How to Make a Ceramic Garden Sculpture

Sculpt facial features and flowers from clay to create a whimsical work of garden art.

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Materials and Tools:                                    

cone 6 sculpture clay
sculpture clay slip
iron-oxide stain
cone 6 glazes
slab roller or rolling pin
newspaper
sculpting tools
kiln
masking tape

Steps:

1. Roll out a slab of clay 3/8-inch thick with a slab roller or a rolling pin.

2. Crumple newspaper to form a half-egg shape or the shape of the front half of a skull. This is a rough shape, not detailed. Hold the newspaper in place with masking tape.

3. Drape the clay slab over the newspaper form, overlapping the form on all sides. This begins the collar that surrounds the face, to which flowers and foliage will be attached. Detail the face by pressing thumbs into the clay to create the eye sockets.

4. Roll two equally sized balls of clay to form the eyes. Attach the eyes in the center of the eye sockets. Use small pieces of clay to pinch out eyelids shaped like crescent moons. Attach eyelids above and below the eyeballs. Attach strips of clay above the eyes to form eyebrows. Define the eyes with sculpting tools. Scoop out the center of each eye to form the pupil.

5. Slip and score a triangular area where the nose will be attached. Roughly form the nose separately with a piece of clay. Slip and score the back of the nose and attach it to the face. Define the nose in a realistic manner with sculpting tools. Cut an oval shape around the outside.

6. Form the lips in the same manner as the nose and attach it to the face.

7. Continue using sculpting tools to realistically define the face. Create laugh lines around the eyes and the mouth to show expression.

8. Add clay to the collar that surrounds the face as needed to create a 2-inch-wide collar. Slice thin triangular wedges out of the collar to prevent cracking during the drying process.

9. Turn the face over, remove the newspaper and add two coils of clay to the inside edges of the face. These are the wire-hanger attachments. Place the newspaper form back inside the face cavity and turn the piece back over.

10. Create flowers and foliage by pinching and shaping clay into petal and leaf forms.

11. Attach the flowers and foliage to the collar around the face with slip. Cut away any part of the collar that's visible once the collar is covered with plants.

12. Allow the piece to dry for two to three weeks. Remove the newspaper form from beneath the face. Bisque-fire the piece in the kiln to cone temperature 04.

13. After the first firing, stain the face with red iron oxide mixed with water. Use a sponge dipped in water to clean the face of stain. The stain remaining in the cracks and crevasses of the face create depth and dimension in the face.

14. Paint the flowers and foliage with different-colored cone 6 glazes.

15. Fire the piece in the kiln to cone temperature 6.

16. Thread wire through the loops at the back of the sculpture for hanging.

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