For hundreds of generations a sculpture has filled played many important roles in human society, therefore those who practice the art of sculpting have always held a special place in our histories. After the dawn of civilization, statues were used to honor the gods and help the believers in their practice of religion. The mediums for the sculptures changed through the ages, like the sculpture of Zeus and Hera on the left is made from cold cast bronze.
Ancient kings, possibly in the hope of making themselves immortal, had their own likenesses carved in stone or marble, sculptures of such kind were called portrait sculptures. The Greeks made statues of men and women with unearthly forms. And the early Christian church was decorated with demons and devils, reminders of the existence of evil for the many churchgoers who couldn’t read.
There are many different types of clay that are used in sculpting, each type has specific properties and can vary greatly in terms of handling and finish. Oil-based clay appears unrefined and is difficult to work intricate details, but it is known to remain soft and can be reworked, which makes it the perfect clay for practicing. While Polymer based clay is also soft and can be baked in a household oven to fix. But it is prone to cracking a little more than Oil-based clay.
Pottery/‘firing’ clay is a good type of modeling clay. It is water-based and can be shaped and fired at temperatures in excess of 250°F to fix compositions, and it is usually used to create household ceramics. Water-based clay is by far the easiest to work with when relying on hand-building techniques and is often shaped on a potter’s wheel.
Sculpting is not an easy art and is said to be a little more challenging than painting. Those of you who are new to sculpting ought to feel disconcerted if their projects don’t come out as well as they’d like. Working in three dimensions is quite and difficult and will probably take some getting used to.
Tips to help you work with water-based clay
1 . Envision the final piece
Before you begin, have a solid idea of what you want the finished structure to look like and keep that idea in your head as you work on it. Make sketches of the sculpture you want to create from different angles and viewpoints. Consider the dimensions of the primary shapes and the ratios between lengths.
2 . Test for wetness
Dried clay is difficult to work with but it can be relatively easy to test if it is wet enough before you begin. Pull off a small piece of the clay you wish to use and roll it in your hands until it forms a cylinder, a cm in diameter and 10cm long. And then bend the cylinder into a U. If it bends smoothly, it is usable but if it cracks, you have to add more water.
3 . Build clever forms –Be resourceful
When working without a potter’s wheel, there are simple ways of building up forms. Coils of clay can be a good way of building the sides of hollow shapes – laying the clay down in a spiral prevents it collapsing easily. And Recesses can be created by pinching the clay, digging out with thumb and forefinger.
4 . Avoid protruding shapes
You may have seen advanced sculptors create sculptures with extended limbs but the chances are they will made use of armatures – long, metal skeleton structures which support the weight of the clay. Brass rods, aluminum wire and other stronger materials can be used, but I’d advise you to keep to more contained shapes – for now, at least.
5 . Look out for a local studio
Some art skills can be learnt through simple observation and practice but sculpting with wet clay is not such an art, the advanced aspects of clay sculpture are quite tricky and require expert guidance.