Art lesson resource: Moko printing

The collograph printing plates above are being prepared by a group of Y9 to 11 GCSE art students (24 mixed ability) based on patterns inspired by Maori Ta Moko. Here’s a fun and creative printing project that can easily be differentiated, even for UKS2.

Firstly, do a bit of shared research on Ta Moko, the cultural/spiritual body art of the Maori people of New Zealand (bit of SMSC, geography etc).

Video above shows a modern tattoo technique but accompanied by Moko soundtrack – not for the squeamish.

I used A3 sheets with different facts about New Zealand, Maori culture and Ta Moko designs and a ‘roving reporter’ style fact finding and sharing. I also used a clip of the All Blacks doing the haka against England in 2004.

Sample Resources

With a pattern of swirling koru (fern like designs) drawn out on to card, I demonstrated the method of building up layers of relief to form a simple printing plate or collograph. The students did a critique of my final print accounting for blobs of ink being due ‘uneven’ relief shapes.

Demo Piece

Selected inspirational image

Sketched on to cardboard

Tracing and adding string or card on top in relief

Complete relief surface

Printed image

The printing plate

The great thing about collographs is the focus on trial and error in printing and the beauty of the printing plate as much as the prints. You can roll a couple of colours on at once too rather than just monochrome. My plate has the relief shapes picked out in silver show polish! This gives a great metallic feel. Simpler ferns or spirals for less able; craft knives and intricacy for more adept. Takes up to three one hour sessions.

Kids feedback

“I thought tattoos were just chavvy (sic) until I learned the history of Moko” (Y9)

“The All Blacks looked funny doing the haka until you see the English players looking nervous and intimidated”

“Printing 6 different images from one plate means I can go and work into my simple design” (Y11)

“I like the collograph plate better than the print – I think this makes a good relief sculpture”