The Big Head Project

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In early October, my Sculpture I. class and I embarked on what came to be known as the “Big Head Project”, aka The Headline. Each student picked a celebrity and based on that character, created a large, paper mache head that would be worn in the annual Fantasy in Lights Parade in downtown Wheeling, WV. We had six weeks in which to design, build, and paint our heads. The students did a great job on a project that took a lot of time, sweat, and energy. Here is a slide show of our project from it’s start and right up to the parade. This project was created at West Liberty University.

38 Responses to “The Big Head Project”

  1. November 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I can’t believe there are no comments here! OMG this is an AWESOME project. I am a HS art teacher and not only am I passionate about teaching art, papier mache is my ultimate favorite for HSrs! Terrific outcome

  2. March 3, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Thank you so much for all the photo documentation. I really want to try this lesson and the pictures will help me teach it. Very inspiring!

  3. 5 kimble
    April 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    look great. great job.

  4. 6 Liz
    May 24, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Hi! I LOVE this project and am hoping you can answer a couple of questions that I have.
    1-clearly, some of the more realistic heads seem new challenging to build than cartoon heads. We’re all students permitted to choose whomever/whatever they wanted, regardless of the level of difficulty?
    2-did you have any parameters for this project that were set in stone? For example–did the heads have to be a certain width or height? Were “vision holes” a requirement?

    Thank you!!

    • May 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      We (my students and myself) discussed a project where we would create large heads and wear them in a parade. In order to give the project unity, we talked about following a theme. Several themes were discussed, but we chose one student’s idea of “celebrities”. Each student chose his/her own celebrity. Each head had to be a minimum of three times a human head (or more). Each head had to be designed in such a way that when worn, the artist could SEE where he was walking. In addition, the head must be stable, comfortable for a one-hour parade walk, and coated with marine varnish in case of wet weather. I hope this answers your questions. Feel free to contact me if you have further questions. Best, Robert

      • 8 Rebecca
        September 6, 2014 at 2:19 am

        Thank you for all that!! I have been gathering supplies since last semester for this project. I teach HS and we too are making these to wear in a parade. I am still undecided about the theme. My school is extremely diverse. Maybe something that reflects their own culture, like sugar skulls? Anyway thanks for the great idea!

  5. 9 Ashley
    October 16, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    I am a first year art teacher in Omaha, Nebraska. I teach Sculpture, Pottery and the Advanced Arts. It is always challenging to find projects that are unique and not crafty for high school students. This project is amazing! Thank you for sharing. I may have to try this next semester.

  6. October 30, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Wow! I am totally amazed and in love with this project! I want to build one right now! These are great and what wonderful results you all got from your hard work! Excellent photo work, too! Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. 11 Tiiwon
    November 19, 2013 at 12:24 am

    hi! this project is so interesting and cool, and i would love to do it at home, but do you have more pictures of the actual armature building? im not exactly sure where to start..

  8. November 19, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    I really love this project, and also that you discussed a theme with the students instead of just giving them the theme of celebrities. Really fantastic work. How much instruction did you give ahead of this project or during about using cardboard?

  9. May 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Very cool. I do a lesson based off of Wayne White’s big heads with my HS students.

  10. September 13, 2014 at 12:43 am

    This is so amazing! Fantastic and inspiring! I can modify this project for my fourth graders.

  11. 15 Galen Wales
    October 7, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    I teach all levels of 3D Design at the high school level. I am having my students in my 3D Design III (Pre-AP) class do this assignment and we are going to march in our city Christmas parade. Thank you so much to you and your students for the inspiration to do this. I will send pictures of our progress and parade. By the way…my students are loving this!!!!

  12. 17 Lori O
    October 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Do the students create their own paper mache medium? I have my high school art students use wall paper paste diluted slightly with water. Seems to work well. Love the scale of the projects!

    • October 16, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      We use a combination of flour, Elmer’s glue, and water. Yes, we have tried wallpaper paste in the past. When the heads were completed, they were weather proofed with marine varnish. Best, Robert

  13. 19 tiiwon
    October 17, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I’m trying to do this project on my own and I seem to be really struggling with the armature. do you possibly have more pictures of the building process? If not, some tips on the armature would be very helpful.
    Thank you!!

  14. 22 Rachel
    October 21, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Do you have any advice on what is the best way to teach how to construct the heads? or did the students figure out themselves how to construct them?

  15. November 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    hi there, i am a highschool art student teacher in Canada. I will be doing my practicum in March and think this would be an amazing project. Would there be anyway that you could post more details on how you taught the lessons to get the students started on this, or any extraneous resources i could use?
    Thank you so much,

    • November 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Claudia, I will be glad to answer any specific questions you have. Just ask.


      • 25 link123
        November 7, 2014 at 6:16 pm

        Hi there,

        Did you use paper mache or plaster to cover the cardboard. Was the cardboard the armature or did you use wire?
        What was the first,second and third steps? Do you think a highschool class,with o my me as the guide, could handle it?


  16. 26 stuart
    February 9, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    These are fantastic. Well Done.

    They really remind me of Paul McCarthy’s work.
    He had a fantastic exhibition in 2013 at the Punta Della Dogana in Venice.

  17. March 8, 2015 at 2:28 am

    These are great! Trying them with my 3D students.They loved seeing your class at work. I’m guessing you know Bread and Puppet?

  18. 30 robinpi
    September 12, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Hello! This looks like a great project. Did you remove the plastic buckets before wearing the big heads?
    What other materials did you use to create the face shapes? It looks like some wadded-up plastic bags and maybe some foam … ?

    • August 4, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      Sorry, I have no idea how long your question has been in my mail.Plastic buckets and other shapes covered in plastic wrap, then removed. Yes, wadded up materials removed as well after drying.

  19. 32 Cheryl
    December 20, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    I would like to create heads for a 3 Kings Day celebration. I am curious as to how the heads sit on the shoulders. I saw elsewhere that some sort of harness was necessary to keep the head from falling forward or back. Since the production would be all amateurs, I want to eliminate as many potential pitfalls as possible.

  20. 35 Jade Blair
    August 4, 2017 at 1:45 am

    Hi! I’m making giant paper mache heads for a friends wedding. Would you have a hand out or more info you can send me ? I’m winging it right now and it’s SO SCARY – any help would be appreciated.

  21. 38 Marc
    July 5, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    This project looks really fun. I’ve paper mached a big crocodile for a school play one year and after 3 layers, it would still crack and tear at certain parts. How many layers did you have your students do?

    I did not require s certain number of layers, but I suggested five on average. To help avoid cracking with future projects, add a cup or cup-and-a-half of Elmer’s glue or acrylic medium to each gallon of your flour/water mix. That should help. Also, a coat or two of acrylic medium (gloss or satin) may help with longevity. I have a 9!year old head and a four year old head, neither of which have cracked. Good luck!

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