Monday, September 13, 2010

Cardboard Masks Inspired by Kimmy Cantrell and Eric Straw

The above masks were created by 3rd-5th graders.

My 3rd-5th graders looked at the masks of artists Kimmy Cantrell and Eric "Straw" (Strawczynski). They come from completely different walks of life, yet have distinct parallels. Cantrell is an African American artist from Atlanta Georgia. Once a purchasing manager for Target, he decided on the heels of job change and divorce to reconnect with his love of clay. Vases evolved into bowls and bowls into his current niche, faces. Now as a full time artist, Cantrell creates clay masks with both tribal and Cubist influences. They have wonderful bold graphic shapes, interesting textures and eye popping candied glazes. I knew instantly my students would enjoy his primitive and edgy take on the human face. Minus a kiln, I decided to do a recycled cardboard approach to these masks. Literally a day before my class, I came across the fabulous work of Eric Straw from St. Martha Catholic School Artists (this is why I so love the give and take of art teacher blogging). What amazing luck to find an artist whose masks have both tribal and sometimes Cubist roots, bold features.....and that uses cardboard and only cardboard! Straw, (as his friends call him) who worked as a professor and researcher in social sciences, turned to antique toys to escape this left brained world. He not only became an expert in that genre but began creating his own marionettes, busts and masks. His work contains bold imagery as Cantrell's, combined with a lot of humor. This humor would go far with my spirited and lively group of 8 to 10 year olds.

Today my students mapped out their face shape on cardboard and got to work on creating their unique facial features. Some did this directly on their cardboard. Others used remnants of cereal and cracker boxes and cut out their facial features. Paint and oil pastels were offered to add color to their masks. I took Kimmel's use of large nails on some of his masks a bit further. I offered keys, nuts, bolts, pennies, soda can tops, hooks and even fettucini noodles (the hair on the 2nd mask) and quite a few more items to echo the humor of Straw's pieces. Many of these items slip easily between the corrugated cardboard. My kids are off to a great start. I will have some wonderful unique masks to post next week.


  1. Awesome project! My kids study Kimmy Cantrell also and create clay masks. Here's a link to our Artsonia gallery, so you can check them out if you want.

  2. I absolutely LOVE those clay masks! They look fantastic Mrspicasso!

  3. These masks are awesome! I made some similar ones with younger students this summer when I was teaching a monster art class. I loved how I could use recycled cardboard to create them! The students then used oil pastel and watercolor on the surface.

    Thank you for sharing! These are inspirational!

    Lauren Taylor

  4. Thanks very much Lauren! The children seem to really enjoy using recycled materials too.

    I'm on my way to check out your blog now.

  5. These are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.

  6. always looking for a way to get rid of scrap cardboard! very cute!

    check out our new art room blog :)

  7. Muy creativo!!!! hermoso trabajo!!! mis alumnos hicieron estas: un saludo Ana

  8. Hi. These are great. how many class periods did these take?


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