Wood Carving: Merging Early and Contemporary Icons


In this project create a wood carved mask that visually merges early and contemporary icons. The mask should take on a combination of both icons chosen. The main material will be wood, other materials can be used to embellish the form. Try to use materials that are a part of our current culture. Accumulated objects or components of devices we use might be good resource. A visit to the salvage yards will be a good resource as well.


  1. Build and carve a mask which merges an icon form the past and an icon from the present.
  2. Process: The finished sculpture should be built through the use of wood lamination and carving.
  3. Wood purchased or found for this project should have No nails or Staples, If you find them in the wood remove them and have the instructor approve before cutting with saws or equipment. Non chemically treated wood only. Suggested material is two by fours, but obviously there are other sizes that may work to your advantage.
  4. Scale: A minimum of 1.5 ft in one dimension (HWD). A good starting point would be purchasing or having on hand two 8 ft two by fours.
  5. Finish: You may decorate your carved mask in accord with your selected icons.
  6. Students are strongly encouraged to combine or evolve the project using other materials and media to complete the finished form. Take chances.


This project should include a design that incorporates wood lamination and carving. No metal fasteners, such as nails and screws should be used in the lamination process of this project. Nails, screws and other metal fasteners can damage chisels, equipment blades and other carving tools. The design should be built in a manner that presents a relevant conclusion to the subject, two chosen icons. Your mission is to build a form that acts as a symbol in resolve of  your creativity towards the concept.

Engage, Invite, excite, challenge, your audience to react to your work.

Function, Engineering and concept: An understanding of the material, process, and concept should be a major concentration for this assignment.

Materials to purchase or acquire for this project.

2-3  two by fours: Pine or cedar is a soft wood that can be easily carved.
Ratcheting Straps (2)
Sand paper
Wood rasps, Chisels
Wood Glue
Finishing materials
Paints and Sealers


Wear appropriate eye protection, clothing and shoes while working with wood equipment.
Wood shop tools can be very sharp.
Be aware of peers working near and where you are aiming your tools.
Do Not Use “Treated Wood” in the studio. Stay away from a treated lumber. Some lumbers have arsenic as a treatment.

 Writing Assignment:  

As a beginning level course, the student is responsible for developing and presenting a typed research paper of their work for this assignment. The final document should include a description of themes/concepts the artist is addressing, descriptions of how the artist uses imagery, materials and material qualities to address their themes, images of the artist’s works and other supportive documentation. The processes and techniques the artist utilizes to create their work may also contribute to the research.

Writing Assignment Guide Lines:
Below is a brief outline of format and what is expected in your writing assignment.

  1. Cover sheet:
    1. “Your Name”
    2. Research Title
    3. Sculpture 1
    4. “Semester and Year”
    5. “Instructor’s Name”
  2. Body: (500 words +)
    1. Introduction Paragraph
    2. Your research
    3. Images of your work
    4. Summary
    5. Bibliography: Cited text and images.
  3. Images
    1. Images can be printed within the body text
    2. Images can be printed on pages after the body text
    3. If you have trouble placing images in your Document, Please see me.

Sketch Book: Merging early and contemporary icons.

1.  Find and print- 10 images- early masks
2.  Find and print-10 images- contemporary masks
3.  Add images to sketchbook
4.  Generate 6 full pages of sketches, combining early and contemporary masks.


1.  Select sketches to model your concept in clay
2. Wood lamination with 2×4’s and other wood materials
3. Begin Carving: This may be an additive and subtractive process.
4. Design and fabricate a method to wear the mask. Welding and other methods may play a part here.
5. Paint and embellishments
6. Consider the antiquity of your form is this a new mask or does it have a sense of history.
7. Dance and Performance: Develop an interpretive performance: Solo or Group engagement

Research and Inspiration:

Anthropomorphic(having human characteristics)
Thai Masks
African Masks
Bundu helmet mask
Lewa spirit mask
Mumuye mask
Biombo helmet mask
Luba Style Mask with Brass Made in Ghana
Djibouly Mask Made in Mali
Aztec mask
Northwest Coast Masks: Native American mask
Venetian Masks
Japanese Masks
Jake and Dinos Chapman
Ron Mueck
501st Legion “TK Project” Stormtrooper Helmets
AJ Fosik


Sharpening wood carving tools