Mexico has a tradition of making beautiful folk arts and crafts which are both decorative and utilitarian. Different regions and native groups have their specialties, and a variety of materials are used including clay, textiles, metal and paper. The region of Metapac is known for its clay work which includes beautifully designed suns, and like many other cultures, the people of this region have worshipped the sun in recognition of its role in enabling us to survive on this earth. Admittedly, the suns in the photo above look a little serious and even confused, but they have a tremendous load to bare and can’t possibly be smiling all the time. Maybe the one you make will look a little more relaxed.
- air hardening modeling clay
- sculpting tools
- acrylic paint and brushes
- varnish (optional)
- hook or wire for hanging (optional)
Have a look at the sites below to view some Mexican folk art suns.
If you don’t have sculpting tools, you can improvise and use things like wooden skewers, toothpicks, a kitchen knife, pencils, etc.
Brands of air hardening clay like Das and Jovi tend to dry quickly. For this project I would recommend Dollerama’s version which is quite wet and makes it easier to create the sun’s rays without having them break off. If you choose to go with the other brands, you can use toothpicks to attach the rays, but if they do break off you can reattach them with white glue. Another option is to pinch the ray shapes from the main part of the sun, rather than adding separate pieces.
1. Knead your clay to soften it. Once this is done, use a rolling pin to flatten a piece which is at least 1/2″ thick to prevent breaking. Cut out a circular shape using something like a yogurt container. Press it onto the clay, remove any excess, and smooth the edges with your fingers. Now either pinch out the rays, or make them separately and add to the main part.
2. To make the face you can either add smaller pieces of clay, say for the nose, and press them onto the main part while smoothing out the edges, or carve their shapes directly into the clay using some sculpting tools or a skewer. If you want to hang it, make sure you press some wire or a hook into the back before the clay dries.
3. Once finished, allow the clay to dry. I found laying it on some skewers which were spread out on a table, allowed air to pass underneath so both sides could dry easily. Depending on the humidity, this could take a few days.
4. Paint your sun with acrylic paints, and once dry, you can add a varnish to give it a shine typical of many folk art designs. Remember, folk art is colourful, so bring out your brightest paints.
In Toronto, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated at Harbourfront, and is a great opportunity to show your kids some of the folk art and traditions from Mexico. Check out their website for future events: www.harbourfrontcentre.com
Recommended websites for images of Mexican folk art suns: