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Products Used

Clay & Mold
  • 5 lbs of low-fire clay body (Cone 06/05)
  • CD-911 African Mask Oval
  • CD-1260 African Theme Sprig Mold
  • CD-1072 Spiral Press Tools
  • EL-136 Lapis Lagoon
  • SC-15 Tuxedo
  • SC-16 Cotton Tail
  • SC-26 Green Thumb
  • SC-74 Hot Tamale
  • SC-75 Orange-A-Peel
  • SC-97 Cant-elope
Design Tools
  • AC-213 Sponge on a Stick
  • ARD02 Xiem Roller Tool
  • BT-910 Synthetic Sponge
  • CB-106 #6 Script Liner
  • CB-604 #4 Soft Fan
  • ST-124 Maze Stamp
Additional Materials
  • 1/4" Studs by Sew-ology
  • Exact-o or Fettling Knife
  • Sand bag
  • High fire wire
  • Rolling pin
  • 1/4" wood slats
  • Canvas



For grade levels 9-12

In the early 20th Century, artists like Pablo Picasso and Andre Derain were inspired by the bold abstract designs that they discovered in African tribal masks. They collected and used these works of art to influence their own style. In effect, they used African culture to refresh the tired tradition of figure painting in Western Art.

African masks are an integral part of a ceremonial costume. They are used in religious and social events to represent the spirits of ancestors or to control the good and evil forces in the community. They come to life, possessed by their spirit in the performance of the dance, and are enhanced by both the music and atmosphere of the occasion. Some combine human and animal features to unite man with his natural environment. This bond with nature is of great importance to the African and through the ages masks have always been used to express this relationship.


  • Students will learn the steps of creating with clay including construction, bisque firing, glazing, and glaze firing

  • Students will use technology resources to research various types of masks, choosing one to replicate

  • Students will understand the purpose of these masks in African culture and their influence in art today

National Standards

  • Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
  • Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
  • Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas


Construction Technique:
  1. With a rolling pin on canvas, roll out a piece of moist clay ¼" thick between wooden slats.
  2. Smooth out the grain from the canvas with a straight edge.
  3. Lay the smooth side of the clay over the CD-911 African Mask slump mold clay should extend to the edges of the mold. Use a sand bag to hump the clay into the form of the mold.
  4. Take a damp sponge to further the slumping process to make sure the clay fills all the detail of the mold. Trim around the outside edge of the mold shape with a knife or fetteling tool.
  5. Let the clay sit in the mold for 20 min. (approx). Release the clay from around the edges of the trimming. Place a board over the mold, flip the mold over and it should release easily, if it does not, wait longer.
  6. Once the mask is out of the mold, pencil in triangles on the flange surrounding the mask, when you are satisfied with the design, cut out using the exacto knife.
  7. Cut out the eyes and the mouth. Drill small holes in the triangles below the chin (for later decoration with studs). Drill small holes to fit a wire for ear rings.
  8. Open the nose on the sides, make bones to fit into the nose opening. If desired, cut small pieces of high fire wire, poke the pieces in a row in the middle of the forehead, for decoration.
  9. Use Xiem tool ARD02 to roll design in a zigzag under the eyes, and on the triangles around the mask.
  10. Press clay into the shield from CD-1260, trim the excess from around the shape. Make a ball of clay, stick it to the back of the shield to release it from the mold. Put a small hole at the top, for a wire. Press the sun shape from the press too CD-1072 into a thin piece of clay, cut around it, score the section on the forehead, add water to the score, place on the sun shape.
  11. Clean edges of the mask with a damp sponge, let dry.
  12. Fire to cone 04.
Glazing Directions:
  1. Brush slightly thinned SC-15 Tuxedo over the mask, wipe off excess with a damp sponge to antique.
  2. Using AC-213 Lg. Sponge on a Stick, pounce SC-15 Tuxedo onto the ST-124 Maze stamp. Press stamp to the triangle shape under the mouth. Remove stamp marks from other areas with a sponge.
  3. Using CB-106 #6 Script Liner, brush 2-3 coats of SC-97 Cant-elope to the triangles around the face, inside edge of the eyes, and rays of the sun; coloring the center with SC-75 Orange a Peel.
  4. Using CB-106 #6 Script Liner, brush the mouth with 2-3 coats of SC-74 Hot Tamale. Brush the triangles at the chin with 2-3 coats of SC-26 Green Thumb and SC-75 Orange a Peel.
  5. Using CB-106 #6 Script Liner, brush 2 coats to the bones with SC-16 Cotton Tail. Brush the triangles at the eyes and bands on the forehead with 2 coats of SC-15 Tuxedo.
  6. Antique the shield earrings with SC-15 Tuxedo. Brush 2 coats of Hot Tamale in the center section. Let dry completely.
  7. Using CB-604 #4 Soft Fan, brush the entire mask with 3 coats of EL-136 Lapis Lagoon. After each coat, brush water over the Stroke and Coat colors to remove some of the Lapis Lagoon.
  8. Fire to cone 06.
  9. Use epoxy to glue on the various studs. Wire the earrings to the hole at the eyes.


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