Sharing Art
Western Reserve Public Media
Found Object Sculpture  Project:


Regional Artists: Mark Soppeland,  Akron
Featured Museum: The Butler Institute of American Art
Featured Artist: Rafael Ferrer
Featured Work of Art: "Ven Daval Baricua"
Featured Teacher: Russ Bailey, Campbell City Schools

Lesson Overview:
Masks have fulfilled important cultural functions in many societies from earliest times. They are seen in many forms in contemporary society and in some instances can be considered works of art. By viewing Mark’s video presentation, your students will get a new outlook on Old World ideas.


Video Synopsis

Mark Soppeland shows an eccentric love for transforming found objects into sculpture, particularly three-dimensional masks. He discusses the need to visualize the possibilities in objects; his appreciation for both symmetrical and asymmetrical designs; and how he uses his skills as a craftsman, designer and conceptualist to create works that portray contemporary culture and historical issues. The school project uses papier-maché, masking tape, cardboard, foil and other objects to make masks.



Students will:

Study masks from different geographical locations and learn about various purposes of masks within different cultures.

  • Analyze the dual role of masks as functional and/or aesthetic objects.

  • Create a three-dimensional mask using techniques like Mark Soppeland’s to decorate it.




  • Sculpture

  • Armature

  • Animism

  • Culture

  • Disguise

  • Funerary

  • Iconography

  • Helmet mask

  • Personification

  • Ritual

  • Secret societies

  • Shaman

  • Symbolism

  • Aztec

  • Egyptian

  • Pacific Indians




  • Armatures

  • Papier-mache

  • Cardboard

  • Scissors

  • Copper

  • Brass

  • Foil

  • Wire

  • Found objects

  • Hot glue gun

  • Acrylic paint and brushes

  • Fabrics

  • Feathers

  • Leather



Teacher Preparation:

  • Collect slides, prints, books, photos and examples of masks.

  • Read about masks in various cultures. Select brief passages about masks to read to students or to hand out to them.

  • Make arrangements with the local art museum so students can see examples of masks in the collection.

  • Make an assignment sheet for students clearly stating expectations and evaluation criteria

  • Prepare student handouts on papier-maché and decorating techniques, with appropriate illustrations and examples.

  • Ask students to bring in a type of mask from home.


Student Preparation

  • Show the Sharing Art video, “Found-Object Sculpture.”

  • Ask students to demonstrate and discuss the masks they have brought to class (e.g., a catcher’s mask, goalie’s mask, Halloween mask, etc.). Discuss the range of ways that masks are used in contemporary society.

  • Show examples of masks and discuss their universal appeal among many cultures. Discuss various functions of masks within cultures (e.g., to personify spirits or natural forces, relate to ancestors and celebrate important events).

  • Raise the issue of masks as art. Encourage students to discuss questions such as these: Were masks considered works of art among tribal societies? Are they considered works of art today? Is it appropriate to display a mask from another culture as a work of art in an American museum? Why or why not? Can we appreciate the design and expression of a traditional mask from another culture? Why or why not?

  • Show “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” by Picasso and ask students to point out how this painting relates to African masks. Provide information about the interest Picasso and other European artists had in African art.

  • Show and discuss slides, prints, etc. of masks from many different cultures. Include African, Egyptian, Pacific Indian, Far East and others.

  • During the discussion of masks, view them from the four perspectives of the art disciplines, asking questions such as these:

    • How did the creator of the mask use the formal properties to achieve a particular expressive quality?

    • What does the mask express?

    • If masks were created as a necessary part of a ritual, can we classify them as art?

    • What cultural and historical background information might be needed to better understand a particular mask?

    • How might that information be found?

    • How was the mask made?

    • What materials and techniques were used by the artist?


Student Preparation

  • The students will start to construct masks by forming papier-maché over anarmature (plastic form, paper plate, etc.).

  • When the mask is sturdy, features can be added with cardboard and other materials, keeping in mind previously viewed masks (could be ancient and classic to futuristic and wild).

  • When construction is complete, the mask will be decorated in a style like Mr. Soppeland’s creations, using soft metals (copper, aluminum brass), wire and other materials.



Lower Grade Level Project

Follow the main procedure, adapt Student Preparation to the students’ level of ability.

  • The students will create a three-dimensional mask from a cardboard oatmeal canister.

  • The students will attach paper and cardboard onto canister to create a Soppeland-like mask.

  • The students can complete decoration by adding beads, feathers, paint and yarn.



Higher Grade Level Project

Follow the main procedure, using the following as the Classroom Project.

  • The students will construct a three-dimensional lighted mask from a large coffee can.

  • The students will punch holes into a coffee can using a hammer and nail.

  •  Using hot glue, the students will attach found objects such as craft sticks and spools. Metal can also be added with rivets or screws if available.

  • The students will complete decorating by painting and adding other items and will ultimately place a candle on the inside to project light through the holes.




  • Show slides of four masks and ask students to write about the masks and their cultural contexts, comparing two masks for contrasting imagery, subject, technique and style.

  • Show a slide of a mask students have not seen previously and ask students to write a formal analysis of it, including a justified interpretation of the mask’s expression.

  • Completion of a mask is a fundamental requirement; technical skill and craftsmanship will also be taken into consideration for final evaluation.