Sculpting has been a way of capturing an object, person or idea in a three dimensional way for hundreds of years. Sculptors throughout the ages have worked with a variety of materials from marble and stone to even glass and metal. Modern sculpture may manifest itself in a variety of ways, from huge installations such as the Angel of The North which can be viewed in the North East of England, to a significantly smaller but no less beautiful clay pot.
A Guide to Sculpting
Generally, when looking to start a new art-based hobby choosing sculpting on a smaller scale in clay, rather than vast metal road-side instillations is preferred, and is most definitely cheaper.
Pick your clay
The first step to starting your journey in sculpture is to decide what clay you wish you use. There are a number of different clays yet three are most commonly used, and all have their own pros and cons. The main type of clay is pottery or “firing” clay. This requires time in a kiln at temperatures over two hundred and fifty degrees farenheit to remain firm. Unless of course you have a handy kiln in your home or garden that will do just the trick, you will usually have to take your finished piece to a kiln in a gallery or studio that is happy to fire it for you.
Other clays include an oil-based clay for modelling which isn’t fantastic for very detailed work however it does stay malleable for longer which makes it perfect for beginners wishing to practice. A polymer based clay is similarly easy to use as it stays softer for longer and may be “fired” in a normal domestic oven, however it is prone to cracking more than the hardier firing clay is.
Once you have chosen the type of clay you wish to start with, and of course you can always change your mind at any time, you are ready to start.
What you will sculpt will depend entirely on your own creativeness, your interests and your level of expertise. When starting a sculpture first try to picture the end result. Of course as the project moves on you may make changes here and there, though having some idea of what you want to achieve is a good place to start.
Do ensure your clay has the correct level of wetness before starting by pulling off a small piece of clay, rolling it into a tube shape and bending it. If it cracks then add more water, if it bends easily then you are ready to go.
Start with simple shapes initially until you are used to the feel and temperment but don’t be afraid to experiment further as you gain confidence.
Do it your way
The beauty of art is that there is no “wrong” way to create something, as the creation itself is the whole point. Embrace your new hobby by visiting local galleries and art websites for inspiration and when you are ready, why not consider joining an art class and enjoy the company of like-minded individuals who are all looking to create something and learn new techniques.
Sculpting has been known to be an extremely therapeutic way of expressing yourself and is most definitely one of the most enjoyable.
About the author:
After completing a Masters degree in Art History, Eva Day moved back to her routes in Birmingham to produce and teach sculpting to students of varying degrees.