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Gargoyle Masks

Use this activity as a follow-up to the Downtown Pittsburgh or Holy Pittsburgh segments with an abundance of great ornamentation. Better yet, use the videos to prepare students for a Downtown Dragons walking tour with Pittsburgh History & Landmarks (412-471-5808).

In addition to developing creative thinking, the objective in making gargoyle masks is to challenge students to understand and experience three-dimensional texture in the built environment.


Cut 18-inch x 24-inch oaktag into 6-inch x 24-inch strips to form the base of the mask. Provide other smaller sheets, precut strips, and scraps of oaktag for students to use to construct their masks. Construction paper can also be used, but the paper should all be one color--this will simulate a gargoyle more accurately and will require students to concentrate on texture, not color, to achieve their goal.

Fit a strip around the head of each student and staple at the correct size. Mark eyes on base and have students cut out eyeholes.

Brainstorm and demonstrate with the students all the ways paper can be changed from being flat to being three-dimensional or "unflat." Some possibilities are: folding (single or multiple folds), tearing, crinkling, rolling around a pencil, curling with scissors, cutting and bending, or scoring with scissors along a curved line and then folding.

Students can now begin to build their gargoyles on the mask base--the wilder, the better! The masks should be thought of in three dimensions--the sides and back, not just the front. White school glue is the strongest way to attach mask parts, but paper clips or staples may be helpful while the glue dries.

For inspiration as they build, have a range or animal pictures (the whole gamut from reptiles and fish to birds and mammals) and a supply of pre-cut oaktag strips, straws, styrofoam "peanuts," and similar "junk" available.

Once the masks are finished, arrange an exhibition, either worn or arranged on a bulletin board to simulate how they would be installed on a building.

Gargoyle mask sample
Three young girls pose with masks
Gargoyle mask

Source: Pittsburgh Heritage Supplement, Susan Donley, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, 1987.

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