Saturday, January 14, 2012

6th grade Carved Cartouches

Work-in-progress, sheet rock carving

Our 6th graders study ancient Egypt in social studies, and I've tried to coordinate an art project each year. I don't like to do the same thing every time (for 4 reasons: 1 - because I guess I get bored easily; 2 - because I get excited about new ideas; 3 - because the Libra in me makes it impossible for me to make up my mind; and 4 - because if a student repeats 6th grade he won't repeat the same project.)

Two of my favorite Egypt projects involve hieroglyphics. This year my students each carved a cartouche. The designs mostly represent either their name, their initials, a nickname, or a name of a family member. I blogged a lot about the process here last year. This year, we discovered that little pointed wooden sticks (scratch sticks) made excellent tools for carving deep lines, in addition to our other tools. And this year we did not draw directly on the Sheetrock. We drew on newsprint, and then used carbon paper to trace the design onto the Sheetrock. Much easier.

About 1/2 the kids are completely done, and today I loaded a bunch of them into the showcase by the library. The glass on it has this weird grid built into it, so the photos aren't great. Hopefully I'll remember to take more pics when the rest get done.

Some years, we've made giant mummy cases on brown Kraft paper. Including hieroglyphics is required. These pics are from a couple of years ago I think. They are outlined in black Sharpie, colored with oil pastels, and then we've added gold. I've used both gold paint and gold contact paper, mostly for hands and faces. The kids work in pairs, tracing the body of the smaller member of the pair, and working together to decide what the hieroglyphics will say.


  1. i know you talked about this before and I have sheetrock in my basement. .. i'm inspired to start messing with. .. it's green board though

  2. These are great! I love the quality of the gold paint. Have you found any particular brand that is better than others??

  3. @ Christie - the last time I did this project I had some fabulous tiny bottles that were free samples but I was never able to find the same stuff again - we rubbed the 'good stuff' over the other golds.

    This year I have 4 different golds available, 2 acrylic and 2 tempera, all student-grade. The best covering & brightest tempera I have is currently Crayola but the best one of all this year is an acrylic - I think it is Sax True-Flow Acrylic. Still not as good as the little sample or the tube of expensive acrylic I have at home.

    @ Erica - hold up the sheetrock and look at the cut edge. If it has fiberglass you'll see zillions of little white or transparent little hairlike things sticking straight up from it. And after you handle it your hands will feel like you have slivers everywhere. NASTY STUFF.

  4. Phyl,

    How big are the sheetrock cartouche projects? Heighth, width? Do you cut them with a box cutter or have them cut for you? They are really original and really look like Egypytian artifacts!


  5. Pat, I was given a bunch of scraps, and I cut them into a variety of size rectangles myself. I'm guessing they are about 6-10" wide, and maybe 10-18" tall. I let the kids choose the size that suited them best. Cutting them is easy. I score them with a utility knife and then give them a sharp whack on the edge of the table, and they snap on the score line. Then I flip them over and cut the cardboard backing.

    They are incredibly easy to carve as long as you keep them moist, but they do crack easily. We just wait until dry and glue with Elmer's and they hold well. And the cracks add to the look of authenticity.

  6. Phy,these are so COOL!! You are so good about letting your students explore so many mixed medias! Your students are so blessed to have an art teacher so committed to giving them such amazing experieces! I am always blown away by your lessons, and these Carved Cartouches and giant mummy cases are no exception! WOW! How do you buy sheetrock in little rectangles like that or did you cut them all???

    1. Natalie, as I told Pat (above), I was given scraps. I bought nothing. They are so easy to cut - you just score them with a utility knife (mat knife) and then give them a whack on the edge of the table and they snap on the score line. Then I turned them over and cut through the cardboard backing. Totally easy BUT make sure there is NO FIBERGLASS. It's deadly; you will feel like there are prickers in your hands and some people break out from it. It would be a huge disaster. But luckily if you know what you are looking for it is easy to spot.


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