How to Do Ceramic Sculpture

A sculpture is a three-dimensional piece of artwork meant to be seen from different directions. Hence, sculptures must be developed from all points of view. There are different materials with which sculptures can be created, such as clay, textiles, metal, glass, or wood. Clay is often used to create beautiful ceramic pieces or portrait busts. This article describes techniques for the construction of clay sculpture that is intended to be fired in a potter's oven.


  1. Image titled Do Ceramic Sculpture Step 1
    Decide how you want to create your sculpture so it looks good. Sculpture can be created by piecing together things thrown on the wheel, by the use of coils and slabs, using a mold, by making solid objects out of clay, or any combination thereof.
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    Hollow out your sculpture. Clay cannot be fired solid, and should only be usually no more than 12 inch (1.3 cm) thick in any place. You can use ceramic trimming tools to scrape and dig out the clay while still retaining a strong wall.
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    Keep your creation uniform to prevent shrinkage and cracking. Different thickness of clay will shrink at different rates, so most parts of a single piece should be of roughly the same thickness.
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    Use plastic sheets and bags to keep the work wet while building, and to control drying speed. Water can be added at any time with various sizes of sponges. Red iron clay tends to dry slower, have a lot of strength, and is very workable.
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    Reassemble individual pieces by scoring both ends of reattached pieces and using adhesive mud. Dried, reused clay soaked and dissolved in water can be used as adhesive for attaching parts.
    • For instance, use a wide-mouth gallon size plastic jar as a base mold and let water evaporate and clay congeal to a thick, axle-grease consistency. This may take a few weeks. The adhesive clay is then applied to both ends after scoring and is pressed together. With a wooden tool, the edges are mashed together both inside and out, then covered with stiff working clay for strength. When the piece is reassembled, all exterior joints are contoured for the final finish. This is then dried slowly, the bigger and thicker pieces taking up to two or three weeks. If the hollowed walls are done unevenly, with curved trimming tools leaving lots of ribbing, the pieces may warp and not end up being smooth.
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    Roll out coils with fingers, usually starting from the center and working both hands away from each other. When joining coils lengthwise for pots, they can be scored and applied together with adhesive clay. However, the inside should normally be mashed together for strength. Coils are especially vulnerable to separation on the bottom.
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    Roll out slabs with a rolling pin. For even rolling, line the clay between two strips of material such as plywood, the thickness of which is the same as with the intended slab. The ends of the rolling pin, when rolled on the strips, should then flatten the clay to that exact width. Slabs will tend to considerably warp in the fire. Interior ceramic bracing may be necessary to mute this. Plaster used as a working surface will tend to dry out the clay. Find a non-stick surface such as raw wood.
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    Create texture in innumerable ways such as rolling clay on burlap, branding with all sorts of implements, carving, using imprint tools.
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    Finish the piece. Ceramic sculpture can be glazed, painted with stains, or fired and then painted with acrylics or oils or any combination thereof. Sculpture too big for the kiln can made in pieces to be fitted together after firing. Allowance must be made for attachment in the interior and the ability to cover and color the cracks so they do not show. Ceramic sculpture is delicate and subject to breakage.

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Categories: Clay Projects | Sculpting