Working with clay is great for a beginner artist looking to try their hand in the art of sculpting. Check out these tips on working with clay to create sculptures:
Choose the type of clay that you want to work with. You can work with natural clay (machine-worked or in-the-raw) or man-made clay (polymer). Natural clay will give you the genuine reddish-brown color, while polymer clay comes in different colors and doesn’t need to be painted. Another advantage to polymer clay is that it doesn’t dry out when exposed to air for long periods.
Purchase a clay sculpting kit from any arts and crafts store (Michael’s e.g.). Clay kits contain tools that will help you carve and texture details into your sculpture. Some kits even include extra clay to work with.
Make a sketch of the object that you want to sculpt on a piece of scratch paper. Include the details and patterns that you visualize for the object. This will help you know how much clay you will need for the sculpture based on its size. It will also let you know what sculpturing tools you need to use to carve out the details.
Find a solid workbench or table and start sculpting the rough form of your piece based on your illustration. Make sure to keep a bowl of water nearby to keep the clay from getting dry while you are working (except for polymer clay). After you have created a rough form of the sculpture, carve out the details with your tools. Smooth the surface over and examine the piece for any cracks or air pockets. These can cause the sculpture to explode while in the oven.
Fire your sculpture in a high-temperature kiln (1,600 degrees) and let it cool for 2-3 days. If you don’t have access to a kiln, leave the sculpture in a safe place and allow it to dry on its own. Polymer can be dried much easier in a conventional oven (275 degrees for 20 minutes). If you wish to paint your natural clay sculpture make sure to apply glaze to the surface first.