I’ve got the perfect lesson for teaching about Mary Cassatt- paper mache hats! Your child will love making and wearing these Mary Cassatt hats while exploring color harmonies. Since most of her paintings include women wearing hats I wanted to pull the style and dress of the times out and have my students walk away with hats they could have fun wearing and dressing up in also. This project requires drying so allow plenty of time to finish. Plan to work over a few days. I’ll take you step by step through the lesson. Your child will learn about the artist, color and also the basics of paper mache.
Paper mache is very easy and requires very little money for materials. But for this entire lesson you will need:
- Mary Cassatt prints or book about Mary Cassatt
- liquid starch
- newspapers cut in 1″ strips
- color harmony freebie
- tissue paper
- green pipe cleaners
- acrylic or tempera paints
- large paint brushes
- glue gun
- ribbons, sequin, etc. as desired
Learning About Mary Cassatt
I always begin this type of lesson by teaching about the artist. Sometimes I might read a book about the artist. Other times I might just read a simple biography. But I always include looking and talking about the artist’s work. Mary Cassat is one of my favorites. First, I admire her for her accomplishment. An American artist, she painted for a living at a time when very few women were able to be artists for a career. Second, I love the way she painted women, often with their children. She had a way of capturing the life of a mother and a mother’s love for her child. Her paintings and what they say are absolutely beautiful.
This quote sums that up perfectly:
[tweetthis] “There’s only one thing in life for a woman; it’s to be a mother…. A woman artist must be … capable of making primary sacrifices.” ~ Mary Cassatt [/tweetthis]
She spent most of her life in France painting and became good friends with Edgar Degas but was forced to return home during the Franco-Prussian War. She is known for her impressionist style but after 1886 she worked in a variety of techniques.
Color and Style
Next I reviewed the color wheel with my students. I reminded them about mixing, warm and cool colors, and primary and secondary colors. We went a step further and discussed tertiary colors as well. I used my Color Harmonies worksheets to teach them about four kinds of color harmonies:
Next, I gave them a worksheet so they could use it as a color palate for planning. You can use anything-for example, divide a paper plate into six pie pieces and have them use that as a planning palate.
The assignment is for each child to chose one type of color harmony and then apply that color choice to his/her hat. This example is from a student who chose an Analogous Color Harmony. Analogous is a range of a few colors on one side of the color wheel. In this case, orange to green. My students colored them with markers but you could also use paint. For markers you’ll have to have markers that range of different shades or if you use paint have your child mix the colors they want for the harmony they choose.
Paper Mache Hats Tutorial
Now that your child has decided their color choice it’s time to begin making their hat. Paper mache can be a bit messy so I recommend covering your work space with plastic.
1. Measure the circumference of your child’s head. You can use a string if you don’t have a measure tape.
2. Blow up a balloon to the same size as your child’s head. Note: It’s better to make hats a little bigger than smaller. No one wants to be disappointed in the end if their hat is too small!
3. Holding the balloon upright on cardboard, trace around the balloon.
4. Cut a hole in the cardboard. Then cut again making a circle rim for the brim of the hat. Cover it with plastic wrap and cut hole in the middle. The plastic is so that when the paper mache dries it will be removable from the brim mold.
5. Place balloon in the middle of the brim, leave plastic wrap intact.
6. Take strips of newspaper and soak them in liquid starch. Remove excess liquid and place on hat crisscross. Also cover the brim.
Be sure to use many layers of paper. The more layers the more sturdy your hat will be.
7. While still wet decide the style hat you wish to make. For boys you can turn the brims up on both side to make a cowboy hat. or you may want to make a helmet or baseball cap instead.
8. Let hat dry at least over night. Once completely dry, you can trim to improve shape as needed.
9.Prime with white paint- tempera worked well for us. This will keep paper print from bleeding through.
Now the hats are ready to paint and decorate.
Decorate Your Mary Cassatt Hats
Now, things are just getting good. This is when your child can really have fun making his/her hat all they imagine. My students were so very excited about their hats. Here are a few of the hats they made and their color harmonies!
Add final touches to the hats such as flowers and bows. Tissue paper flowers can be easily attached with pipe cleaners poked through. But a glue gun and hot glue is best for attaching a variety of material. You can also reinforce any accidental holes or gaps with hot glue.