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Buddha Rupa

Buddha Mind - get one, be one.


The Buddha image is symbol supreme. It is such a simple form but can be invested with a huge amount of information, meaning and implication - such is the nature of symbols; they evolve, they are given life. That the Buddha image is cast in the human form gives it a value which can immediately be related to and that it is presented as a calm, still and serene human adds extra value.
Images can be made either in 2D or 3D or, over time, 4D ?

Here are a few ideas on how to make your own Buddha image:

wired up



three profiles


Whatever medium you choose there are a few basic things to consider:
The aim is to produce a religious symbol which will recieve due respect. This is true whether or not the result is considered aesthetically beautiful or not.
What makes a Buddha image different from any other human representation is the range of traditional signs - most notably the bump on the head or flame (these are easy to represent) and the long ears. A lotus throne is another which is relatively easy to indicate. The (not always present) third eye and the various mudras can also be included if felt needed or realisable within the limitations of the creators. Just a figure sitting in a meditative pose (with a bump on the head) is often suggestive enough if it has been created in a particular context.
It is nice to have a ceremony consecrating an image - especially for group made images. For those that are cast everybody could put some small item in the base as the last pour is finished. Bigger ones are often made elsewhere from where they will rest - a (candle lit) procession is nice. More can be made of an image than just the making.

Be sure to display whatever results from your activities. Those which are perhaps not so attractive can be found a resting place. I have put them in concrete foundations of monastic buildings - inside stupas - in landscaping; places they will rest in peace.


Use wire, string, wool or sticks (curved twigs) or a mix of any natural materials. An autumn leaf Buddha looks beautiful - or use the leaves for the ochre robe.

An assembly can be constructed on the gro
und [see: MANDALA]. Try to find ways of giving it a boundary of respect (use this as a way to discuss the value of symbols).

A light relief carving / scratching on a cliff face is effective - if it isn't likely to be seen as graffiti or later defaced. If you have access to soft stone -e.g. slate or sandstone - some interesting 2D images can result.

An alternative would be a mural - as big as you like. This could include various scenes from the Buddhas life.

Various print techniques - lino, potatoes, polystyrene, etc.

Try various digital compilations. The thumbnail here is just an extension of the :-) idea. Click to get the original. There are any number of drawing, modelling and painting programmes available and they could be used in combination with more convential mediums.

Use a variety of materials to build a collage - either on paper, card or plywood (depending on how heavy the materials being used will be).

Try cut out profiles for a mobile or hanging on the Bodhi tree. They can have personal words or signs or scriptural quotations written on the back.

Use old greeting cards - or any existing graphic material (magazines, packaging, etc) to produce your own cards. Vesak cards are a traditional item but the idea can be developed in relation to any situation.

Last, but by far the least - plain bits of paper and a variety of crayons, pens, paints and pencils are not only the easiest but often produce wonderful results than more complicated processes.


You can do it

two smoothies




The first choice is probably what material to use and this is often determined by the skill level of the artist(s).
The easiest is probably modelling clay - or plasticene or playdough. Polystyrene can produce some interesting results - it is relatively easy to cut or shape and the various bits can be pinned, glued or tied together. Papier mache is also easy to work but getting any level of detail can take some care. Wood, stone, glass, metal, almost anything. Combinations of materials are interesting to experiment with. Give some thought to the mess you are going to make - does it need to be cleaned up after every session? can it be left?

I have found that using an existing image as a model generally produces the best results and I will limit this item to the reproduction of an existing image. Whatever approach you take it is always important to have a range of images (at least one anyway) on view so there is a direct visual reference point. A selection of images also creates an opportunity for discussion - 'Why have some got a bump and some a flame?' etc. What are the cultural style differences?
I would be surprised if a local Buddhist group would not lend you an image - assuming all care and respect - if you don't have one yourself. And, if you don't, this is all the more reason to make one!

Making a mould of an existing image is not so difficult. The main trick lies in selecting a suitable image. Examine potential candidates with a view to smoothness of form. An arm sticking out is one thing to especially avoid - they have a definite tendency to break off. Anything too detailed or delicate is best left until you have developed some experience.
I have tried two ways of reproducing an existing image - making a mould and 'skinning'.
Skinning can be used with any image - protruding arms or no - but it is especially good for large images. The resulting skin can be decorated as is or form the foundation for further detailing. The best skin to use (certainly for smaller images) is something like papier mache. Tissue paper is excellent - it gives good detail but is not as rigid as newprint. Smear the image with a non-stick liquid - this could be silicone, cooking oil, detergent, etc. Lay the skin on in small pieces (like fish scales) over every part of the image. This is often best done in panels so they can be removed easily (be clear about how they will be reassembled). Ease of removal and stiffness will determine the size of your panels. Take especial care with the face. The panels can be stiffened or reinforced from behind - as you reassemble them - with more papier mache or card ribs - or lined or filled with plaster or expanding foam. For large images you can use a sacking and cement mix - taking great care with your release agent so as to keep the original clean. Experiment with various material and glues. Try fabric and wood glue. You could add talc to rubber latex and use this as your skin. [Click 'two smoothies' - the second image is made of moulded (not skinned) latex.]
Mould making can involve many different processes. The easiest is probably rubber latex. It is quite commonly available, cheap and relatively easy to work with. It will accomodate an image which has a degree of undercutting but try starting with a 'smoothy'. Place the upright image on a piece of board or card. Brush the latex evenly all over the image - continue it down, forming a skirt of about 30mm (more for an image over 150mm high) around the base of the image, on the board. Make the first coat very even and relatively thin. Let it dry. Repeat about five to ten times (depending on the size of your image; bigger = more coats). You can accelerate the drying of the latex by using a hair dryer or hot air gun - take care not to be in too much of a hurry or you will ruin the rubber. When you have built up enough layers - and with the rubber still on the image - you now build a 'mould case'. Gypsum Plaster (plaster of Paris) is probably the cheapest and easiest. See thumbnail - left. Considerable attention needs to be given when deciding where the break line will be. You have to get this casing off! It can be made in more than two pieces. Usually a two-piece front + back is easiest. Once you have determined that the casing comes off easily you can remove the rubber mould from the original. Smear it with detergent (reduces friction) and turn it inside out - as you would peel off a rubber glove. Turn it back in - place it inside the casing - turn it upside down (try inside a hole in a board) and pour in your stuff - plaster is best. Resin is an alternative but reduces the life of the mould. Dental plaster is better than Gypsum although more expensive. There are many plaster additives available - colours, iron, bronze, marble, etc. - do experiment yourself. Silicon rubber is better than latex but more expensive and not so easy to work.