Strait Home  >  Make  >  Masks

The Corner Makes



Using images of traditional Torres Strait Islander masks and artefacts as inspiration, the activity will see children and their parents creating their very own masks using contemporary materials. Many Torres Strait Islander artists today incorporate contemporary materials and imagery such as aeroplanes into the design of their artworks and artefacts.


Masks have a long tradition in the Torres Strait as in many cultures all over the world. Materials for Torres Strait Islander masks were dependant on what sort of materials could be sourced on the islands. Some common items included bird feathers, shells, animal bones/horns and other natural fibres such as wood, various seeds and coconut fibre; however more contemporary materials are now used.

Key concepts

Design/drawing, paper cutting, turning 2D into 3D, assemblage and craft

Key language

Natural materials, contemporary materials, Torres Strait Islanders, indigenous cultures, ceremony.


Plain paper party plates or, alternatively: pure plastic picnic plates
Crayons/felt pens or watercolour paint
Household rubber bands
Glue or sticky-tape on dispenser
Found objects; feathers, leaves, etc

Activity steps

Step 1: Introduction

Using the rationale as an aid, explain to children that many different cultures around the world make and use masks.  Ask children to think about what the masks could be used for. Talk about pretending and explain that masks can be used so people can pretend to be an animal or a character from a story.

Ask children to think about what type of mask they would like to make.  Let them study the sample masks and talk about animals and characters from their favourite stories that they could draw on for inspiration.


Step 2: Decorate your mask

Ask children to decorate and adorn their masks using colour, feathers and found objects.


Mask decoration

Explain to children how the emotional expression of the mask will change as they draw lines and make marks. Talk with children about different emotions that they could depict through their mask.

Measuring the mask

Step 3: Measuring your mask for eye holes

Fold the plate in half and unfold again. Measure out the distance between the centres of the mask-wearer's eyes with fingers, transfer to mask/plate, and mark with pen. Fold the plate back in half and mark cutting lines for eye-holes.

At this stage it will be very useful to visually demonstrate how one cut in the folded plate results in a symmetrical shape on the mask.

Measuring for eyeholes

Step 4: Cut out eye holes

Cut out the eye-holes and try for fit. Adjust if necessary – wider on the outside is better for peripheral vision while wearing the mask.

  Step 5: Experiment

Encourage children to experiment with the design of their mask.  Making small cuts in the side of the plate and overlapping the paper can create a 3D effect for the mask; these can be sticky taped together.

experimenting with mask decoration experimenting with mask decoration
experimenting with mask decoration experimenting with mask decoration

Step 6: Attaching the rubber band to the mask

Once the mask is finished and ready to put on, use a hole-punch to make a hole on one side at eye-level. If you do not have a single hole–punch, slowly poking a hole with a sharp pencil works just as well. Cut two average-sized rubber bands into strings, knot together and tie to the holes in the mask.


adding a rubberband


Voila! Now your mask is complete!  Have a mirror available so that children can see themselves in their masks.


modelling a mask

Now it is time to put on your masks and play. Take the lead from the children to see how wearing a mask changes the way they talk and move.  Encourage exploration of different movements and voices.

A more structured version of this activity could include reading a story to the group that has many characters and animals in it and then making masks for a creative, boisterous retelling of the story. Cock – a – doodle – do! Farmyard Hullabaloo by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz is a book with many animals and short descriptive rhymes for each.




Last updated: 23rd September 2011

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