Starting A Sculpture Project

Modern sculpture artists are using a mixture of material in their work ranging from synthetic plastics to organic vegetable waste. From the famous marble sculpture work in museums to modern outdoor installations of recycled wood and metal, the catalogue of sculptural visual art is wide-ranging. Here are a few basic concept you need to know to help you start your own clay sculpture.

Sculpting with clay can be fast and immediate, good for large-scale pieces and outdoor work. It can also be small and expressive, good for intimate and personal depictions of animals and human forms. The plasticity of clay is an advantage for artists as it aids in structure and handling.

Use any of these methods or a combination of all when planning your next sculpture piece.

Construction Method

Construction begins by building from a small amount of clay and adding to it using coils or slabs. It is about adding clay to clay to create the work. You can use a paper or metal structure to guide the building process, just remember to take our any non-combustible material out of the finished object before taking it into the kiln.

Subtraction Method

This method is about taking away shavings of clay from large block of clay. Subtraction is also known as carving. The best practice for this process of carving is to start with a mock model smaller in size than the original to avoid taking away too much by accident.


The substitution method is called casting. You can do a plaster casting mould of the sculpture object and then use the plaster mould to make replicas. This is a good method when you make a sculpture with a metal structure inside. To avoid firing the metal, make a cast of the air dried object first and then use the cast mould to make a full clay replica of the object without any structural objects inside.


Manipulation is the process of taking a block of clay and shaping or forming it into a sculpture object by hand. You can use objects to press the block towards or alongside to manipulate the clay to the shape you want.

Any clay can be sculpted. Grogged clay is better at supporting itself and ideal for large sculptures, while finer clays are good for small-scale work. It is worth experimenting with different clays, as sculpting is often a highly tactile experience; the physical qualities of one clay may suit you more than those of another.

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