Friesen Friday Project: Making a Tribal Face from Polymer Clay Tutorial

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Polymer Clay Tribal Mask Tutorial by KatersAcres

Do you know what day it is? It’s Friesen Friday! Woo hoo! Today’s tutorial is all about making a tribal face from polymer clay.

For the complete tutorial, please see Christi Friesen’s Mixed Media Book starting on page 126 for the “Quetzalcoatl Calls” Tutorial.

Gather Your Inspiration

Menehune statues throughout Walt Disney's Aulani Resort in HawaiiBefore you begin your project, I encourage you to do some research on tribal images to see what kind of a tribal person you’d like to make. Christi’s book uses inspiration from the Aztec’s. I have taken my ideas also from a tribal figure, the elusive, ancient spirit of the Menehune from the islands of Hawaii. The pictures shown at the left were taken by my Mom & Dad when they visited Walt Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii.  I am intrigued by the Menehune and find the story fascinating! The Menehune are believed to be small dwarf like creatures that hide deep in the forests and hidden valleys of Hawaii. They bring good fortune and blessings to people.

Intrigued about menehune? Visit the Hawaiian Encyclopedia to get more information.

Gather Your Materials

Tribal Face Polymer Clay Tutorial

For complete instructions on making a tribal face for this week’s Friesen Project, please see Christi’s Book on page 126.

Making a Tribal Face INSPIRATION - Making of a Menehune by KatersAcres

Make Your Face

Making a Tribal Face - Making of a Menehune by KatersAcres

  • Decide on your tribal model.
  • NOTE: I have used the Menehune as my inspiration.
  • Choose the color & amount of your clay.
  • NOTE: I made my own color using Premo! Granite, Fimo Granite, & Premo! Pewter. I used the equivalent to about 2/3 of a block of clay for the face only.
  • Condition your clay.
  • Your face shape will depend on the tribal mask you decide to model.
  • Make the shape of your head by forming the clay with your fingers as you push down onto the work surface.
  • NOTE: This tutorial assumes you are making a flat backed mask.
  • Using your index finger, make indents where you would like your eyes to be.
  • Insert your eyes using balls of clay proportionate to your head.
  • NOTE: I have used clay for the eyes on my mask, but you can use beads or glass eyes if you’d like.
  • Make eyelids using thick snakes of clay.
  • Blend the seams.
  • Add a nose to your head by flattening a teardrop in between the eyes and blend the seam.
  • Follow Christi’s instruction on page 128 to make a mouth for your head.
  • NOTE: I made lips for mine by forming snakes of clay into a “lip” shape and blending the seams.
  • If your tribal mask has ears (many don’t) add your ears at this time.

Decorate Your Tribal Mask

Making a Tribal Face Design Play - Making of a Menehune by KatersAcresNow’s the fun part. It’s time to decorate your tribal mask! I tried 5 different “things” in my mask before I remembered that Menehune live & hide in the bushes….

  • Try lots of different embellishments on your tribal mask.
  • Colored feathers tend to add a whimsical touch.
  • Bird feathers add a naturalistic touch (see Christi’s design on page 129).
  • Make sure there’s some natural elements to your tribal mask.
  • I made a leaf cane with variegated veins to use all over my mask.
  • You can also make a leaf cane, I have a tutorial here … OR you can make naturalistic leaves from this tutorial.
  • I also tried decorated headpins ….
  • You can try anything … remember if you don’t like it, try something else. It’s not permanent until you bake it!

Sometimes Things Need Changed Mid-Stream

Menehune Tribal Mask by KatersAcres

You can tell by my finished piece that not only was I unhappy with my decorative choices, there simply wasn’t enough of them.  I also decided his nose wasn’t right. It didn’t look anything like a Menehune nose! So after I was all done, I decided he needed antiquing. Because there was not a lot of texture to my mask, the antiquing is really only apparent on the edges of the leaf and around the eyes, ears, & mouth of the mask.

Take your time and explore another ancient culture. Make a mask similar to Christi’s Aztec mask. Make a mask inspired by these cute Menehune’s … find another ancient culture and make something inspired by it.

Finish Your Creation

  • NOTE: This being said, I bake ALL my pieces (mostly Premo! clay) at 265 for an hour each. Sometimes they bake for an hour, twice!
  • NOTE: Get baking tips here.
  • Use this tutorial to add a patina to your mask to bring out all those interesting parts you couldn’t see earlier!
  • NOTE: I used an acrylic paint wash of dark sienna by combining one part water to one part paint.
Menehune Tribal Mask by Katie Oskin of KatersAcres
Finished Menehune Tribal Mask with black felt lining in large oak frame ready for hanging

The Friesen Project

The Friesen Project is done in conjunction with Christi Friesen. All tutorials are retaught here with her expressed permission. Please make sure to read about the project here, and get answers to the most common FAQS here.

Sculpt Your Dreams



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2 thoughts on “Friesen Friday Project: Making a Tribal Face from Polymer Clay Tutorial

  1. I love this tutorial and will definitely be trying it!

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