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Mapping the face.


Students will:

* Demonstrate an understanding of uses and the history of masks around the world.

* Create a coil-built mask with facial features.

* Develop a functional coil form with facial features as decorative and expressive elements.


* newspaper

* masking tape

* tiles or other clay supports such as masonite or plywood

* terra-cotta clay

* canvas for wedging clay

* 1/4" thick wooden slats

* rolling pins

* clay tools with which to cut and model clay

* containers of water

* large plastic bags for storing work

A topographic map is a graphic representation that shows the horizontal positions of features represented through contours. Why couldn't these features be the features in a face? Such thinking led me to develop this exercise in which students use the coil method of clay sculpture to create an expressive vessel that includes a face.

Begin with students by observing and discussing a variety of masks from around the world. Note examples that show a linear approach to maskmaking. Have students draw plans for their own linear masks.

Procedures in Clay

1. From newspaper, create a sturdy form to support the basic mask shape. Add features by taping smaller pieces of crumpled newspaper to the base form. Secure the form to a tile or other support with tape.

2. Wedge the clay, roll it into a 1/4" slab, and cut the slab into strips. Roll each strip into a coil.

3. Using each coil as a "line," "draw" the mask on the newspaper form. Follow the contours of the form. Attach coils to one another as needed to create the "lines" of the face.

4. To create the vessel's base, wedge the clay, roll it into a 1/4" slab, and cut a circle from it. Cut the rest of the slab into strips and roll them into coils.

5. Build the sides of the vessel. Shape the face as you go.

6. To seal the inside of the vessel, carefully blend the coils with your fingertips before adding the next coil.

Between classes, store the work-in-progress in a large plastic bag, labeled with the student's name on a piece of masking tape. Keep the work covered with damp paper towels from the leather-hard stage until it is bone-dry. Then have students carefully remove the supporting newspaper and tape. Fire the work to the cone indicated by the manufacturer of the clay.


When the firing is complete, have students complete the following self-assessments:

* How did you create expression in your mask?

* How well-crafted is your vessel?

* What did you learn about the coil hand building technique?


If your mask could speak, what would it say? Try to give voice to the expressive personality of your mask. In a single paragraph, write a dramatic monologue that expresses the essence of your mask's character. Is your mask frightening, or humorous, or a little of both? Is your mask young, or old? Does it have a story to tell? If so, let's hear it!

Alternate Approaches

* Drawing the design first provides an opportunity to make changes in your actual sculpture.

* Instead of coiling, you may wish to create a face for your vessel separately and attach it after the vessel form has been started.


Students conceive and create works of visual art that demonstrate an understanding of how the communication of their ideas relate to the media, techniques, and processes they use.


Puerto Rucan Caretas Masks

The tradition of Puerto Rican maskmaking is closely tied to the February carnival celebration that precedes the Christian Lenten season. Called caretas, the papier-mache masks typically are noted for their horns and bared teeth. They are meant to represent demon-like beasts, and wearers (called vejigantes) roam the parades scaring onlookers.

It is believed that the masks hark back to both traditional Spanish festivals, where devil-like creatures were meant to frighten sinners, and to the maskmaking tradition brought to the United States by African slaves. Today, the town of Ponce is the main center for the craft and is associated with the horned mask style.

Ken Vieth is the author of From Ordinary to Extraordinary and Engaging the Adolescent Mind and one of the authors of the Visual Experience, and a contributing editor for SchoolArts. This article was developed from the Studio Experience 10.15 in The Visual Experience.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:High School Studio Lesson
Author:Vieth, Ken
Publication:School Arts
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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