Learn how to make a clay sculpture. Methods and basic rules.
Pottery is one of the most rewarding crafts. After only a couple of hours of what feels like relaxing play, a work of art appears before you. You can hold it, you can drink out of it or eat out of it, or place beautiful flowers in it. Which ever form you decide to create, your end result is something you made with your own two hands.
Beginning the process of developing a design for your first clay sculpture is simply. To start get a pencil and some paper. Make a few simple little drawings of things that you like and of things that interest you. Some suggestions are: a small animal, a human form or a part of a human, (head, foot, etc.). These are items that most people are familiar with. Make sure it is a subject that you like and that you can picture this object in your head hollow and made of a single thickness of clay. The options are endless.
The size of the item is important also. For your first piece, choose a small to medium form. That would include anything from three to four inches, height and width, to something eight to ten inches, height and width. Anything any larger, and you can have many problems. Of course these problems are something that the artist will learn to overcome, but for now, a good idea is to stick to the smaller items. Along with the importance of size there are two other very specific aspects of the art of pottery that have to be decided upon at the start of the project. They are the type of clay you use, and the way you will fire and finish (stain or glaze) the sculpture.
Choose a clay from your hobby store. The firing instructions will be on the package. If you don’t have a kiln to fire your sculpture, there are several products available that you can fire in your home oven. Choosing the thickness of the form is not determined by the type of clay you use. The end result should look like one of those hollow Easter bunnies, all one thickness from top to bottom. Follow the manufactures recommendation when it is available. If a recommendation is not offered, then the basic 1/2 inch or thinner is the best. The sculpture should be the same thickness from top to bottom, including the base if there is one. Also there can be no holes, bubbles or debris in the clay. This can be accomplished by using symmetrical pieces of clay to build the form. Coil method, uses the same size coils (hand rolled), to build the form. Slab method, uses several slabs of clay that are the same thickness, to build the form. Using these two beginning methods are the most common and simplest types of clay sculpture recommended. More complex methods are not for the beginner.
Once you have purchased your clay, completed the above steps, decided on the design of your clay sculpture, and you know how you are going to fire and finish it, then you probably have a really good idea of what your finished product is going to look like. Now it is time for you to begin the project. One of the most important things to remember when working with clay is consistency. You want to make sure that from top to bottom the clay is together, the same thickness, with no air bubbles or debris.
Start at the bottom of your shape and work up building an inch at a time, pinching and smoothing the clay together as you go. Keep your clay moist by keeping it covered with plastic and work with a small amount of clay at a time. You can use water to smooth out your sculpture but not too much. Once you have build the simple sculpture and are happy with the way it looks you must let the piece dry before firing. Drying your clay should be a slow process. If you just leave it out to dry on its own, it will crack and be ruined. Cover your clay with a thin plastic cover, making sure that it doesn’t stick. Check on the progress of drying daily. Slowly raise the plastic a little each day, until (after about 4 days) the simple sculpture is completely dry and not cracked. That’s it, you are now ready to fire and finish your very own DIY simple clay sculpture.