1st Clay Sculpture

I decided to do a clay sculpture, to experiment with building an armature and then adding clay on top to create more intricate shapes than I have ever made before. The design was influenced by :
– the columns and ‘fan vaults’ I had seen in cathedral architecture, with peaks and troughs.
– Ink sketches I did in my big sketchbook last week of simplified leaves of canopies which I wanted to represent in marking the clay with little dents.
These two influences create the design of my first attempt at combining trees and architecture into these shapes.

Building the armature

I used wire, masking tape and tin foil to build a supporting structure that the clay would be put onto. The wire was a little thin, but still did the job.
The tin foil wrapped around the wire is there because clay doesn’t adhere to clay at all, using tinfoil bulks thickens the lines and I can do some initial shaping (creating rough curved shapes) but also the rough texture of the crumpled tinfoil is a good base for the clay to stick to.
I used a donut shape of tinfoil to support the structure. In retrospect this tinfoil support wasn’t symmetrical and so the symmetry of the finished experiment suffered, that is definitely something to bear in mind in the future.

Working with the clay

I then began to build up the clay on top of the armature. Building the rough shape first and then using a selection of tools and my hands, keeping the clay wet and malleable. This was SO ENJOYABLE. Sculpture is so tactile and absorbing and way less frustrating than wire! Hmm.

I then added the in-between sections of the four main columns in the sculpture. I should have made the armature for these bits at the start before adding any clay! But alas. I just made my job a little bit tricker. So I added the sections, and completed this side of the sculpture.

Before painted white
Finished sculpture

I’m happy with the outcome of this sculpture as it is, for my first clay sculpture in a fair while! I have only done this side of the sculpture, and that is all I can do until the clay dries. I do want to work on the other side though, at least on the bits you can see from the side.
This shape is designed to be turned upside down and be the inside of the structure that can only be seen by standing inside and looking up. So the outside roof which I haven’t worked on would be just as important. I can’t decide whether I want to work on the outside on a new sculpture and leave this one, or finish this one as much as possible… I’ll think on it.

What works well

Having gaps in the ‘roof’ / sculpture. This would allow the sky / canopy to be seen through it.

Concentric shapes – having a point in the centre of the shape that everything points towards. Even in a flat photograph there is a suggestion that the shape recedes backwards in the centre.

The symmetry – okay so the shape isn’t perfectly symmetrical, but you can see the design was intended to be. For example having random shapes on one side but not the other would definitely not be as effective, the feeling of a grand shape wouldn’t come across and it would feel more whimsical instead.

Details! Having all the lines in the centre meet up and make sense. Having ridges separating parts of the sculpture, defining them. Refining the shapes makes a difference.

What doesn’t work

The shape isn’t exactly symmetrical because some legs of the shape are longer and wider than others! This has two causes:
– the wire was quite thin so would easily bend out of shape as I was shaping the clay
– the donut shaped base made of tinfoil I used to rest the sculpture on wasn’t even on all sides, so the sculpture was pushed out of symmetry whenever it rested on the base.

The dotty indents. They don’t look bad, however I think the shape could look better with shapes that are more uniform and geometrically ordered.

Conclusions, thoughts, moving forward

How much tree inspiration do these shapes have to have? The small indents in the clay are inspired by looking up at a woodland canopy of leaves, but aren’t these shapes supposed to be inspired by the architecture of the trees and of the cathedrals, not of the textures and decoration inspired by trees. Using the indents reflecting trees takes inspiration from something that is important to my painting outside – the movement, texture, sound, light of the leaves, not the solid structure I paint on top.

Saying that, I still want to see what this shape in a painting. So next, before I move onto another sculpture I want to paint this one. See how the shapes transfer into lines on a drawing/ painting. This will allow me to discover how I could improve my sculpture for the betterment of the paintings.

What do I rest this shape on to present it? Wooden supports cut to shape and glued to a base? You could just having the sculpture resting on the wood so you would be able to see both sides of the shape. A smaller base that’s less ugly that the shape could be lifted up from?

I want to try another sculpture with more geometric folds and angles, like the one I sketched for the Kunz drawings. That should be fun – maybe wire vs clay one.
Also I want to add legs!!

1st Wire Sculpture

I made my first sculpture!
Made completely out of wire, with clay to support the feet and stuck to a board.
This is the first time I have worked with wire like this in a couple years, I am not very familiar with having to think about a work in 3D.

Reasons for making it

Based on this sketch in my sketchbook, which was inspired by trees I painted outside with the same curly ink shapes. This shape is neither symmetrical or precise, however I thought it would be a good starting place. because the shape has lots of freedom and was a chance for me to become familiar with the materials.

Also, the shape is such a contrast to the angular, precise and symmetrical sculptures I want to make next, I thought this piece would serve as an interesting comparison, and to make sure these free structures aren’t what I want to make more of.

What works

The thinness of the wire gives the structure a really delicate touch, which suits the curly shapes it makes. The thin wire also means that this sculpture would be easily paintable in the way I have done – white thin lines. The shape doesn’t take up too much space so painting underneath it wouldn’t be too covered up.

The dome shape works really well (instead of a flat roof or pointy one). They nod to cathedral domes.

The curly shapes look as good in the sketch as it does in the sculpture from the side. It suits the material very well.

The sculpture is separated into three bits, each with two legs that support each other. This means once the clay bases are stuck down the sculpture wobbles but is in no danger of collapsing.

What doesn’t work so well

The wire was so thin and delicate it has been hard to manipulate one part of the wire without disrupting the whole thing. I assume with thicker wire this would be less of a problem. But this was the first time I have worked with wire in aages so that’s worth baring in mind as well.

Linking with the above comment, not being able to isolate one part of the wire and manipulate it, meant it was really hard to get the wire to define an exact dome for the ceiling. There was one curl that I would manipulate into the right place, but then the rest of the wire would then be out of place, and it went on and on! HMM.

The lines are a bit wobbly. This is again down to the thickness of the wire I think. Thin wire is easier to move around and a slight move makes the legs of the structure not straight.

Taking a photo underneath of the structure and looking up reveals the shape if it were to be just a drawing. The curls are interesting; they look organic, but the shape from this angle is I think too abstract and not structured enough to even slightly resemble a cathedral interior. This proves that symmetry and more cleaner shapes will probably suit these sculptures more for my purposes.

Improvements if I were to work like this again

Try with thicker wire. This I assume would mean you could isolate parts of the wire without disturbing the whole shape more easily. This could mean straighter legs and smoother curves.

I could try soldering part of the wire together. This might make it self supportive, and join the three pieces together.

Better ‘feet’ – less ugly! Perhaps having the base made out of wood and making small holes in the wood for the wire to sit in, then glue filled so that the legs just appear out of the wood instead of being obviously secured down with clay.


This was a good starting point! I feel more confident moving forwards now, onto designing a second sculpture, this time with a design more relevant to cathedral interior roof and column shapes.

I want to try painting this sculpture into a sketchbook painting. Since this is the idea of these sculptures – that they are pieces in their own right but also tools for me to add better shapes into my paintings.