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Sculpture or handbuilding: what is the difference?

March 13, 2017

Currently we teach 2 sculpture classes a week, and we get asked a lot whether sculpture and handbuilding are two different things. There are many debates on this subject from artists and academics, we like to take the practical approach. Hand building is the method and technique to make an object, sculpture is just one of the many possible outcomes of handbuilding.

When teaching sculpture, we focus on the method of handbuilding that can involve making coils, cutting slabs or pinching pots. How you arrange these together will result in a sculpture. The different between a vessel and a sculpture is related to the functionality of the object and its purpose.

 

A sculpture is a non-functional 3D art form, with a specific narrative content. The narrative and intent of the sculpture is very important to differentiate one vessel from another. A simple bowl made from coils can be viewed as sculpture if the artist’s narrative intends it to be perceived that way. Without a narrative, a hand built bowl will remain a bowl, but wont be a sculpture.

 

The features of a sculpture can be discussed in terms of line and plane, balance and gravity, visual impact and colour, perception of movement, pattern and texture, and relation between positive and negative space. How the sculpture is made is not a relevant feature unless intended in the narrative. When you come to a sculpture class, come with with intent to make something personal and unqiue. Should you make something functional; good and well, and should you make something just because it feels right, then that is its purpose, enjoy the process.

 

Here are our pick of 4 sculpture artists who’s work is can be defined as sculpture vessels. These are only a few examples to demonstrate that the line between handbuilding and sculpture isn’t so firmly defined.

 

Claire Loder

"Drawing is an important part of my practice; my process for the sculptures always starts with drawing into the clay. The pieces are slab built, with some elements constructed by coiling or sculpting. As soon as the form will support itself I start working on the surface, painting with slips, and underglazes and the wet clay itself. Most of the sculptures are single fired. Clay is a fantastic material, it has a skin like quality, it gathers marks, indentations – it co-operates in the making."

 

Natalie Khayat

"The images I seek, be they narrative or experimental, try to gather an emotional power born of an intimate search into light and landscape. Within a poetic framework, reality is stretched, folded and punctured. Daily ritual objects, like pots, address germination, paper, the horizon, entering earth or escaping it, sound or its absence, tension and balance, quietude, dormant whiteness and contemplation."

 

Yu Kobayashi

Yu’s work is delicate and modest, they're function & art sculptures at the same time. Yu creates ceramic pieces imbued with a deep appreciation for the profundity of nature. “Make for life, life for make” is her moto.

 

Hans Borgonjon

"The structure occupying the walls of the container slowly starts to invade the empty inside space. The gradual removal of the container leaves the structure to fill and visualise the contained space. On their own they form abstract organic sculptures. Together they can reform the cylindrical shape'"

 

 

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