How to Sculpt a 3D Clay Painting

Create a three-dimensional clay art piece featuring a daisy and several sunny, bright glaze colors.

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Materials and Tools:

pre-mixed moist red earthenware clay
rolling pin or slab roller and canvas-covered board
grout tool
combing tool
needle tool
white clay slip or white under glaze (Duncan or equivalent)
colored, semi-transparent under glazes (Duncan E-Z Stroke Underglaze or equivalent)
clear gloss glaze (Duncan Envision Clear Gloss or equivalent)
dimensional glaze (Duncan French Effects or equivalent)
paintbrushes
wire brush texturing tool
sponge
water
dull pencil or stylus tool
pillow
2 D-strap hangers
two-part clear epoxy
picture wire
plastic wrap

Steps:

1. Using a slab roller or rolling pin and canvas-covered board, pound the red earthenware clay flat to 1 inch. Roll out a sheet of clay at least 3/8 inch thick and 2 to 3 inches larger on top and sides than the desired finished size.

2. Score the back of the piece with a grout tool. This gives the epoxy, which holds the hanger, something to "grab" onto.

3. Smooth or texture the front of the clay sheet with a combing tool.

4. Paint the red clay base slab with white clay slip or a slightly thinned coat of white under glaze. Mark the rectangle with a needle tool. This will contain the painted image on the front.

5. Allow the piece to dry just enough to be able to paint on the background. Apply under glaze colors: two shades of blue for the bottom of the front image and yellow and orange for the top of the image without disturbing the white undercoat. Note: The base slab needs to remain damp enough to allow attachment of the damp three-dimensional pieces. Also, take care not to apply glaze to the back of the piece.

3D Flower

6. Roll out a separate slab of clay to approximately 1/4 inch thick, large enough to cut out flower petals, center, stem and leaves.

7. 3D flower elements:

  • Separate the cut out flower shapes.
  • Texture the center circle of the flower with a wire brush texturing tool.
  • Finish the edges with a slightly damp sponge, shape as desired for 3D effect.
  • Allow pieces to set until they're able to be handled without losing too much shape, but are still somewhat flexible.


8. Gently arrange the 3D flower pieces on the base slab, marking unobtrusively where they will be attached to the slab. Remove the shapes; score (scratch, crosshatch with a fork or needle tool) the back of the shape.

9. Score the area where each piece will be attached to the base.

10. Paint the back of the shape lightly with water and attach it to the scored area on the base. Continue until all pieces are attached as desired.

11. Paint all the attached shapes with a coat of slip or thinned white under glaze and allow the whole piece to set up.

12. When the piece is firm to the touch, "seal" the seams by gently running the tip of a dull pencil or other stylus-like tool over the seam. "Draw" through the slip to reveal the red clay, adding details as desired.

13. When the clay reaches a "leather hard" stage, carefully break off 1- to 2-inches of the edge all the way around the main image of the piece to create a deckled or broken edge where the red clay shows through. Break from the front to the back for the best effect.

14. Paint attached shapes with colored under glazes as desired. It's best to paint the shapes before the clay is completely bone dry.

15. Allow the clay painting to dry. Keep it lightly covered with plastic to allow it to dry evenly. Note: Drying time may take several days to two weeks, depending on atmospheric and studio conditions.

16. Bisque-fire the 3D clay painting slowly in an electric kiln.

17. After the clay painting has cooled, apply clear gloss glaze to the front of the piece and re-fire according to glaze manufacturer's instructions.

18. After glaze firing and cooling, flip the 3D clay painting over onto an old pillow or piece of foam rubber to keep from chipping the surface. Mark placement for hangers.

19. Sand any glossy finish off the hangers for a better bond between the hangers, the epoxy and the clay piece.

20. Mix two-part epoxy and place hangers. Allow to dry according to epoxy manufacturer's instructions.

21. When the epoxy is completely dry, run a piece of picture wire from one hanger to the other to hang the painting.

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