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July 2020 Summer Sculpture Workshop

Final Result

Step 1.  Gathering reference material:  I was to learn that the best place to start sculpture is to gather lots of materials on the subject.  I chose to sculpt an African kudu.  I loved the graphic nature of the long face and the sweep of the horns.

Step 2.  Build small maquettes:   I chose to build a maquette based on an early drawing i made in step 1.   I didn't much like the result, so i made another maquette based on a painting I found on the internet.  These maquettes are made with solid clay and only carry enough detail to understand the basic shape and features of the final pose.

Step 3.  Build armature.  I began by building a frame made with a 2x6 base, wooden dowels and thin plywood cutout of the basic animal  head and body shape.  I used duct tape to hinge the head to the body so that i could articulate the final head pose as i went along.   We then wrapped the armature in bubble wrap to provide space inside the body (no need to cut and hollow out later) and a surface to  adhere the clay.

Step 4.  Cover the armature in a thick layer of clay:  I covered the entire armature in a thick layer of clay and then began to created a basic shape based on the maquette.

Step 5.  Begin the process of sculpting:  I stared by adding and subtracting clay to develop the musculature of the body first, then added the legs, and finally the neck and head. After i reached a pretty good realistic likeness of the Kudu, I began to then cut into the clay to create more angled lines.   (This took me the longest, especially the legs.) I then drilled two holes in the head at the leather hard stage to allow the horns to be inserted after firing.    The last item i built were the horns.  These were made by rolling out long tapered coils (one large thick one and one thin) then attaching with scoring and slipping to create a long tapered coil with a ridge.  Then i twisted the coil into the shape of a Kudu horn.  One twisting right, the other left.  These were fired separately, then attached with adhesive once all the firings were completed.  

Step 6.  Dry slowly:  I am usually a very impatient person, but i knew that i would need to cover up and then let the sculpture dry slowly.  This helped in avoiding cracking.  Since were using a new paper clay, we were not sure how prone to shrinkage it would be.  

Step 7.  Bisque fire

Surface Treatment / Glazing

Glaze and stains were applied after bisque firing.  I used red iron oxide stain and manganese dioxide both.  The top of the Kudu body using the lightest coverage of RIO blending down to a thick coverage of Manganese dioxide at the base.  The horns were glazed using cone 6 Black gold glaze.    I needed to build a clay holder for each horn in order to have it stand up in my kiln.

Bisque Firing

The piece was bisque fired in the gas kiln at Eversfield Ceramics to cone 07.

Final Firing

After glazing, the kudu was reduction fired in a gas kiln at Eversfield Ceramics to cone 10.  The horns were oxidation fired to cone 6 in my electric kiln.

Materials Used

I used red earthenware clay for the maquettes and cone 10 paper clay for the final kudu sculpture.

Firing Materials

No additional firing materials were used.


The base of the kudu cracked, as it was pretty thick.  Those were filled in with putty and painted post firing.  I loved the use of the wood and bubblewrap armature, which just burned away.  Must have been kinda smelly in the kiln room....


I will continue my exploration into sculpture.  I noticed that i used many references about the animal skeleton and muscles from various sources.  I will need to delve into understanding the anatomy much better in order to develop my skills.  Would be nice to try my hand at sculpting people at some point in the near future.

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