Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making Clay Masks

Masks spark children’s imagination – whether they think of dressing up at Halloween or discover traditional masks used in ceremonies or a decorative pieces. Creating a mask is an easy project with lots of variations. Here are simple instructions for making a mask with clay.
Masks are easy and lots of fun for kids.
- Clay (stoneware, terracotta or a non-hardening modeling clay will work)
- *Slip (slurry made from old, dry clay and water to use as paste with stoneware or terracotta
- Rolling pin (optional)
- Butter knife or other tool for cutting clay
- Pencil
- Old sponge, seed pod or other things you can press into the clay for texture

1.       Using a ball of clay the size of a softball, flatten the ball into a round or oblong shape by pressing with your hands or rolling with a rolling pin. The clay should be about one-half inch thick all over, no thinner.

2.       Cut off edges of the clay to create the shape you want for your mask.  Save those pieces to add back later. For example, in the photo, the nose was made from a piece cut off the top of the mask.
Be sure to save the extra clay for additions later.
3.       Create a nose and ears using the clay strips you just cut off the mask. Press them onto the mask.*

4.       Using the old sponge, seed pod or other interesting pattern, roll or imprint a texture all over the shape. In this case, a seed pod gave fun texture to the mask.

5.       For eyes, you can try two methods. First, roll a ball of clay the size of a marble and flatten it. Using the pencil, press a hole into the middle for a pupil and press the clay onto the mask.
Spice up you mask with different textures and features.
6.       The other way to make an eye is to cut out a circle of clay where you want the eye to be. Using half of the clay you remove from the hole, roll a small clay ball and flatten it. Place it back in the hole and press one edge onto the clay of the mask to adhere it to the piece. When cutting shapes out of the mask, don’t get closer than one-half inch to the edge of the clay or the mask could crack if you are firing it.

7.       Add the mouth and eyebrows or other features by rolling thin coils from the leftover clay and pressing the pieces onto the mask.*

8.       If you plan to fire the piece, make a hole on either side of the mask so you can tie a cord across the back of the mask to use as a hanger.  

*If you are working with stoneware or terracotta, you will need to use the slip as glue to attach each piece to your mask. Using the pencil, make scratch marks on both surfaces you will be joining. Apply the slip to the piece of clay you are adding and press the piece into place. 

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