Monday, December 7, 2015

Relief Sculpture

Remember the Alamo?
No not really!

I am not from Texas and in 4th grade I took Indiana History...

so learning about the culture of my now home state is really fun for all. 

I came up with this lesson a few years ago after a TAEA conference host presented a lesson on creating the facade of the Alamo in Clay.  I tried the lesson with Air Dry clay, I had no kiln, 
and it was a disaster. 

I recreated the lesson using 36 gauge aluminum from Sax School Specialty.

The student's did an observational drawing of the Alamo using pictures and technology. Since the structure is symmetrical I guided them with some simple contour drawing steps. 

The manilla paper was 4.5 x 6 inches to utilize utilize the aluminum size.  I precut the metal on my paper cutter and taped it for them to the paper to avoid sharp edges. 

They traced their original drawing with pen on top of the metal with felt underneath. This step transfers the drawing.
They lifted the paper and tooled into the metal with a wooden stylus to create the tooled texture. 

This was day two of the lesson. I was really picky with them on the details. 
I encouraged some to flip over the metal and flatten the open spaces with a flat tool to create more relief which is the Repousse technique.  
Be careful, some kids may rub out their texture if they don't understand. Oh no....

I cut the top of the facade off, to avoid cuts and to show off the iconic structure. This is another way to engage in one on one conversation about their work. 

The student's then painted or aged the metal with a mixture of India ink and soap.
Let dry until the next class. Be does stain.

The student's also printed a FRAME for their Alamo using my old Fiskar brayers and printing ink on 9x12 construction paper. You can create any type of background, but my kids love these things. 
I pulled out the white ink since its WINTER! 

On Day 3 I pass back the background frames and the blackened Alamo.

They think I am crazy for having them paint it black, but the little piece of 
Steel Wool brings it to life!

We polish the flat areas and leave the ink in the valleys.
I hot glue it to their frame and it is a Ah Ha moment!

This lesson would be successful with any landmark that is symmetrical. 
Some relief sculptures look better when flipped over and some with the original contour drawing side up, The take away from this lesson is using a new and engaging material, which really is a hook for engaging all the students and they can all be super successful. 



  1. These are simply amazing- so many possibilities with a wide variety of architecture styles. Can I ask why you mix soap with the India ink- what type of soap? I've never heard of this before an am curious. Thanks for sharing the steps- they turned out great :)


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