One of the most asked questions is “How long does it take you to make a sculpture?” – and sadly, there ain’t no straightforward answer!
The way I work is a bit different than most sculptors would work, this means, I go with no conventional approaches, and many times I change the process depending on my mood.
Perhaps, that doesn’t sound very professional, but an artist had to rely on her moods, hahaha!
Anyway, today, I will proceed with a brief explanation of how I usually go about creating a larger size piece.
When working on a large piece I like to start with a new block of clay, these are normally 10 kilos packs.
The process starts way before I touch the clay, as I would normally spend days looking at pictures of the dog I have to create, in the case of a portrait, I really need to understand that specific dog in so many different ways. So, once I feel “connected” with the dog, is when I am able to move on and touch the clay.
So, this big lump of rectangular-shaped clay needs to be filled in with life. To do so I would play with the clay until I get a rough silhouette that represents my subject. I only stop once I feel that such a shape feels like my model.
I use the word “feel” a lot because, in the early stages, I do not use my eyes much, I use my hands and press them as if I would be touching a real dog, imagining where each part of the body is, without having many heavy references, other than the photos I previously observed.
I think to make emphasis on this part of the process because it’s where it differs from most other sculptors, it is normal to start with taking measurements or simply putting things in the correct place according to some measurement or proper structure building, but for me, it rarely works that way. Sure, my approach takes longer time because I will have to stop at those details later on when I already have a structure in place, but funny enough, it’s already largely correct as I was imagining a dig with my hands.
Also, notice that this part of the process is the one which allows imperfections to exist, and probably, I have the belief that it is such imperfections that add the “extra life” to the pieces. Life is not perfect and if I allow that truth to exist in my pieces chances are they will represent life more than anything else.
Once the main shape and life are put into the clay it’s time to move on to carve and shape.
Since I start with a big block which is quite wet I need to allow the clay some time to harden so I can continue to work without destroying what I do.
So, on a more technical note, the clay will influence the timing. As I like to work with clay when it’s quite resistant, I need to work while it is at its perfect drying point. This means, it contains enough humidity that it won’t break, but it is hard enough to stand on its own! Doing so I am able to sustain the perfect point for several days if I cover the clay properly! However, I will only let it reach such a drying point in a natural way, meaning, I will never rush the drying! Some people do that but that creates tension in the clay and the structure can be damaged inside, causing cracks that we can’t see and then explosions in the kiln!
I would continue the carving until I have a structure that I like and just before I move on to details I will need to open up the sculpture and hollow it! This s always very delicate, and that is why I rather do it before I do the details on the piece, I have much less stress this way LOL.
Once the sculpture is hollowed I have to glue it back together and then continue my work, normally for several more days…
Every change in the sculpture needs observation, for me, it’s important to keep the life inside the piece and since these sculptures become ceramic I want to avoid them looking stiff.
Ceramics is a very complex medium to work, as it’s delicate all the way, I found it that you either work fast or you take a lot of time, there’s no way in between. Since I like to take my time because I do not measure much, I need to keep that clay useful (the perfect humidity point) for several days and that is of course very risky at the same time! Too little or too much humidity and I can destroy everything in a second!
The photos in the post are from a piece I started some days ago, and I’m only halfway there, but they show parts of the process.
So, going back to the original question that started this post, “HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A SCULPTURE?” the real answer is I don’t know!!
But I still wanted to share some explanations of the process that I go through when I create a large piece…
I hope you enjoyed reading and learning a bit more about how I work, but mainly, to understand, that this is an art and as such it’s better to go with the flow, have no rush, respect the muses, the clay, the weather and all that goes with it!
The dog I am creating is an amazing Smooth Fox Terrier female, she has so much elegance and charm, that is also overwhelming to feel that I have to deliver to her heights of quality, so a lot of pressure involved here to represent her accurately and naively at the same time 🙂
Enjoy some photos of previous Smooth Fox Terrier pieces I created! Some smaller some big, some raku.
Have a nice day!