Subject: Ceramics
1. Topic-
Culture and Mask
2. Content-
Tlaloc, Mask, Different cultures, celebrations, meaning, interpretation, Form, craftsmanship, Identity.
3. Goals: Aims/Outcomes-
1. To go back in history and do research on Tlaloc, the rain god of the Mayans.
2. To research other cultures and the meanings of their masks.
3.To learn hand building and slab technique.
4. Objectives-
1. Students will become aware of the purposes of masks in many culture, materials used - form and function -- will see how cultures use readily available materials in the construction of masks.
2. Students will compare and contrast masks from various cultures - comparing medium used - form and function. Students will view contemporary masks and contrast meaning to cultural masks.
3. In the spirit of the Tlaloc mask, located in the Dallas Museum of Art, students will design a mask using cultural examples for inspiration - changing the meaning - conveying a special message about the times in which we live.
4. Students will integrate planning - use draped slab form of construction along with other hand building techniques.
5. Students will exhibit craftsmanship in forming and finishing their work of art
6. Students will critique their work - determining how well the mask portrays the message it is intended.
5. Materials and Aids-
Mask handouts (optional),
9 x12 newsprint, pencils, scissors, clay (self hardening clay may be used, too),
Newspapers, plastic bags, canvas cloth, guide sticks, rolling pins, slip dishes, clay modeling tools, potter's needles, fettling knives, texture gadgets/tools, wood/Masonite boards,
moist paper towels, plastic bags

For finishing:
Acrylic paint (brown, black and assorted colors), paint markers, Sharpies, brushes, water dishes, wire for hanging (old telephone wire works great), jute, yarn, beads, raffia, horsehair, boas, other nature things...moss, feathers, etc. - Be creative! Tacky Glue, hot glue gun, glue sticks.

Option: Glazes - brushes.

6. Procedures/Methods-

A. Introduction-

The brief the students are given for this project is that they are to research traditional masks from a variety of cultures - using the Internet or print material, focusing more on the Mayan rain God, Tlaloc.
From this they are asked to replicate its form but to change its meaning. This meaning they must interpret from a 2D image (photograph or digital image) into a 3D form. They are then requested to identify a contemporary issue and work this onto the masks through the use of symbols, icons, text, messages, etc. They are informed about symbolism, juxtaposition of images and the construction of meaning and how the meaning of the original form can greatly impact and add to the meanings that they are trying to generate.

The issues addressed in the students work ranged from racism, power and aggression, mental abuse, peace, bush fires, water restrictions and drought, etc. The embellishment came from a garbage recycling business and were off cuts of plastic, vinyl's, etc. - we get a lot of great stuff from there - I even got some fake teeth to add to my teaching example.


B. Development-

1.Present a variety of mask images to students - briefly discuss meanings of masks (Encarta article give a nice over view). Internet resources should generate enough images.
2.Show some examples of contemporary masks. How were these artists inspired by masks of other cultures? What kind of materials did they use? How are the meanings different? How are the purposes different?
3.Instruct students to use the Mayan culture and Tlaloc mask, as an inspiration for their mask creation - students make sketches.
4.Demonstrate/review steps for slab construction
5.When fired - present a number of different decorating techniques. Collage words can be very effective to help convey meaning. These can be form newspaper clippings or printed from computer.
6.Instruct students on requirements for written critique. Peer evaluation can be very helpful

C. Practice-

The masks are ceramic slab works made using a hump mold that student make using a plastic shopping bag and newspaper. Most of the features are pinched and pressed pieces joined on. All of the masks are made to fit the face and are hollowed out on the reverse side. Students could choose glaze or painted finish - both with additional embellishments - some collage elements to help convey meaning.

1. Following the slide show or PowerPoint - and after personal research through print materials provided, students decide what kind of mask to use for inspiration as a jumping off point. Decide what kind of social issue to represent through the mask - What kind of message should the mask tell? The mask is planned on paper and cut out to use as a template when they cut their clay slabs.

2. Make newspaper hump the size of mask drawing (this should be life size)- tape bottom flat. Shape newspaper into rounded hump inside the plastic bag. Cut out mask drawing (mask should be approximately the size of human head - or slightly larger to allow for shrinkage and forming over hump)

3. Wedge clay to remove air bubbles. Roll out slab of clay between guide sticks (approx. 3/8 inch thick). Lay drawing on clay - trace around - trace over details of drawing to make an impression in the clay. Drape cut out clay slab over newspaper hump on Masonite/wood board. Smooth cut edges with damp sponge.

4. Add on details of facial features - build up using coils and added slabs - and pinch methods (score and slip). Carve in lines and shapes. Press in textures/stamps. Use straw to poke holes in sides for hanging (about 1/4 inch or so from edge - we usually put the holes at side in line with the eyes)

Students are reminded of proper wrapping procedures to keep their project moist between work sessions. Drape with damp paper towels if necessary

5. When finished - Hollow out back side where clay is thickest. Allow to get bone dry - bisque fire. Students work on next project during this time.

Following the firing:

1. Paint with acrylics - select colors to help convey a message. Find words for collage - or type up words on the computer and print. - embellish with natural and found materials. Use wire for hanging.

2. Glaze - and fire - finish as above with embellishments.


1. Did students discuss - compare and contrast various masks from around the world? Were they able to speculate on materials used and purposes of masks?

2. Did students create a mask showing characteristics a selected culture? Did they use exaggeration, distortion, simplification of forms - concentric shapes?

3. Did students integrate planning into the creation of a ceramic mask using draped slab method with added coil, slab and pinch relief? Show an understanding of forming techniques?

4. Did students explore a variety of media in the completion of their ceramic mask? Exhibit craftsmanship? Does the decoration help convey meaning? Does mask express a social issue?

5. Did students successfully critique and write about the meaning of their mask for display?


This Lesson Plan is available at (