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
Whatever medium you choose there are a few basic things
is to produce a religious symbol which will recieve due respect. This
is true whether or not the result is considered aesthetically beautiful
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.
TWO DIMENSIONAL -
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
An assembly can be constructed on the ground [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,
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
THREE DIMENSIONAL -
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
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.