Sculpting Glossary

Clay Sculptures: 5 Steps to Start Sculpting with Clay

May 11, 2023 by

You’ve been fascinated by the art of sculpting for as long as you can remember, and you’re finally ready to take the plunge and try your hand at creating your own clay sculpture.

Whether you’re a beginner or have some experience with other sculpting materials, working with clay can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of creating your own clay sculpture, from selecting the right materials to refining the details of your finished piece. So, grab a block of clay and let’s get started on your sculpting journey!

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Table of Contents

What is a Clay Sculpture?

Clay sculpting, also known as clay modeling, is a technique in which clay is used to design and make sculptures.

Clay sculpting has been in use for many years and has gained recognition all around the world.

It is very common in today’s world, mostly in homes because children often use and play with it to make new shapes and forms.

Here are some examples throughout history:

The ancients discovered the fixed value of immortality embedded in the clay.

Clay has the unique quality of elasticity meaning it can be used and molded into any form. Due to this, artists prefer clay to make sculptures because it can be easier to work with.

clay sculptures

What Kind of Clay is Used for Sculptures?

Before you start your clay carving you need to choose the right clay.

1. Oil-Based Modeling Clay

Oil-based modeling clay may appear unprepared and may be subtle in a detailed task. But it stays soft and active, which makes it great to use.

Check out this video by David Horan to see it in action:

2. Polymer-Based Modeling Clay

The polymer-based modeling clay is equally soft and can be baked in the indoor oven to fix the texture.

Check out this video by I The Crafter to see it in action:

What Materials Are Needed for Clay Sculpting?

Clay sculpting requires the following things to get started:

1. Clay

Clay is the first thing required in this (obviously).

2. Work Surface

A solid work surface or workstation is recommended.

3. Tools:

Different tools like spoons, knives, wires are required for the clay sculpture.

To further explore the subject of getting started with clay sculpting, we also recommend this video by Lazy Minutes:

Is Air Dry Clay Good for Sculpting?

With regular clay, as long as you work with food-safe glaze, you can create items such as functional cups, bowls, and safe plates for food and drink.

You can make cups, bowls, and plates with air dry clay, but they should only be decorative.

This may seem disappointing, but you can use it air dry clay as an exercise of creativity allowing you to create and experiment with a playful design.

When it comes to adding color to your parts, most things are the same without using glaze.
With air dry clay, you will not use any glaze.

To further explore air dry clay tips, we also recommend this video by Simply by A.:

How Do You Make a Clay Sculpture?

Here are five tips/steps you can use when making a clay sculpture:

  1. Get the required clay that is needed.
  2. Then you have to cover the surface with newspaper if working on a surface that you do not want to be dirtied.
  3. Wearing old clothes or dedicated clothes for sculpting is recommended so you don’t dirty a nice shirt.
  4. Then, sculpt what you decided to make.
  5. Once you are happy with what you sculpted, add the final touches until you are happy with the end result.

To further explore how to make a clay sculpture, we recommend checking out this video by Learn Sculpture:

Famous Clay Sculpture Artists

1. Pablo Picasso

Picasso has many works of art created with clay. He is most notable for not being afraid to experiment.

2. Umberto Boccioni

Umberto Boccioni is another famous clay sculpture artist. He is often considered the leading artist of Italian Futurism.

3. Jesse Wine

One of the most exciting emerging pottery artists, Wine is currently an artist based at the Camden Arts Center.

4. Ron Nagle

Californian artist Nagle is one of the best artists in his medium, with a way of incomparable creativity.

5. Aaron Angell

Angell created a landscape of shiny stoneware, miniature, abstract assemblages, and intricate materials filled with narrative.

There’s something almost fun about his style. Be sure to check out his ‘Caterpillar Engine.’

There are several other artists that have worked great in this field.

Final Remarks

Clay sculpture is widely known all over the world for its unique way of portraying things and telling stories.

We hope you learned something new about clay sculptures!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sculpture using clay called?

Sculpture using clay is often called ceramic sculpture, as the clay is fired in a kiln to create a ceramic material that is durable and long-lasting. Clay sculptures can take on a variety of forms and styles, from abstract to realistic, and can be finished with a range of textures and glazes.

What do you put inside a clay sculpture?

To provide support and structure to a clay sculpture, artists will often use a variety of internal armatures made from materials such as wire, wood, or metal. The armature helps to keep the clay in place and prevent it from collapsing or warping as it dries and is worked on.