How to Make a Clay Sculpture Bust

By Leslie Rose ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Clay
  • Modeling tools of various shapes
Busts are a classic form of artistic tribute.

Clay busts are a traditional art form humans have been producing as a form of tribute for thousands of years. Busts have been used to honor politicians, nobility, philosophers, musicians, artists and warriors. In modern times, busts have been largely replaced by portrait photography and plaques, but they are still made, and they are still recognized as a respected medium.

Form an upside-down egg shape from clay to represent the head. Form a stumpy cylinder of clay, almost as wide as the base of the head, then place the head on top of the cylinder.

Press your thumbs into the head approximately two-thirds of the way up from the bottom of the chin. These depressions are the eye sockets.

Pinch the area between the eye sockets to draw out the clay and form the beginning of a nose. If you feel that you don't have enough clay to form an appropriate nose, you may add more. Remember that the nose forms a shape similar to a pyramid—the top sides of which are longer and broader than the bottom sides. Round the end of the nose with your finger to soften the point of the pyramid.

Pinch the area beneath the nose where the lips should be, so that the lips will be raised slightly above the surface of the mouth. Use a fingernail or a modeling tool to draw a horizontal line between the two lips to create the lips' part.

Form a hunk of clay into an ear shape—this will be a shape similar to half of a very shallow satellite dish. The ear should span the head from a point even with the eyebrows to a point even with the end of the nose.

Use your fingers to pinch out a section of the face directly under the eyes to form cheek bones. Gently press in the sides of the face under the cheek bones to show the narrowing of the face.

Assemble clay on the top of the head in the form of a desired hairstyle. Don't try to draw all the individual hairs on the head with your modeling tool—the textures in the hair would compete with the features on the face.

Tip

If you plan to fire your bust in a kiln, the clay cannot be thicker than 1 inch. You will need to hollow the bust out from the bottom. In addition, clay that is added to clay must be "scored," which means that the two sides of clay that are attached to each other must be shallowly gouged with a modeling tool and wetted with a sponge. This will prevent the clay from falling apart in the kiln. Allow any clay to dry completely before firing.

About the Author

Leslie Rose has been a freelance writer publishing with Demand Studios since 2008. In addition to her work as a writer, she is an accomplished painter and experienced art teacher. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in art with a minor in English.