Background on Sculpting
Sculpting involves the act of manipulating the clay into assuming a three-dimensional figure. Sculpting clay is a brilliant way to ignite your creativity. Each sculpture is representational. They are the ultimate quintessential way to take the image that is in your head and transform it to a physical, tangible piece. In addition to this, they are a novel form of art, which is why you are most likely to find the greatest sculptures in popular, crowd-attracting palaces as well as in ancient cultural heritage sites. Read more about 10 types of clay used in clay sculpting process.
Sculpting is done through clay. Clay is a form of soil that is soft and malleable to touch with a plastic-like consistency. It can be fire-hardened to very rigid and sturdy objects. While it is still in the soft form, it can be manipulated using many tools like wire brushes, knives, and, most commonly, our hands. Materials such as metal wires, various salts and minerals can be added to create specific colours and textures to the clay sculptures. The clay sculptures are known for their ability to take on different appearances after firing in an oven or kiln.
Sculpting the Rajasthani Way
Terracotta clay art is an original from India. It is an ancient Indian art form that has evolved over the years. Through proactive explorations and unearthing, historians and archeologists have discovered many pieces of clay sculptures, such as earthenware, pottery and figurines dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Molela, a small village of Rajasthan, is popular across the world for its vividly painted clay plates and sculptures depicting local deities and historical events.
The Indian potter, the Kumhar, usually implements two types of earthenware clays: pure clay and sandy clay. Both clays are available near the river bed. The use of soft clay that is free from impurities is mostly for producing practical goods. To remove the stones and other mineral impurities, both clays are hammered and later sieve through a wire mesh. It then dries with a grey-ish tint which, post firing, becomes a terracotta reddish-brown, or a rich black finish – only if it is smoke-fired in a confined kiln.
Types of Sculpting Clay
Sculpting clays have long proved popular for use in sculptures due to their malleability and non-drying attributes. There has been a history of the use of natural clays and waxes in sculpture and commercial sculpting materials have been in use since the end of the nineteenth century. Let’s explore the ten best sculpting types of clay:
This is an oil-based sculpting material. Its main ingredients are, but are not limited to, clay, oil, and a binder. It is the most popular oil-based clay. Plasticine was invented by William Harbutt who, as an art teacher, wanted to prepare such a clay for his students that would not not dry. Pro tip- the terms plastilina and Plasticine are the common names you will come across when looking for oil-based sculpting clay. These are used as generic terms for sculpting clay in the present day. Plasticine, like any oil-based clay, can be shaped easily and worked into details. It is the best clay for making a finely detailed sculpture. However, unlike water-based clay, Plasticine-type clay cannot be fired because if it is exposed to excessive heat, it will turn into a greasy lump of messy material.
Polymer clay is a generic term that is used for human-made sculpting clay. This type of clay is soft and malleable only until it is heated. Upon heating, polymer clay hardens permanently. If not faced with excessive heat, polymer clay will never dry out. This clay is popularly used by kids, home-based hobbyists, and professional sculpture-makers. Polymer clay can also be used to enhance fine details.
Epoxy clay comes as two separate components -; they are epoxy resin and epoxy curing agent. As long as the two components are not mixed together, it remains soft and malleable. Upon the mixing of the two components, a heat releasing reaction is triggered and that promotes the baking of the clay. It comes in various colours. What distinguishes it from polymer is that it is soft and self hardening.
Ceramics are made of clay that has been baked or heated to attain a permanent shape. It is different from regular pottery clay as pottery clay contains only clay, while ceramic clay contains other materials in it. Ceramic clay objects can withstand extremes of both high and low temperatures and are therefore quite durable and long lasting.
This otherwise easy to work with clay has a feature of being characteristically sticky. To make it harden, one needs to kiln-fire the clay at a cold temperature. Once it hardens, it nearly becomes brittle, and one needs to handle it with attentive sensitivity. The most common earthenware clay is terracotta.
This clay needs to be kiln-fired at extremely hot temperatures to be transformed into a more durable clay. The clay object made from stoneware will withstand high temperatures and will still not break if sculpted thick enough. This clay is great for garden sculptures or pots, and kitchenware.
Paper clay is a great sculpting material. It is a mixture of clay with cellulose fibre, with paper fibre being the most common. It comes with a number of varieties, opening up possibilities that you could’ve thought were impossible! The addition of paper fibre increases the tensile strength of the clay. Moreover, paper clay is the easiest clay to make lightweight sculptures with.
This clay can be difficult to work on as it is not easy to shape and mould. The clay is often added to other clays for better workability as it does not have high plasticity. Pale in colour once hard, it is often used when making porcelain. Many times, kaolin is mixed with ball clay – which we will explore later – to increase its workability and decrease the firing temperature.
Popularly known as PlayDough, it is mostly for children or sculpting beginners. It has basic ingredients including cornstarch, water, flour, oil, and cream of tartar. The clay is on the cheaper side of cost and perhaps that is why it tends to crack once the sculpture has dried. This makes it unsuitable for sculpting, however, you can place it in the oven or the sunlight, which will harden it.
Ball clay is another type of ceramic clay that is used to make ceramics and other sculptures. It has high plasticity, and the clay itself might contain a few mineral impurities. Because of this, ball clay cannot be used alone because it shrinks during drying and frying. To curb this, it is advisable to mix ball clay with other types of clay to increase its plastic character and increase malleability.
Rajasthan Studio’s Clay Sculpting Masterclass
Sculpting used to be most of our favourite hands-on art and craft activity. To bring back those days to us, artist Hansraj Kumawat is here! He is a sculpting artist from the pink city of Jaipur and will be our master artist for this wonderful masterclass.
About the Master Artist: Hansraj Kumar is an accomplished craftsman and has been practising the art of clay sculpting for years now. He was previously a scholar of Fine Arts and actively participates in dozens of shows, trainings and live experiences. Because of all this experience under his belt in addition to his fine calibre he is often guest faculty at several art schools and colleges. This is not all! He pursues sculpting in most types of clays including stone, metal, clay, wood and terracotta. He employs modern man-made materials such as cement and fibreglass for decorative purposes. Kumar has also collected accolades of awards and prizes to his name.
Immerse yourself in his studio through us and experience first hand his passion about preserving and spreading this beloved art medium. Dive deeper into the creation process of sculpting through navigating his experiences and legacy! Come, immerse yourself in this exclusive workshop that breathes tradition and creativity. You get to take home a souvenir too.
Find out more about our Masterclass here!
Sculpting as mentioned earlier is one ancient art. Innumerable sculptures belonging to civilizations that have now been eradicated from the earth continue to be retrieved. This hints at the archaism of clay sculpting. People have used different sculpting techniques for making objects like tools to weapons and statues. Today, sculptures are not just an art form but are also one of the most loved mediums of visual art that is proudly put to display – from homes to museums. The world of sculpting is as diverse as it is massive. With numerous types of sculpting clays and techniques, the market is full of the unique types of sculpting clays and their equally unique finished products!
Also follow Rajasthan Studio on Instagram for more amazing art content. Reach out to us on email at contact[at]rajasthanstudio[dot]com. This blog is curated by Rajasthan Studio and written by Samira sarin.