Monthly Archives: September 2011


During our class circle meeting we told the students that our teacher had us create our own masks. He felt that this would enable us to better understand how to help the students make their own masks. Ana was the first to show and talk about her mask. She described it as being a combination of 3 animals. She then asked the students if they could describe what type of personality it was judging by its characteristics.

Ana's Mask-"Coyelle"-a combination of eagle, elk and coyote.

Rex really scrutinized the mask and came up with some really good observations. He commented on the orientation of the beak and eyes and said that it animal made the animal look sly. Mira addid that it also might by stealthy!

Naomi's Mask-The Catogator, which the students thought was SCARY!

Naomi was the next to discuss her mask. One of the students commented that it must see well because its eyes were so big. Another student thought it was greedy because its mouth was open wide.

Alice was the last to discuss her mask. She decided not to describe her mask first. She wanted to let the children try and figure it out just by looking at it. One student commented that it might thoughtful because of the sun lighting up its forehead. Another student said that the blue on its chin reminded her of waves, so maybe it liked  the ocean.

Alice's Mask

We thought that all the students comments articulated keen visual observations and thoughtfulness. This ability will help them to create masks of unique and interesting character. However before proceedingwith the masks we felt that the class needed a refresher lesson in slipping and scoring-a clay attachment technique.

Peggy, a student who has worked with clay before, volunteered to do the demonstration

We provided the students with various tools, so that they could use different textures on their clay masks.

Here a student is testing out the texture an avocado masher makes on a piece of scrap clay. What a great idea! This will allow him to decide whether or not he should apply this texture to his mask.











A student is using a lemon juicer to make "hair". She has already applied some to her mask.

By pushing clay through a small strainer this student created "fuzzy hair". It looks as though she has not decided to to use it on her mask.

We also provided image references. The students were able to refer to these and obtain inspiration.

This student is emphasizng the eye of his liger mask by surrounding it in different colored clay. He also chose to emphasize the mouth in the same manner.

This student is working on his mask with both hands! His right hand is poking a hole in the clay for the eye. While his left hand is creating a texture by scraping away lines. Good demonstration of the subtractive technique-which Naomi showed the students at the start of class.


In this almost completed mask another student also chose to make the mouth out of a different color. This really helps to accentuate the expression of happiness and contentment.


This student chose to incorporate both animal and landscape elements into her mask. Notice the sea turtles for the eyes and the starfish nose.


In the next lesson the students will be enhancing their masks with paint! From what we have observed so far the character masks should continue to develop in interesting and unique ways.

Ana, Naomi, & Alice

Character Building-Mask Making Part 2

The Second Chapter- Character Masks [Clay]


Continuing from what Ana introduced last class, today we looked a little bit closer at Native American masks, and how certain animals represented certain characteristics. We sat around in a circle and Naomi had some pretty interesting pictures and a mask sitting in the middle of the circle.

Mysterious objects!

Mask examples are found in the middle of the circle! What kind of characters do you see in these masks? How do you figure that out?

We talked about how masks portray a character as well as a feeling, and how the personality can be shown! Students brainstormed thinking about the features of the face that express personality or feeling! Arrangement of eyebrows, the position of their mouths (is it a smile or a frown?), and the shape and effect of the eyes were all ideas students discussed in the circle!

After a discussion, the students were sent off to their tables- which were all set up and ready to go for the exploration in clay and mask making! First, they had to grab smocks to cover themselves up (clay is very messy!) and a newspaper, and bring it back to their seats! Naomi asked the class what an armature was, and explained that it was something that is used to help hold up a sculpture- in this case, it helps shape the mask! Using newspaper, she instructed the students to crumple up the newspaper to the size they want their masks to be, and went around with tape so they can keep shape underneath the clay.

Armature gif

Process of making an armature! Click to see the slideshow!

The armature is all done! They were then wrapped in plastic bags, and were given their clay. They had choices between red, white, and brown- though they had the option of doing a combination of the three. Either way, the students would be able to paint them after the masks are fired in the kiln. For now, the students had to learn how to flatten the piece of clay out and to make them to thinner slabs as a base to wrap on top of their armature. Naomi showed them several ways, and some of the students decided to experiment on their own!

After sitting their base slabs on the armature the students had the chance to finally start working on their characters! While many chose animals that they felt a direct connection to (totem animal), they were asked to consider the personality traits and characteristics of their animals or creatures that they were creating. This helps develop the character’s story! While they worked, they discovered different effects and textures they could achieve through various tools, the significance of detail, and problem solved along the way!

Overall, everyone did great work, and are well on their way to grasping how to develop their characters!

The First Lesson-Storybuilding


We are so excited and happy to be here!

Before the official start to the lesson we thought it would be a good idea to introduce ourselves to the students. We did this by talking about a piece of art that we made and then an artwork by an artist that we liked. While discussing the artwork we introduced certain elements that would be included in the lesson about storybuilding. Our artwork was displayed on a table, so that the children could look at it and touch it.

Our artwork-Bottom left: Naomi-Ceramic Jar with spiders, top left: Alice-Self-portrait print, and at right: Ana-Needle felted scene

Sam W., Callie, and Adam were really interested in Naomi’s ceramic spiders!

Ana about to read the "Wise Owl"

After the children had gone back to their seats Ana explained what her lesson was to be about. The art of Storybuilding and what makes a good story. Since she was reading a Native American myth called Wise Owl she asked the children if they knew what a myth was. Only a few raised their hands. After a small discussion it was determined that a myth is a story that describes something in nature that talks about its origin or beginning. The students felt it was a fictional story.  This myth explains the meaning behind the phrase “wise as an owl”. In it there are 3 characters: Everything-Maker (to be read by Ana), rabbit and owl. Ana asked for student volunteers to read the parts of owl and rabbit.

Jalen reading the part of Owl

Rune reading the part of Rabbit

After the story was read Ana asked the students to list characteristics of each character. The kids named physical attributes as well as personality traits. Good listening by all! To get the children to understand what goes into developing a character she asked them to create one either from the story or one of their own choosing. They were given the choice of drawing one using markers or pencil or to make one out of clay! Almost all of the students chose CLAY!

It was fun to watch the students' creatures begin to take shape.

Personalities begin to develop with added detail.

After the students were finished they displayed their clay creatures and drawings on the table. They were then asked who wants to tell a short story about their creature.

Apparently, everyone did! Ana had a really tough time choosing.

Talia sharing the story of her creature. (Sam A. seems very interested!)

Kai showing his creation to the class.




















Please Note: Due to space constraints we were unable to post pictures of all the students creatures creations. However, the students can have the photos taken of their work.

The kid’s enthusiasm and energy was wonderful!
We are looking forward to our next class!
Ana, Naomi, & Alice