Introduction: Cirque Du Tribe

For my year 9 Arts Workshop, I was tasked with the following:

"Create a ceramic mask based on the one or more of the elements (earth, air, fire, water)which reflects the conceptual focus of Cirque du Soleil and suggests the idea of Tribe."

I have decided to represent my journal in the form of an instructable, as i beleve it will best be able to display my research, design processes, build, and analysis .

Step 1: Background Reasearch

Tribal Masks

The traditional purpose of a mask within a tribe was to demonstrate the social and religious beliefs of that particular community. This then left it up to the maker to interpret this into their own design, displaying attributes that they think represent themselves, their family or their tribe.

The design of the mask can represent many different aspects of the tribe or individual. For example the texture of the mask can indicate the hostility and/or beauty


Cirque by definition is found to be the circus, but further it can be explored into different parts. These include colour, light, music, and character. Colour and light are an important part of the cirque theme. They allow expression of each characters traits and During this work I intend to incorporate one of the four basic elements, being water, fire earth, and air. This will allow me to further investigate the theme that is cirque.


The concept of the four traditional elements being water fire earth and air, has been around for many centuries. it was first conceptualised by the Babylonians and then carried on by the Greeks, Egyptians and many middle eastern civilisations among others. These different elements helped these ancient humans to try to understand why and how things happened around them. Therefore they thought that all things were a combination of the any number of these element, bit this differed based on the culture and location. Each of these elements have different aspects and potential styles that I will try to explore.


Step 2: Design Ideas

Here are some photos that inspired my design.

I liked the idea of having items mounted on the forehead like a crown (image one)

I also liked the idea of combining Auscam representing the Earth and the metal representing man made objects returning to the earth in a post apocalyptic future.

Step 3: Build Process


  • 400g paper clay
  • Rolling pin
  • Textured tools
  • Materials for impression
  • Water colour
  • Water soluble oil pastels
  • Paint brushes
  • Sponges

Clay preparation

First I got my slab of clay and my rolling pin in order to reach the ideal overall thickness of 5mm

I then prepared my mould, and ensured that the clay would be able to fit with some overlap. This helps to make sure the mask has some form of rigidity when firing.

The next step was to use the tools to make depressions into the clay to make patterns, as well as put my items into the clay, which was in my case the pieces of metal and nails.

Once this is completed, the clay was lowered into the mould and using my fingers I ensured all parts of the clay was properly in. As the clay became thin in places, I used some of the scrap clay to add thickness to prevent cracking during firing.

After all of the elements have been placed and positioned within the mould, the clay is left to dry for 48 hours, before being fired for 9 hours

Once the mask was returned
from firing, it is time to add the colour to the mask this is done using watercolour and water soluble oil pastels. Using tools like paint brushes and sponges, I applied light colour in patterns similar to the Auscam Camouflage in order to supplement the impressions and items to represent my chosen element.

Step 4: Final Product

Step 5: Analysis

During the progression of the design and build process, I have felt that there was some parts that I would do differently:

  • Firstly, I would like to have arranged the metal pieces in a different locations (for example, in tight knit clusters located around the mask).
  • Secondly I feel that I could have done a better job rolling out the clay, as it was quite thin in places and this caused some holes to form.
  • Thirdly, next time I would put darker colours onto the fired mask because I found that the colours on the final product were to light for my liking and didn't give the desired effect.
  • Finally, I felt that overall, although I planned the elements, colour and and the style of mask, I should have put more effort into the layout of the items on the mask, this would have helped to produce the desired effect better in the future.