Thursday, July 9, 2015

Clay Panther Sculpture Demo p. 3 - Venting and Preparing to Fire Sculpture

Once the sculpture is completed and before it is allowed to dry out, you need to punch some holes through the sculpture to make sure there are no air pockets. Always make sure that when you punch through the clay that you will break through to the newspaper armature under the clay surface. Otherwise, you will be creating air pockets, and the sculpture will have no chance in the kiln.

Using the needle tool, punch holes in the thicker areas of your sculpture, making sure to reach the newspaper underneath. Do this on large muscle masses and anywhere else that the clay feels thick. You cannot be too cautious on this step, it is better to create too many holes than not enough. Even one tiny air pocket can damage your sculpture.

venting a clay sculpture, clay sculpture air pockets, removing air pockets in a clay sculpture

venting a clay sculpture, clay sculpture air pockets, removing air pockets in a clay sculpture

Once you have created the hole, use your fingers to smooth the clay back over the exterior of the hole. This will make the surface appear just as it did before the hole was created, while making sure that any air pockets that may have been present are now opened up to the larger air pocket in the body cavity. - Information at the bottom of the page will tell you how to release the air from the body.

venting a clay sculpture, clay sculpture air pockets, removing air pockets in a clay sculpture
This picture shows 3 general areas of concern on the front of the sculpture that should be vented to the inside:
  1. The cheek
  2. The large masses of neck muscles
  3. The large masses of shoulder muscles
Take care when venting in highly detailed areas, such as the eye and face areas. If you used the scoring/slipping method with the eye, you should not need to vent there.

building a clay sculpture, clay panther sculpture, creating a ceramic lion sculpture
After smoothing the sculpture back over, it is time to sign your work. I like to place my signature somewhere inconspicuous, but where it can be easily found if someone is looking for it. On figures, I usually place the signature and date that the sculpting part of the artwork was finished on the inside leg, just below the torso. Sometimes I will place the signature on the clay base, but usually that area does not support a large, clear signature.
Where the signature is placed on this sculpture, it cannot be readily seen just from viewing the artwork, which makes this the perfect placement for this sculpture.

building a clay sculpture, clay panther sculpture, creating a ceramic lion sculpture
The head of the sculpture, with all of the final
details and after the sculpture has been vented and
smoothed back over.

building a clay sculpture, clay panther sculpture, creating a ceramic lion sculpture
The back leg that I had to rework because
the bottom portion was too long.
Removing the armature is fairly easy. Once the sculpture is leather-hard, the clay base will come loose from the wooden armature. Place your hand under the stomach of the sculpture and pull straight up, being careful not to pull the sculpture sideways. If it doesn't come up easily, twist the sculpture around the pvc to loosen the clay from the pvc pipe. After removing the sculpture from the armature, the openings in the sculpture where the pvc pipe was placed can be filled in with clay (make sure the clay is still wet enough to do this by scoring the clay opening of the sculpture and adding slip before attaching the new clay). You can also leave the hole there and fix it later (see page 7 - Fixing a Broken Sculpture). Either way, make sure there is some sort of opening somewhere in the sculpture for the air inside the body to be released during firing. If you made the back legs hollow, turn the sculpture upside down to check and see if the opening goes all the way through the bottom of the sculpture.

If you will be firing the sculpture in someone else's kiln and need to remove the newspaper, you may have to cut a hole in the bottom of the sculpture. Once you have the sculpture off of the armature, use either a needle tool or a sharp knife to cut out the entire stomach of the sculpture. Do not twist the knife, but use smooth strokes so as to do as little damage as possible. Once you have removed the newspaper, let the pieces dry separately, fire them, and then put them together as demonstrated in the Fixing a Broken Sculpture sections.

Once you have finished these steps, lay the sculpture on its side to dry (put it on a smooth surface, otherwise the texture of the surface could be transferred to the surface of the sculpture). In most cases you want an artwork to dry and be fired in the position it will be when finished (a standing sculpture should be standing, not lying down). This is because the clay can warp slightly while drying. However, on this sculpture I don't want to place weight on the hollow legs until after firing. Even once the sculpture has dried I'll fire it on its side (if a leg breaks during firing, the whole sculpture will not fall over, making it vulnerable to breaking worse or landing on an element and burning part of the sculpture).

Page 1 - Armature      |      Page 2 - Sculpting      |     Page 3 - Finishing Touches
Page 4 - Unfired      |     Page 5 - Firing      |     Page 6 - Build Base

About the Artist:

horse artist, equine artist, PSSM horse
Since starting my art business in 2004, I have been on a roller coaster ride that's taken me from art, to house flipping, to legal assistant, to horse trainer, and a full 180* back to my artworks.

I'm thankful to get back to my art, and also for the life experiences I've gained.

Things in life that matter the most!  Jen, husband Jared, and Jax

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