The Wolf Mask is Done…

wolf mask patternNote: The video on this page is part of a long series because it took quite a while to make the sculpture and turn it into a mask. If you’d like a much faster start, check out my new pattern for a paper mache wolf mask. You can use the techniques shown in the video series to embellish the mask and add detail, without needing to start from scratch.

And now, back to the original post:

He’s finally done – the grey wolf display mask is painted. Well, he still isn’t entirely done – he hasn’t been varnished yet. But close enough.

Big question for you: Do you ever work very hard on a project, and about half-way through you realize that you’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the “next” project instead of “this” project? And do you then realize that there’s been one particular project that you’ve been thinking about as the “next” project for several years now, and you’ve been saying all along that you’ll do it “just as soon as one more thing gets done first?” That’s what I was doing all through the process of making this wolf mask, and I have finally decided to be brave and stop putting it off.

So, my next project, a figure sculpture, will be very challenging for me, but I’ve decided I’m going to do it anyway. I obviously can’t put up any “how-to” photos or videos, because it’s something I intend to learn as I go along. I will try to keep you all posted, though.

So, if you ever find yourself pushing a project aside because you just aren’t quite sure you’re ready, what do you do to get over it? Do you take more classes, read an inspirational book, do some meditation? Is there anything you can do other than just wait until the time is right? If you know the secret, please let us know.

Anyway, here’s the finished wolf mask video:

72 thoughts on “The Wolf Mask is Done…”

  1. Hi, I am making a mask. If I put the paper mache paste (that is water, flour and glue) directly on to the clay (super sculpey) and use those blue paper towels, will I be able to get the dried paper mache off the clay form? or do I need to put something in between the clay and the paper mache to get it off easily and without breakage? I tried using plastic wrap but because my clay form has so many crevasses the plastic wrap doesn’t lay right at all and leaves a lot of creases and bubbles. So can I put it directly onto the clay or what else (besides plastic wrap) can I do? Thanks!!

    • Kayla, I’ve never tried doing exactly that, but I would suggest that you use some sort of release. A thin film of petroleum jelly, perhaps a soap solution. Or do a very small test, using a bit of Super Sculpey and your paste. Allow it to dry and see if it will come off.

      When I make my masks using the white glue and plaster paste, it comes off easily from unbaked Super Sculpey. However, I do put on a thin film of petroleum jelly to help the process, and because it helps keep the sculpey from drying out so much.

      • Thanks for your quick reply. So, I can just put a thin layer directly on my unbaked super scupley form and later on when it is dry it should come off fine? Also, with the layer of jelly method, should I put a layer of the shop towels over it first (first meaning after i put the layer of jelly) before putting a layer of the paper mache paste, or put the paste right on the layer of jelly? I’m sorry for all the questions its just I’m hoping to get this done by Monday for my boyfriend and I don’t want to mess it up and have to start over. Thanks again!

        • I have not tried paste using flour over any kind of Super Sculpey, so I can’t answer that question for you. I think it should work, but that doesn’t mean it will. I’d recommend a small experiment first, to find out for sure. When I use Super Sculpey with my fast-setting paper mache paste (glue and plaster) I smooth down the sculpey with a very light coating of petroleum jelly, then paint on my paste and put the shop towels over that. You aren’t using the fast-setting paste, if I understand you correctly, but I think the same method should work.

          • Hi, it’s Kayla again. I just pulled the mask off the clay and the petroleum jelly worked great. My mask feels kind of flimsy though. It is definitely set and it’s hard, but it bends if you move it with your hands. I only put 2 layers of the paper mache on it, do yours come out to be very stiff or are they flimsy like mine? I am very nervous now that I messed it up and don’t know if I have to start over. I also lost a lot of detail with it. Anyways, I just want to know if you think it will be okay even though it is a bit flimsy and if I paint it with acrylic paint will it still be okay?(because it is already flimsy, I don’t know if the paint will make it worse or if it will not matter.) Thanks!!

            • It may take another day or so for your mask to get as stiff as you like. My masks are slightly flexible with two layers of paper mache when I first take them off the form, but certainly not flimsy. After curing completely, they can be flexed slightly, but only with effort. I suggest that you give your mask one more day to cure. If you aren’t happy then with the way it feels, add one more layer of paper and paste – on the inside, so you don’t lose any more details. That will temporarily soften the mask a little, so it needs to dry while resting on something that will help it keep it’s proper curve. With three layers it should be very solid. Then you can paint with acrylics.

  2. Hi Jonni,

    I’ve seen a lot of the paper mache animal head wall hangings in home decor stores for $$$ and thought – I could do that! I started doing research online and came across your wonderful site. I am currently working on a positive mold of a bison with masking tape and newspaper with a cardboard profile to build from (like in your cat sculpture series). I have watched your mask videos with the fast setting blue shop towel technique and thought that this may work. I know that in your wolf mask you used modeling clay to sculpt the positive mold and it releases easily from the fasting setting mache. I am wondering if I just use masking tape if it will release from the fast setting paper mache? I have read about people using petroleum jelly, cooking spray but I worry about it leaving a residue on it. It is a very large bison head (2ft tall) and for economical purposes I am hoping not to have to coat it in clay. I am also planning on cutting the mold into two (like you did with the bunny sculpture and the head sculpture) and then using the fast setting mache to put the two halves back together. How strong is the fast setting mache – would it wise to add additional layers than the 2 layers you suggested on the wolf mask tutorial?Does it warp easily? Once I have the two pieces back together (hopefully) I am planning on adding some more detail with the paper mache clay like you did with the wolf mask and then more strength and a nice finish with gesso.
    Thank you for inspiring me with your website and projects!
    Tara 🙂

    • Hi Tara. I recently cut open a paper mache head in the manner you describe, and then put it back together again really fast so that it wouldn’t warp while it was still in two pieces. It worked out really well. The two layers are really strong, but you should be able to tell when you cut it apart if it will be strong enough to hold the full weight of the bison. I haven’t made anything that big with the material yet. You could add additional layers to the inside after the piece was put back together, if the back is left open.

      You will get a light residue on the back of your piece if you use petroleum jelly over the masking tape. and the fast-setting paper mache paste might stick to the tape. However, I’ve used the paper mache clay over masking tape and then pulled the piece off the armature when it dried, so it’s also possible that it would work just fine without the release. I would suggest that you do a small experiment, maybe covering a tennis ball with masking tape and then mix up a batch of paste and try it out.

      • Hi Jonni,

        I thought I would let you know that the fast setting paper mache did not stick for the most part to the masking tape – in a couple of small places it did but only pulled off part of the bottom layer of the blue shop towel and did not affect the sculpture. Also, I did not cut the bison head in half as originally planned but instead removed all the masking tape and newspaper from the back since it was open anyway. I did run in to trouble with warping/indenting from the removal process/handling the sculpture. I think if I would have given it more time to dry and added more layers of the fast setting paper mache it would have worked better. Once the newspaper and masking tape were removed the sculpture did become stronger but the damage was already done – indents and warped areas. I was also concerned that there was still not enough strength for the hollow sculpture so i used expanding foam on the interior – and it has helped a lot. I am currently working on fixing the warped/indented areas with adding more layers of fast setting paper mache to it. I also did the same process for the horns (made them separately) and they not have any warping issues. At this point, I feel the project is still salvageable. Lucky for me – I am making a bison head so most the the indented spots won’t matter as bison’s have lots of woolly hair on their heads and I had planned on making those areas texturized anyway.

        • I sure hope you’ll show us a photo of the bison when it’s done. This is a big, challenging project, but it sounds like it’s going to come out really good.

  3. Hi, a while ago I asked you a question about scupley and making masks. I started to sculpt my mask with regular white scupley on a plastic (i assume) mask that I got at a craft store as a base. Due to having school and work I’ve only been able to do a little at a time. Once I found out what clay you use I ordered some for myself and when it came in I decided to start sculpting the mask over again. I started to remove the old clay I used and found some kind of chemical reaction had occurred. It was almost like glue, very sticky, like the clay or mask was breaking down. Do you have any suggestions for what I should now use as my base for the mask? I will still have to do it a little at a time so I don’t want to get another plastic mask and have the same thing happen (I’m not sure if the super sculpey will have the same reaction, but I don’t see why it would not). Thank you so much, I’m stumped and don’t know who else to ask for help.

    • Hi Kayla. I can’t imagine what happened. The Super Sculpey I use has never had a reaction to plastic. Can you cover the mask form you have with a sheet of plastic so you can use it again? That’s what I recommend in my book, because it makes it easier when it comes time to remove the mask from the form.

      • I know it was so odd, I was not expecting it to happen at all. I will try covering it with something, but I will have to go buy a new mask. It’s almost like the plastic on the mask started to melt. What do suggest I cover it with? Also, do you leave your super sculpey on the mask for long periods of time?

  4. Hi Jonni,
    I wish I had your talent in painting masks as realistic as you have!
    I can sculpt but will have to watch your videos a few times to perfect my painting techniques!

    Keep it up! ;0]

  5. Dear Jonni,
    I am really glad you looked that spray up because it sounds different from what I remember using. Maybe my memory has failed me a bit( it was a few years back) and perhaps it was not Krylon I used, but another brand. I used it to dull the finish on some decorative ceramic tiles I had painted and inked. They were for hanging on the wall, so they didn’t get a lot of use, but the product I used seemed permanent. The spray I used took the glossy look away and allowed me to give them more of an antique type finish. If DB says this one is temporary and wipes off, I don’t think I would recommend it for your mask. Do you think a matte finishing spray would help instead to take some of the shine away?
    Thanks for the information on the gell you used. Golden says on their website that it is flexible on cloth. I am going to do a little more checking, or maybe I will try it on one of my smaller pin dolls first. The dolls I am making are artdolls not dolls for children to play with so the face could be a bit stiff.
    I am afraid I cannot help you much with knowledge about selling your work online. I do think your work is excellent and that you would have customers for sure. Talking with other online artists is a great idea. I am still more of a beginner and only had my first art show in 2009, and have been in a few more since then, but I have not actually tried to sell any of my work. I understand perfectly what you mean when you say you don’t want to part with your animals. The work we do so easily becomes part of our lives. And those great animals you do would surely be hard to part with.
    Like you, I find that the more important or challenging a project the harder it is to get started and to stay with it to completion. For me, I think it is fear of failure, but I also know that I learn and grow more when I try the harder things. So, I declared 2012 to be my year of finished projects. I admire your stamina at putting in 10 hours a day. It is always amazing to me how time flies when I am working on something creative.
    You must be really busy with 50,000 visits a month to your website. This shows just how much people enjoy your work, so I am sure if you decide to sell it you will do great! Best wishes on your figure sculpture. I have complete confidence that you will do beautiful work. Barbara

    • Krylon does make a Matte Finish, and I have some of that. It didn’t seem to help that much when I used it on a different project, but maybe I should have used more coats. I really like the description of the spray you used, so I’ll keep experimenting.

      Do you show your dolls online anywhere? I’d love to see them.

      Yes, fear of failure does seem to be a big reason why I put things off, too. I think it actually helps push me to learn more and increase my skill level, so there’s really nothing wrong with that – but I like your idea of declaring a year to do risky things. I hope you’ll keep us posted.

  6. Jonni,
    Terrific Wolf Mask! You are SO talented.

    I’m so glad to know that there are more people out there who can’t seem to get to a project they’ve been thinking about for a long time! I do that too.

    I tend to work on about 4 different projects at the same time, so when I get to a point on one where I’m not sure how to proceed, I work on another for awhile as I turn it over and over in my mind’s eye. I like the process of figuring out how to solve problems on works of art. Also, because papier mache is so easily cut, I can rework a piece until I like how it feels. An example – a few days ago I sent you a picture of a finished fruit bowl and a pear I was working on. I thought it was going swimmingly until I went to the store and happened to see some real pears (I had THOUGHT I had a clear picture of pears in my mind!). Oh MY! I went home and cut the goofy looking top off my pear and reworked a new top. NOW it actually looks like a pear. Thanks for being so kind and not telling me how dumb it looked.

    I can’t wait to see your new sculpture project!


  7. Here’s how far I’ve gotten so far with the clay sculpture I’m making, following Adam Reeder’s video. It’s just a generic male head, but I think it has promise. I can’t tell you how many books and videos I’ve purchased over the years to try to learn to sculpt portraits, and even though I read every single word or watch the whole thing, this is the very first one that I’ve actually used. Something about Adam’s teaching style makes it look possible, in a way that the others don’t.

    Of course I started this and then put it aside to make the wolf mask, so now I’ve forgotten how I got to this point. I’ll finish up this guy (I’m still on disk #1 of a 2-disk set) and then make a smaller one and watch the whole thing again.
    Clay Portrait Study using Adam Reeder's Video

    • Looking good Jonni

      I’m wondering, is Hunky guy going to be covered in paper mache or are you going to fire him when you finish?

      I think I’m going to have to pick up some water based clay to do my models. What brand do you use?

      • Hi Sharon. Hunky guy is going to be smooshed back into the plastic bag when he’s done. I’m just following the tutorial to learn Adam’s technique. (He starts with a thin disk of clay in the middle of the head and works up from there, so the face never ends up being “flat,” like mine sometimes do when I use photos for models). I ordered the clay from a pottery supply store in Portland – shipping costs more than the clay, so find a dealer near you. A new pottery supply just opened here in town, so I’ll ride my bike the three miles as soon as I get back in shape. I’ve let myself go this winter (cold weather is such a good excuse) so I think I’d be gasping if I tried it today.

        The clay I got from Georgies in Portland is specifically formulated for sculptors, but I’m sure you can find some just as good a bit closer to your house. Unless you live in Portland, of course. 😉

  8. Jonni,

    Seems that every mask is better than the one that proceeded it. Two more masks and you’ll be Like the wolf . . . you’ll be having a one-woman show at MOMA! And earned it.

    Good luck with figurative sculpture.


    • MOMA? Really? I think maybe I have quite a few years to go before I get to that point, but it did give me a nice morning giggle. Thanks, Jim.

  9. “So, if you ever find yourself pushing a project aside because you just aren’t quite sure you’re ready, what do you do to get over it? ”

    Unfortunately, the only way to get over it is just to do it. You’ll do great! You know everything you need to know already! You just need to apply your knowledge in a slightly different fashion this time. You might want to get a figure drawing book to show you the proportions of the human form if you don’t already have one. Or you might be able to find one on the internet. You probably already have the drawing or picture showing the pose you will be doing. You know how to make the armature you will start with, You know how to build up the armature to get the form you want. You know how to apply either the paper strips, sections and/or the pulp/clay you’ll be using.

    You’ll do great! Just take your time. Forget everything you were taught about how hard creating the human form is. People only say that because that’s what they were taught and so there’s a mental block to making the human form. The human form is no more difficult than any animal form if you really think about. And you do animals great! Humans are just another form of animal aren’t we? I think it’s time you get in touch with your inner child and just have fun doing this. It’ll turn out awesome! At least in everyone else’s eyes. The artist is often more critical about their work because they know about the imperfections and difficult areas.

    I think you’ll be proud of it in the end!

  10. Hi Jonni!
    Thank you for the nice video hint. I have recently started with papier-mâché as silicone molds should probably wait a while. Discovers that there is much to learn about the pulp clays and techniques and how to do different surfaces. So I continue to follow your excellent and informative vidios. The animals and masks look great, I really like them.

    • Thanks, Gisela. It does take time to get used to the possibilities and limitations of all the different materials we call paper mache. But it’s so much fun to experiment with them, isn’t it?

    • Yes, I’m curious about it to – since I haven’t tried it yet. Right now I’m going through a video for the second time – it’s called Sculpting the Head and Face by Adam Reeder, and it’s very different from any other portrait sculpting video I’ve seen. He does a lot of teaching to children, so he talks real slow – exactly what I need. (I’ve spent over $200 on training videos and books in the last two months – I’m really serious about improving my craft. But this self-education can get pretty danged expensive!)

  11. Thanks for those vidoes Jonni, very good of you to share your knowledge so freely.
    I am super excited about you doing figure sculpturs, they have an art show for only nudes here each year, and I am going to do some paper mache scupltures, I am not good with the human form, so will be a great learning experience. So will be very interested in what you come up with.
    The ones I have in my minds eye, 3 figures starting from and 18 year old, then 40 ish, then 80 ish. so going to be quite a challange.

    • I do hope you’ll post photos of your figures when they’re done. You’re right – it will be challenging, but that’s part of the fun, right?

  12. I usually start the difficult project that I’m totally not prepared for.

    I find, by the end, that I’ve learned a lot.

    The project sometimes turns out less-than-great after all the experimentation but I can always apply what I learned to make a second one.

    • Good advice. I think we do need to remember that it’s perfectly OK to not create a masterpiece the very first time we try something. And that it’s also OK to throw the thing out after we’ve used it for our learning project. I’ll try to keep that in mind, but I so often forget.

  13. Wow, Jonni! The wolf mask is awesome! As great as your paper clay technique is, what really makes your masks come alive is your painting technique. You now need to show videos — not just photos! — of you actually painting your masks. Really terrific!


    • Making a video of me painting would be really hard – especially with one like this where I’m really just experimenting with the materials. One of these days I might try it, though.

  14. Wonderful work, congratulations on completing it, the eyes really bring it to life. I am sure this will offer inspiration to many others.

  15. WOW! He looks GREAT! I haven’t had a chance to watch the videos, but it’s definitely on my list of things to do!
    I am ALWAYS thinking of the “next” project and have so many of them I have to write them down and put them in a file so I don’t forget what they were so I have a whole file of next projects lol. My problem is I will start a lot of things but not finish them so sometimes I just force myself and then find myself getting into it. I guess usually I just do whatever happens to seem like the funnest at the time, I mean I do it for the fun of it anyway so who cares if they get done or not? But I only have so much room for a bunch of unfinished stuff lol. I am looking forward to having more time to spend creating things, I can only do so much on the weekends on top of the grocery shopping and household chores, but I always try to make time to do the things I love.
    I still need to get your book too!

    • I certainly know about the space issue for unfinished work. I started a baby rhino last year, and after working around him for months (he was on the kitchen table) I finally moved him to the garage. I think it would help if my unfinished projects were smaller.

      The biggest problem I have with starting something that really feels important to me is that I have such a vivid image of how I expect it to look after it’s done. And if I don’t think I have the skill yet to get it to look like that, I think it would be too disappointing to even try. But you can’t get the skill if you don’t get your hands in there and make a few, as abeille said in her comment, so maybe the trick is to intend, from the beginning, to throw the thing out. Then if it turns out good, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  16. Dear Jonni,
    The wolf is wonderful! The brush work and detail is great, you really get the impression of fur. Your eyes are wonderful too, very full of life. I have loved sharing in this project by watching the videos, thanks so much for doing this. Yes, I think the dulling spray from Krylon would help with the shine, I have used it on ceramic material, but not on paper mache, but I think it would work. Not sure where you would buy it, perhaps Dick Blick? I am interested in your gel material, could you tell me a little bit about it? I am working on some cloth dolls with painted faces and something that would keep the paint from seeping through would be really great.

    Now, about you other question — This is something I am actively working on this year because I have a strong tendency to start many projects and then move on to something else before I have finished. So far the things that have helped me most are really simple, but seem to be working as this year so far I have six completed projects and only one that I have abandoned (this was a Valentine’s project that I did not get done in time).

    What I am doing is making sure that I work every day on the project, even if just for a few minutes, the continuity seems to be really important. If I get to a difficult patch, I sometimes brainstorm on paper or write out steps, then I find just one thing I can experiment with and I do it., even if just for 5 minutes. I give myself permission to fail, asking myself “what is the worst thing that could happen here?” and “It’s okay if you don’t know everything”, “It’s okay if you mess this up” . Once I get re-involved, I usually stick with it much longer and then I am once again completely committed to the project. Also, for a racing ahead mind, I do find meditation very helpful to keep me in the present . Congratulations on tackling a difficult project and best of luck with it! Barbara

    • Wow – six projects already done. Obviously, what you’re doing is working. I do work every single day, often 10 hours straight, when I’m working on a book project. To get the book done, I often have to make a sculpture or a mask four or five times until I really think it’s good enough for the book chapter that will be written for it. For some reason I don’t do this when I’m just making things for myself, but this time I do think things will be different. That’s because my figure sculptures will also be part of a larger writing project, but in a very different way. We’ve been talking lately about what makes a good artist’s website, and I decided that my next project would be to find out exactly what it takes to sell art online. The only way I can do that is to actually try to sell some artwork, and to do that I have to make something I’m willing to sell. Since I don’t have room in my house for the figure sculptures, I think that will work. (I can’t bear to part with my bobcat or my snow leopard…)

      My experiment will have some problems, though, because I already have this website, which gets over 50,000 visitors a month. When I make my new site, a lot of people will find it from links on this one. Still, I think if I try enough things, I’ll be able to figure out what doesn’t work, and what does. Especially if I can do some email interviews with artists who are already making a living by selling their art online.

      The gell I used for this mask project was Golden Soft Gell Gloss. I don’t know if it would be flexible enough to seal your cloth doll faces. You could give it a try, of course. I just looked up the dulling spray on the Dick Blick site (thanks for the suggestion!) and they say it’s only a temporary product that only semi-dries and easily wipes off. Is that how it worked when you used it?

  17. Oh Jonni, El Lobo is awsome! I am definitely trying my hand at this guy.

    You asked a couple of questions of us regarding challenging ourselves with a project from the realm of the unknown … never before attempted … just going into it fueled by an obsessive desire to see if I could do it.
    Oh, I’ve got that down …
    I mentioned earlier on a post here that I was trying my hand at a paper mache doll. What I didn’t mention is that this project of mine has been in the making for probably 3 years now. That’s completing ONE doll…to my satisfaction.
    I can’t remember how many dresses I’ve made for this little gal and dumped in the trash. Nor, how many hands I’m spent days, weeks, months? sculpting, as yet to get them Just The Way I Want Them…and exploring ways to model them so the fingers don’t break.
    Right now I’m reworking her face for , hum, the thousandeth (really not that many but it sure seems like it) time. I know the ‘look’ I want her to have and the numerous times I’ve reworked her facial features…just doesn’t get it…yet.
    I’m on nobody’s time table but my own. So working on her when I’m inspired to is my time frame for this project.
    I study my own face, women’s faces, my hands, search out information in books, etc. and work on other things in the mean time.
    I’m not certain how I ever get anything accomplished, but one thing, for me, I’ve discovered is … I’ll never make much money with my paper mache…so I insist on enjoying this journey. That ole cliche “It’s in the journey not the destination” is true for me.
    I’m sure nobody wants to go at it like I do…but there it is.

    • Of course, I know that you’ve completed a whole lot of other projects during that three years. Maybe that’s part of the secret, too. In a book I’m reading now, The Painter’s Keys by Robert Genn, he talks with folks at a seminar about getting back into the mindset of a child, so getting it right doesn’t seem quite so important. That “playing” aspect is something I have a hard time with, because I’m really more of a left-brained person than I suspect the average artist is. Genn also says we need to let things go if we don’t think they’re working, put them aside, hide them in the closet, throw them out, and let the brain free to work on something else – but that’s pretty hard after investing a whole lot of time on it. Maybe part of the trick is doing four or five different things at the same time, so each one doesn’t have to look exactly like we intended – each one can be free to have a personality of it’s own. Of course, that takes up a lot of space, but I might try it, anyway.

      Just rambling, here. Is there any chance you would show us your doll?

    • Hi Jonni,
      The wolf mask looks wonderful. I’m interested to hear that you are plannning to create a figure. I’m in the middle of one now, she is only 58 cm tall so its very challenging and fiddly. In my experience Life size figures are much easier – I’ve had to refer to lots of anatomy books and photos. I observe others all the time and also study my own body but I avoid the mirror too much after I ended up mking 2 left hands! … Some times its time for a sit down and break! I find it difficult to stop. sketching is crucial. My Bible is a, ‘old school’ book called ‘Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure’ by Edourd Lanteri – an intimate friend of Rodin. I’ve used standard papier mache – just news paper and wallpaper paste and then work on it and sculpt it with a Dremel tool. beween times I apply coats of PVA/ground paper. I keep repeating this process until its smooth enough to apply ‘Flat’ papier mache. I use ground paper and Milliput for fine features like the hands. I’ve only just developed this process as this is a commission and its the smallest work I’ve done but she is looking good and I’m very excited. I shall send you some pics when she is done. Like I am kept awake at night with future projects but is’nt that whats it all about!
      Best wishes Hazel

  18. I wish you would post the video of the figure sculpture. Quite frankly, the wolf videos were super fantastic, and it would be great to see you step out of the box in a similar fashion.


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