How to make your own decorative ceramic masks

Written by patti perry
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How to make your own decorative ceramic masks
Decorative ceramic masks are made using the slab technique. (mask 01c image by John R. Amelia from

Ceramic masks can be made of stoneware or porcelain clay bodies with boundless possibilities for shaping and details. The Incredible @rt Department suggests fashioning decorative ceramic masks using the slab technique of rolling clay and embellishing it. Clay masks have been made through history by many cultures around the world. Use your imagination and a rolling pin to create your own message in mask form.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Newspaper
  • Plastic shopping bag
  • Clay
  • Cling film
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife
  • Found objects
  • Kiln
  • Acrylic paints

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  1. 1

    Measure your face dimensions from side to side and hairline to chin; make note of these measurements. Also measure the position for your eye sockets.

  2. 2

    Draw an oval on paper that has the dimensions you previously noted including the eye holes. This will be a template for your ceramic mask. Consider design opportunities at this stage and allow for any edge protrusions on this paper pattern.

  3. 3

    Push newspapers into a plastic shopping bag. Form this bag to accommodate the paper face template and become a hump mould for your ceramic mask formation.

  4. 4

    Wedge and knead the clay to remove any air bubbles and make it soft and pliable. This is a repeated pushing motion followed by throwing the clump of clay onto the work table.

  5. 5

    Roll the clay with a rolling pin until it is uniformly 1/2-inch thick.

  6. 6

    Place your paper face template on top of the clay slab and trace around the contours with a sharp tool to cut the clay and create the outside contours of your mask design. Cut out the eye holes.

  7. 7

    Lay your mask slab over the hump mould you made with the newspaper-stuffed shopping bag.

  8. 8

    Score and apply any added details with water or slip. Scoring is scratching marks into the surface of the clay to allow greater adhesion. Slip is a wet suspension of clay and water particles. Using this technique ensures the added clay pieces will stay attached through the high heat of firing.

  9. 9

    Press found objects into the clay surface to create texture. Decorative indentations will be formed as you remove these objects.

  10. 10

    Mold or cut the clay surface and add or subtract clay as you see fit.

  11. 11

    Dry slowly until your mask is completely devoid of moisture; this will take a week or so depending on the humidity of the drying room.

  12. 12

    Fire in a kiln to a bisque temperature of 1,371 to 1,037 degrees Celsius. Bisque is the initial firing of clay that removes all of the moisture and creates a hard, unglazed ceramic piece.

  13. 13

    Finish with acrylic paint application.

Tips and warnings

  • All ceramic work should be kept under plastic, to keep them from drying out before you are finished with your mask design.
  • Bisque-fired ceramic masks can also be finished with ceramic glazes and another high firing.
  • Any sorts of embellishments such as feathers, glitter or jewels can be glued onto the mask after it is fired.

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