Paper Mache Maracas

By Annie Ballin

Who doesn’t love the way a beat gets us up and moving! Better yet, who doesn’t love to make music? The word “rhythm” comes from the Greek word rhythmos, a term that describes symmetry or a regular recurring motion with both strong and weak elements. Think heartbeat, patterns and cyclical frequency.

Why I am talking about music when this article is supposed to be about art? When our granddaughter, Jacqueline, visits her favorite thing to do is projects with me. During our last visit, I put opera on the radio. I wasn’t sure what her reaction would be; she is 3 and my past experience of introducing music to visual art students is with older children.

Low and behold…she was taken by the music. As she was working with her watercolors something magical began to happen: stories developed. They did not keep with the storyline of the opera, but her art exhibited the energy of the music and what she was processing. Most people would not notice the correlation. However, as an art educator, I have had the pleasure of introducing a variety of musical styles to students while they work — and it’s really quite fun to see how they move and sing along. Conscious or not, the impact on their artistic interpretations is impressive.

With this art project you will discover the fun of making your own musical instruments: paper mache maracas. Maracas are native to Latin America and can be traced back 1,500 years in Columbia. Traditionally, maracas are made out of gourd shells, coconuts or leather and filled with dried seeds or beans. But your maracas will be made using recycled light bulbs.

You will need:

  • Light bulbs (the old fashioned rounded bulbs)
  • Corks and or film canisters
  • Masking tape
  • Newspaper, paper towel or plain newsprint
  • Wheat paste (available at hardware stores) or homemade paste (flour, water and salt)
  • Large bowl or plastic container
  • Acrylic paint
  • Assorted brushes
  • Permanent markers
  • Feathers, twine, sequins, glue and other assorted items (optional)

STEP ONE

Cut your paper into a variety of strips (1 to 2 inches wide by 4 to 5 inches long). Set aside.

STEP TWO

Prepare your maracas. Tape the cork or film canister to the bottom of the light bulb. Make sure you use plenty of tape to secure the handle. Extend the tape up the narrow part of the light bulb. Set aside and repeat to make the second maraca.

STEP THREE

Make your paste in a large bowl or plastic container. If you are using wheat paste, follow the directions. If you are making homemade paste, combine 2 cups of flour with 2 cups of water and 1 tbsp. salt. Stir until smooth. Both pastes should be smooth and the consistency of a cream soup.

STEP FOUR

Dip one strip at a time in the paper mache goop. Remove excess by gently sliding two fingers down the strip over the bowl. Start at one end and begin covering the entire maraca with overlapping strips. Once you have one complete layer, set it aside and do the same to your second maraca. Rotate between the two, allowing drying time, and add a minimum of six layers. NOTE: A hairdryer can speed drying time between layers.

STEP FIVE

Once you have a sturdy covering that has dried completely, gently but firmly knock the maraca on the table to break the glass shell inside. (This creates the “seeds” inside your maraca.) Turn and tap all sides. Pay attention; you don’t want to hit it so hard it dents or cracks your paper mache framework.

STEP SIX

Once you have a good sound, it’s time to decorate your maracas. Think about bright colors and patterns you may find in Latin American arts and crafts.

STEP SEVEN

Now have fun! Discover interesting sounds by tapping them against your thighs or hands and discover how much fun it is to make music with your art.

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