DIY: Plaster Cloth Masks


Studying architecture isn’t all fun and buildings – sometimes we get to play with masks! For what is probably our most bizarre project yet (especially for a history course), last week we had to make masks based on a theatre study and collage we completed earlier in the term. My mask is one of the most traditional in the class, and is probably influenced in no small part by a mask workshop I took part in while studying in England. My concept was based on the prop or set piece, something which may appear complete from one side but betrays its construction on another.

Katie’s knowledge of plaster and scissor skills were a big help with this one. This was my first time using the stuff and it never would have turned out so well without her instruction. Luckily for you, she’s kindly decided to share her instructions below.

What you’ll need:
Plaster cloth/bandage
Large bowl of warm water
Mask base*
Acrylic paint and/or decorations for your mask (optional)

1. After you have all your materials lined up, the first thing you need to do is select a base for the plaster features. For Mike’s mask base, he decided to use a piece of perforated scrap metal cut to shape with tin snips. There are a ton of options for possible mask bases, just make sure whatever you use will be sturdy enough to handle all the plaster you are going to be adding. You can also create a mask base by using your own face (or a friend’s) and plaster cloth (watch a tutorial on how to do so here).

2. Once you’ve figured out the base, start thinking about what kind of features you want the mask to have. For his mask, Mike added a large nose and a well-defined chin, cheek, and forehead. He created the features by crumpling up newspaper in the shapes he wanted and taping them to the mask base. I should note that you aren’t limited to newspaper, you can use almost anything to create funky facial features, such as paper towel rolls or styrofoam. As long as it can handle the plaster, it’s fair game.

3. After you’ve added the features, its time to start plastering! The plaster cloth I bought at the craft store was not pre-cut, so I used scissors to cut it into individual strips. I find strips a lot easier to work with and better at covering all the nooks and crannies of the mask. To plaster: dip the strip into a bowl of warm water, remove, then place the strip between your middle and index finger and squeeze out the excess water. Then, simply place the wet plaster bandage over the top of your mask base and newspaper features. Continue this process until you have covered the entire area of your mask with plaster bandages. I recommend having a couple of coats of plaster over your mask to make it sturdy and smooth (there should be no little holes showing through!). Let the plaster dry overnight or until it’s no longer wet to the touch.

4. If you’d like to keep your plaster mask au natural, then congrats – you’re done! If you’d like to make it a little more colorful, try decorating it with different coloured paints. Mike used indigo acrylic paint to coat the mask, and then mixed it with white and black to create soft highlights and shadows. Similar to adding newspaper, the paint helps give the mask some dimension and depth. You may also want to glue flowers, feathers, beads, yarn, or anything else you can think of to your mask – let your creativity guide you!

Plaster cloth masks are a surprisingly easy craft that are a ton of fun to do. Mike’s already making plans for Halloween!


Femme-bot Fatale



Recently I’ve been working on a little creative venture that combines my two loves: science fiction and history. Ever since I finished my second year at school, I’ve been looking for a new art project for the summer, and when I found some vintage airplane magazines in a used bookstore I got inspired.

The magazines are mainly Cold War Era, and they contain really interesting articles, advertisements, and technical drawings of planes and their component parts. Flipping through, I got the idea to individually cut out parts from the technical drawings and use the parts to build new and more modern creations. What to build exactly, was a tricky decision. I’m still deciding the scope of the project, but I know I want whatever I build to have a tie to science fiction. The Cold War had a huge impact on science fiction during the period, and I’d like to maintain that historical connection in my work.

My first build is a robot Mike and I call “Rosie”. She’s built out of parts from various airplanes, but her head is actually from a Philips electric razor! I saw the Philips ad in one of the magazines and thought it was the perfect fit. What I love about Rosie is that she is strong and powerful, but still maintains a distinctly feminine look (check out those curves!). I can’t wait to make more creations and see where this little project takes me :)


2 Point Perspective: Jacobs House

It’s crunch time for Katie and I at our respective schools, but to keep you interested I have a quick architecture update. Followers might remember the axonometric drawing I posted previously of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Jacobs House (1936). This is a follow-up drawing from the case study we’ve been completing throughout the term, this time a two-point perspective from an angle not usually seen in photos or drawings. I picked up a great book on drawing techniques at a second hand shop near the school and wanted to give the shadows a shot. It took a while and many lines but I like the result. I hope you do too!


The 4th Element

1 concrete base + 2 wooden supports + 3 screens + 4 electrical components = 1 handmade lamp

One of our major building technology projects this term was “The 4th Element,” named after Semper’s four elements of architecture. Given the pieces above, representing floor, wall, roof, and hearth, we were tasked with creating a functioning lamp expressing an architectural idea of our choosing. This is my result.


Letterpress Printing

Part of staying sane during the stressful times of the school year involves forcing yourself to take breaks. This term I took Thursday evenings off to try my hand at letterpress printing at NSCAD’s Dawson Print Shop. It’s a slow process – this photo actually represents most of my efforts so far – but I’m hoping to keep working on it. It’s a much-needed cathartic experience.

Axonometric Drawing: Jacobs House

For today’s post I have some more recent school work, an axonometric drawing of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Jacobs House (aka Usonia I). For anyone familiar with the house, my drawing is not 100% accurate but it is pretty close. This was my first “axo” but it definitely won’t be my last; I love the process and the distinct style (one which has a long history and many modern masters). The base drawing is above and studies of the house’s windows and materials are below. Next we’ll be working on perspective drawings, so expect to see my attempt in the next couple weeks!


The Architecture of Lunenburg – Part II


For my second school-related post, I want to give a quick update on where our term project is headed. Our task this semester is to design a house in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. It has to be located on a downtown lot on one of five streets and must be a response to the local style (or “vernacular”). Our first study is based on observation and measurement. Using the photos included in my previous post and measurements we took on site, my group and I have documented and drafted the entire downtown portion of Pelham Street. The houses above are drawings I contributed to the group study which, at a scale of 1:100, measures about 30 ft per street-side.

From here we have to study our site in particular and begin to think about the dwelling itself. We had our first review on Tuesday and, while it was a quick one, I feel like we’re all on the right track. I’ll be posting some of my ideas in the coming weeks as well as some work on the case study we’re completing simultaneously. Look forward to it!


The Architecture of Lunenburg – Part I


If you’ve been following the blog (or know me in person) you probably know that last September I entered the architecture program at Dalhousie University. After studying and responding to some of the great works of international architecture last term, this time around we’re looking at a style and location much closer to home.

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so-declared for its remarkably preserved colonial layout and unique wooden architecture. The settlers of Lunenburg were primarily boat-builders, tasked with dropping a grid plan drafted on flat paper in England onto the steeply sloped side of a drumlin. The resulting architectural evolution can be seen in the town’s unique building features. The most notable of these, the “Lunenburg Bump,” is a modified dormer extruded over the front door, often ornately decorated by local woodworkers and reminiscent of the prow of a ship. Examples can be seen on the symmetrical one-and-a-half-story buildings in the panorama (chopped and stacked to fit) above. I stitched these together from photos taken by Ashley Hannon, using information collected by our entire group.

Over the next few months I’ll be sure to post a few more instalments in my study of Lunenburg. Until then, it’s not too late to like our Facebook page for the change to win an album download (see our last post)!


Giveaway: Architecturally Inspired Wallpapers

One big change we’ve decided to make to our blog this year is introducing giveaways. We like the idea of giving a little something back to all those who take the time to check out our blog. For the first giveaway we’re starting small, with something just about everyone uses: desktop wallpaper! These six architecturally inspired backgrounds come from the photos Mike has taken over the past few years, cropped and scaled for your convenience. We hope you find something you like, but if not don’t worry, we’ll be having another giveaway next week!

Download wallpapers here!

Arting Your Home on a Budget


As students it can be hard to afford the finer things. Here are our best tips for building an art collection on a shoestring budget:

1. Show posters – $0: Tour posters for bands, plays, or concerts are often beautifully designed and are even more meaningful when you’ve seen the performance. Just make sure you wait until after the show to take these freebies, someone put money into them. This poster for Oil & Water is perfect in our bathroom.

2. Gig posters – $10-$25: If you can’t find them for free, many bands sell beautifully screen-printed posters as they tour, and usually at a reasonable price. Again, these are also great reminders of shows you’ve been to!


3. Make your own art – $Cost of materials: One of the cheapest and most fun ways to enjoy art is to make it yourself. Even the most basic piece, once framed, can look great on the wall. Above is a small sketch in marker I did over the summer. Katie and I have also framed a great finger-painting we did a couple years ago.

4. Befriend an artist – $Priceless: We don’t recommend using your friends but we do recommend supporting them. If a creative friend offers you the chance to buy an early piece or a work in-progress you should definitely take it. The photographs above are by Katie’s friend Amanda Larner. Her website isn’t quite up yet, but if you contact us we can get you in touch!


5. Young/community artists – $A wide range: Community craft sales and emerging artists are great sources of affordably-priced art. Screen or woodblock prints can often be found in large editions at a student’s price-point. Pictured here is is Twist of Capelin by Graham Blair of St, john’s, NL.

6. Art postcards – ~$1 each: These are most often found at art museums but can also be had at interesting shops in a city near you. Miniature editions such as these can add colour or interest to your walls or fridge, especially with some creative hanging. You will probably never own a Dali but you can still enjoy classic works such as Sugar Sphinx.