Miniature Masks at Columbine Elementary

Columbine Elementary School students and staff  put their Best Faces Forward! During four weeks in April and May of 2005, a garden of bright colorful faces and flowers has sprung up to grace an area that will be seen by students and visitors every day for some time to come.

In the project local artist-author Sarajane Helm has created for the Artist In Residence Program, everyone at the school was involved in decorating hundreds of miniature masks made of polymer clay and creating a fabulous new installation in the atrium area to the right of the main entrance of the building.

Together with the assistance of her husband Bryan, art teachers Gabrielle Minger-Wright and Anna Harber worked to supervise the creative explosion that happens when hundreds of students in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade meet up with an inviting medium of expression like polymer clay!

Non-toxic and amazingly versatile, easy to work with and available in local craft stores, this has been a primary working medium for Sarajane for over twenty years, and she delights in sharing it with others. Some supplies for the Best Faces Forward project were donated by Polyform (the manufacturers of Premo and SculpeyIII polymer clays) and other vendors, while the major funding for the Artist In Residence program comes from a generous grant from the Target Corporation.

polymer clay canes in a sheet

In this undertaking, students in all grades learned how to mix colors and manipulate clay to form millefiore “canes” that provide patterns, as well as the ins and outs of model formation and mold making, rubber stamping on clay, and many ways of decorating an expressive and individual miniature mask.

Some of the students helped to knead and condition the clay and to mix the colors. With more than twenty-four pounds of clay, there was a LOT to do.

Everyone gets to see cane-making demonstrated, and to be part of the decision making process, and everyone gets some hands-on time with clay. Everybody is part of the creation process!

The Kindergarten, First and Second grade students spent hours creating the clay sheets used for cutting out the flowers using the cane elements made in class. This is a sampler made with at least one slice of each kind of cane that was made in three days. Using simple components like snakes and sheets, canes like bulls-eye and jellyroll striped canes, checkerboards and more are built. All canes, no matter how complex the final image may be, start out simply with pieces of colored clay. Reducing the cane makes the image smaller.

polymer clay canes

polymer clay mask forms“Each one is a different little work of art” says Sarajane “and when put all together, we’ll have a colorful and creative garden where personal expression blooms!

It’s vital to keep art available to children, and I’m very glad to have this opportunity to help the wonderful young people at this school generate access to their creativity with the assistance of the Longmont Council for the Arts and St.Vrain Valley Schools.”

Mask forms were created using a mold made and demonstrated by Sarajane, and the Third, Fourth, and Fifth grade students, as well as the staff, each got to decorate a mask.

The artists could select between gold, copper, or silver bases as shown here. Embellishments are chosen from cane slices and bits of colored clays, and as you will soon see each is very different and wonderful in its own way!