Carving Masks Using Clay

Age Range: 7 - 11

Scheme of Work

Masks from Central Africa


Texture, pattern, African masks, colour, tone, form, visual elements, purpose, reason, smooth, shiny, earth tones, categories, scary, proud, dignified, cool, vigour, clay, carving, relief, taking away. Specific vocabulary for clay tools and techniques: scalple, rolled, pressed, slabs, 3 dimentional, flattening, cutting, texture, tactile, rough, kneading, wedging, smooth and moulding.


Masks, artefacts, sketch books, drawing media, sponges, clay tools (found objects), rolling pin, clay, carving tools, hessian, acrylic paints, brushes, materials for decoration, wooden aprons, blunt or plastic knives, sives, lollypop sticks, string and newspaper.

Lesson One

Introduce masks - origins, uses and visual content etc. Explain to children that they will be reproducing their own masks using clay. Clarify why we are using clay and not wood - resources, accessability, expense and practicality of materials.

Task: observational drawings of masks into sketchbooks.

Lesson Two

Recap last week - look at ideas in sketchbooks. Show other examples of carved artefacts and explain process of 'taking away' from a solid block.

Task: children sketch own ideas for masks into sketchbooks. Refine and produce design onto paper.

Lesson Three

Whole class - teacher models carving from clay, showing best way to start. Recap the concept of removing the clay rather than adding it.

Task: children practise carving using clay (clay may be reused). Brief class discussion on techniques used and problems encountered.

Lesson Four

Whole class discussion - clarifying techniques and problems from last week.

Task: children start making masks referring to the designs in their sketch books. Clay can be shaped into a slab about 3.5cm thick and moulded over a form of scrumpled newspaper to create the basic mask shape. (Make small holes at the top of the masks so that they can be hung in displays.) Clay should be covered with wet cloths and checked daily to ensure it does not dry out completely. It should be allowed to become 'leather hard' for the next session.

Lesson Five

On leather hard clay, teacher models techniques of carving using specific tools. (cutting tools, blunt or plastic knives, nails, screws and any found materials to make impressions)

Task: Children carve details on their masks using taught techniques. Leave masks to biscuit dry (and fire if kiln is available).


Lesson Six

Discuss options for decorating masks.

Task: possibly paint masks with acrylic paints using two colours - the clay representing a third colour. Children may choose to add textiles, feathers etc.

Show masks - children talk about their work.

Prepare display of the masks.


Children could sketch their own finished mask.



Geography - examination of different masks from the continent of Africa.

History / R.E. - use of masks within the context of symbolic, spiritual and religious meaning.

Maths - visualising shape and space.

ICT - researching masks on the internet.



Craft fairs, local parks, museums, religious buildings, potteries, local landmarks and school environment.


Webpage compiled by students at Goldsmiths College, University of London:

Eve Elgar, Wendy Hayter, Anne Orange, Karen Parker, Katie Tether and Dawn Whiles.