Grade Level

7-8, 9-10, 11-12


7 periods, 45 minutes in length


This project was done with clay but could be done with paper mache.
Student collect recycled material to create an armature from (cereal boxes, egg cartons, etc.
Basic clay tools like a knife, rolling pin, sculpting tools, etc.



Lesson Objectives

For the student to…
Use recyclable materials to create an armature for the clay (or paper mache)
Understand and display how to correctly role a slab and drape it over their armature.
To use additive and subtractive sculpting technique to further embellish their masks

Introductory Activity

We look at masks and talk about their uses and purposes in history (ceremonial and theater for example). We look at a lot of different masks from a variety of cultures- African, Egyptian, etc.

Lesson Process

Teacher introduces masks and armatures. An armature is “a skeleton or framework used by an artist to support a figure being modeled in soft plastic material. … An armature can be made from any material that is damp-resistant and rigid enough to hold such plastic materials as moist clay and plaster, which are applied to and shaped around it.” In this instance they will start with a box or even a newspaper balled up into an egg shape (and secured with tape. From there they can add items to become features, like an egg carton piece could become a protruding eye or half of a cylinder could become a nose bridge.

Students are really encouraged to exaggerate features and expressions. When the armature is complete it can be covered with saran wrap or foil to get it from sticking to the clay. The armature will then have a clay slab rolled and draped over the armature. Students can then mold the clay to the armature to articulate the form. Avoid applying too much pressure as the clay will shrink and if it is too tight to the armature will crack the clay. Students can then continue to embellish the masks. They can add clay slabs and build the bask up (additive), or cut through the masks, like maybe to create the mouth (subtractive). Add texture, holes at the top of the head if they wanted to add string or wire for hair. A certain amount of embellishments might be required.

When clay sculpting is complete leave open to the air (don’t put away with moisture and damp paper towels like while working on it). When it has stiffened up and cold its own shape, remove from armature and allow to continue to dry out. Fire the projects when bone dry. From here you can glaze the projects or even use paint (as it is decorative).


slab, armature, subtractive, additive


Author & Website/Blog

Supporting Images