Big Ceramic Store Blog

How To Sculpt An Elephant - Part 1

If you read our last post, you're probably pretty excited about this one! As I promised, we're starting a series on learning to sculpt. What type of clay and tools you may need, how to support during the process, additive and subtractive methods, and we'll even touch on firing and glazing.

Since I'm fairly new at sculpting myself, I didn't think it would be fair for me to make one I've done in the past, so I decided an elephant would be a good subject. The body is fairly easy and the rest... well... we'll figure it out as we go!

Mind you, it's not going to be "life-size", I don't think my studio is big enough for that! You can, however; use the steps in this series and make it the size you want, but if this is your first attempt at sculpting you may want to start on the smaller size.In part-1, we are primarily going to discuss what supplies you will need to get started, work surfaces, lighting, and how to handle and protect your work in-progress.

Gather us some supplies, define an area to get started, and decide where you will keep your piece out of harms way when you are not working on it. This is not a 1 hour process... it may take you 5, 10, 15, or even more... so dig in for the long haul!

Here is a list of some things to gather (or purchase if need be):

  1. A good sculpting clay, clay with a heavy grog, or paper clay
  2. Tools - sculpting or ribbon tools, fettling knife, pin (needle) tool, multiple stylus tools with varying size tips, wire cutter, sponges, water, spritzer bottle,
  3. Pencil/paper
  4. Ware boards
  5. Desk lamp or portable lighting with moveable head for direct lighting on areas of fine detail work
  6. Banding wheel
  7. Paint brushes
  8. Newspaper and cardboard tubes (toilet paper and paper towel)
  9. Plastic sheeting, large plastic bag, or "damp box"
  10. Comfortable stool or chair
  11. Good background music

Once you've gathered up your supplies, find yourself some pictures of elephants. You need a good side view, facial view, and some that give you a good idea on tail and feet.

After you've chosen the pictures, print them and cut them out the size of your sculpture. To keep it simple, this sculpture will not be larger than a standard piece of copy paper.

Now, where are you going to do your sculpting? Pick an area where you won't be disturbed, where the natural and/or overhead lighting is good, and where you feel inspired!

Plan ahead... if you are a morning person like me, plan your adventure bright and early. If you're a night owl, set aside time at the end of the day to embark on the journey! Either way, you want at least 2 hours for your first sitting.

It's time to start gathering and ordering your supplies, print and cut out your pictures, and make room on the shelf for your project. See you here next week to start building!


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