How to Sculpture in Clay

By Carl Hose
Human face in clay

Clay is one of the most versatile artistic materials available. Clay can be molded and sculpted into just about anything your imagination can conjure up. It's easy enough to work with, and even a beginner can typically come up with something of artistic value. Getting started with clay sculpting is affordable and can lead to a relaxing hobby and even a profitable business selling your sculptures. Here's how you can begin bringing your art to life through clay sculpting.

Purchase a set of clay sculpting tools and some clay to get started. You can find clay sculpting sets and clay at hobby and craft shops. There are also many online stores where you can purchase these supplies. You don't need a lot to start. A cheap set of wooden detailing tools and a couple of sculpting knives will get you started. You can purchase clay in bricks, either oil- or water-based.

Decide on the subject of your sculpture. You can sketch it out on paper first, if that will help you visualize what you want to sculpt. You might choose instead to use an actual model to work from, or you might simply create from your imagination. Once you know what you will be sculpting, find a place you will be able to work and where your sculpture will be safe. The sculpture will probably take more than one session to finish. It's a good idea to begin working on you sculpture on a piece of wood as a work platform, in case you need to move it.

Build your clay base. Estimate the amount of clay to use, depending upon the size of your project. You can remove some of it later if you begin with too much. Place your clay on your work base and use your hands to rough out the shape of your sculpture first. Once you have the rough beginnings of your sculpture, continue to form it with your hands until a more detailed shape evolves, then use your detailing tools to add the finer elements of your sculpture. Sculpting a person, for instance, you'll use detailing tools to bring out the facial features and any clothing details. Keep a bowl of water close by. You can apply water to the clay to help soften it for surface smoothing.

Finish your sculpture by allowing it to air dry. If you use polymer, dry it in an oven for about twenty minutes at 275 degrees. Use clay glaze, which can be purchased at hobby shops, to seal your sculpture before you apply any paint. Many sculptors don't paint their sculptures, preferring the natural color of the clay.

About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.