Serving Art Educators
and Students Since 1994
Submitted by: Melissa Speelman
Sycamore Junior High Cincinnati, Ohio
Unit: Contemporary Sculpture - Recycling - Paper Mache
Lesson Plan: Life Size Paper Mache Characters
Grade Level: Middle School (High School, too -- adapt for lower grades - maybe as group projects)
Melissa is the kind of middle school teacher who asks herself this question first "Would I have fun doing this if I were a middle school student?" She was intrigued by the work of C. Jagdish right away and began looking for materials she could use. Her first stop was the copy room where there was a stack of empty photocopy paper boxes (get your custodians to save these for you -- they are great for so many projects). She found more than enough for her eighth graders. Her assignment was simply to create some kind of character - no restrictions. Several chose to do self portrait sculptures. Some students chose to work in pairs and made taller people. For some students, it is just the making of something that is important and they don't need the project to take home. Student who work in groups will have to decide who gets the finished work. (Continued below)
Actual bathing suit added- See detail | See a close up of this self portrait | Very expressive faces using chip board
Chipboard cut and shaped for hands
Smaller sculptures added to the story Some students paired up
Melissa studied the faces of Jagdish's work and decided that folded and cut Chipboard would work to create the abstract cubist look (Jagdish uses cast paper). Students quickly padded the shoulders and shaped their heads with wadded up newspapers. Be sure to have plenty of Masking Tape on hand. Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil Roll can work wonders to help smooth shapes out, if desired.
What other materials might you be able to use? Maybe some larger size vegetable/fruit cans can work for necks - roll of cardboard for neck ... Five gallon ice cream containers from Baskin and Robbins (or any local Ice cream parlor)... Corrugated cardboard scored and bent into a column for the body-- so many possibilities! If you decide to use balloons as a base to get heads going -- with cardboard or chip board faces taped to the front - then I would suggest a first layer of Plaster Gauze strips since balloons do shrink after a day of two (another layer of Paper Mache can be applied over the plaster). Whatever materials you decide to use - do not expect students to remember to bring them in (smile) -- you will send mom's scurrying to the grocery store at midnight only to find all boxes have been burned already.
Working rather quickly -- smooth strips of newspaper dipped in Wheat Paste over the entire armature. If you have enough brown paper bags, you could use those, but soak over night. You second layer can be end rolls of paper toweling (ask your custodian to save those for you too). Arms can be added keeping rather flat and abstract as Jagdish has. Notice the cardboard "Peace" hand on example above. Note: Flour and water, Elmer's Glue (thinned with water) - or kid safe wheat paste gives you a harder finish needed for this project.
Paint in Acrylic Paint. Melissa's goal was for students to get that subtle shading that Jagdish uses. See how some of the near finished work has a slight cubist look to the faces (one side darker than the other). Glass globules have been inserted for the iris of the eyes (see detail) - quite spectacular! Updates to this lesson to combat for now enjoy and imagine the possibilities for your classroom!
Here is an artist from India that can spark an idea for many projects. C. Jagdish is an avant garde sculptor who has created a new genre called 'paper sculpture.'
C Jagdish - from India:
"C. Jagdish was born in Hyderabad, India in 1956. He had a desire for drawing even at a young age, but did not discover the medium of paper until he created puppets for a children's theater group during his first years struggling to live as an independent artist. These papier mache creations developed into busts, masks, and life-sized figures depicting the artists astute perception of the outside world and the fallibility of human nature. Inspired by toys, acquaintances, and incidents from his childhood in India, each piece becomes specific and unique, it's character subtly revealed through clothing, facial expression, posture, and use of hands. It is Jagdish's depiction of intimate human emotion that gives his work such universal appeal, affectionately commenting on society and dramatically narrating his stories."
"After winning his first paper sculpture prize at the All India Miniature Exhibition, Jagdish was awarded a grant scholarship to work at the prestigious Garhi Studio in Delhi. There he developed his sculpting technique and style, leading to the British Council and Charles Wallace India traveling grant for study in Britain. In 1991, Jagdish was the first Indian offered the status of "artist in residence" at Lakeside Studio outside of Chicago. His highest honor was becoming recipient of the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award in 1993, the largest grant offered to independent artists in the United States. Jagdish continues to work on 3 continents, with studios in India, Great Britain, and the U.S." 
See collage, masks, paper sculpture (really neat), and doors (made from cardboard with folk art look).
C. Jagdish has created over 400 paper sculptures. They are in private collections all over the world. He is today a tri-continental artist sharing time between his shows, lectures and art meetings across America, Europe and Asia.
The basic lower frame of the sculpture, that are life size or larger, is made of heavy rolled paper which gives it a cylindrical shape. The upper part from the head to the torso is separately cast and adjoined. Finally to facilitate painting of arms, legs, clothing etc., paper is cut and pasted.
Use for a contemporary mask maker - take a look at the sculptures on his site - they are really interesting (look like you could do them with paper mache- paper pulp and cardboard)
Combine with a unit about Marisol Escobar