Five Useful Tips to Help You Begin Working With Water Based Clay


Here are five useful tips to help you begin working with water-based clay

1. Envision the final piece
before you start, it is always a good idea to have a clear idea of how you want the final sculpture to turn out. Make sketches of various imagined viewpoints and projections. Consider the dimensions of the main shapes and the ratios between lengths.

2. Test for wetness
Dried clay will be difficult to work with but it is easy to test if it is wet enough before you start. Pull off a small piece of the clay you intend to use and roll it in your hand until it forms a cylinder, about 1cm in diameter and about 10cm long. Bend the cylinder double. If it bends smoothly, it should be useable; if it cracks, try adding more water.

3. Build forms cleverly
If you are working without a potterโ€™s wheel, there are still several simple ways of building up forms. Coils of clay are a good way of building up the sides of a hollow shape โ€“ laying the clay down in a spiral prevents it collapsing easily. Recesses can also be created by pinching the clay, digging out with your thumb and forefinger.

4. Avoid protruding shapes
you may have seen more advanced sculptors create figures with extended legs but the chances are they will have used armatures โ€“ long, metal skeleton structures that support the weight of the clay. Brass rods, aluminum wire and other stronger materials can be used, but it is often easier to practice with more contained shapes.

5. Look out for a local studio
while some art skills can be learnt through observation and practice, the more advanced aspects of clay sculpture can be tricky and need expert guidance. Look out for courses or local studios in our classified section and sign up to find out more, and to try your hand at firing your finished works for permanence.