SchoolArts Magazine

MAR 2009

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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High School Studio Lesson Clay Portrait Boxes Nancy Corrigan Wilbert I n an attempt to incorporate sculptural elements into my ceramics program, I decided to try direct plaster casting of the face to make a plaster mold for clay. My students were a bit leery to say the least. When the terms "bathing cap," "petroleum jelly," and "straws" were used in one sentence, images began to flood the imagination. Making the Cast Once I explained the process, most students were eager to begin and help each other. We began by putting on a bathing/swim cap to protect the hair. Then petroleum jelly was applied liberally to the entire face. Damp paper towel pieces cut into small ovals were positioned over the eyes, and straws were placed in the mouth for breathing. Students lay on the top of a table covered with plastic trash bags. Once they were comfortable and the giggling ended, the loose plaster was slowly applied to the face. As it began setting, more layers were applied to add strength. I explained to students before we started that the plaster would become warm as it set. After about ten minutes, the cast was hard enough to remove. The casts popped off the face with ease, and students cleaned up with soap and a wash cloth. Working with Clay For the project, students could choose to create a covered box to which they would attach their cast faces, or to sculpt a hand where the cast face would "rest." Those who wanted to 36 March 2009 SchoolArts sculpt a hand traced a hand onto 2" (5 cm) thick slabs of clay, cut them out with a pin tool, and sculpted them into the desired position. A second mound of clay was formed to serve as the wrist/arm. The two pieces were attached and hollowed out with a wrist tool. Incised line and raised line were employed to create a lifelike rendering. Those who chose to create a box used templates and slab construction to make an 8 x 10 x 4" (20 x 25 x 10 cm) form. Before the last side was added, plastic bags were packed inside so that the box would not collapse when the face was attached. Casting the Face in Clay Finally it was time to cast the face in clay. A 1" (2.5 cm) thick slab of clay was carefully worked into the face mold using the fingers and knuck-

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