Making a Large Clay Head

I have been wanting to make a large, single-piece fired ceramic head for a long time, and yesterday was finally the day to start.  I had a burning need to just do it, but unfortunately with sculpture there is a long process to get to the finish line.  I thought it might be fun to show a handful of pictures from a wild two days with some behind-the-scenes shots of the process thus far.  There is still much to do, and maybe that will end up in a second post, but for now I do have the original large head almost ready.  It will then be molded and a second clay head which is able to be fired in a kiln will be made from that mold and then hand-modeled into finished form.  The final result will be somewhat smaller (clay shrinks in firing) but should be able to stand on its own on the ground, outdoors, even in a cold climate.  I have done so many nudes for so long that it will be nice to have something that can finally go in a public place ( in the U.S- we're not big on nudes here!)

Started off needing to build a big heavy-duty cart, which took all the first day. 

Lots of trips to Home Depot.  I also got the pipes assembled which form the internal supports, sort of like Legos for Sculptors. 

Then I started cutting foam insulation into a head-shaped slices  which I then wrapped with plaster-soaked burlap strips which give the clay something to grab onto. 

Clay doesn't grab easily, though, so I had to dig through my recycled clay bins to the very bottom to get the goopiest clay (yeah, it does smell) and literally throw it at the sides of the piece to get it to splat/stick on and provide a base for the additional layers of clay.  Believe me the goggles are necessary -- the stuff flies everywhere and will have to be cleaned off the side of the studio windows tomorrow.

by 6pm, starting to look like a head.

by 6pm, starting to look like a head.

 

It was sticking well, so I kept adding through the dinner hour, on a roll, and ended up with something close enough to cast by 8pm.    Again, this piece is not the final piece as it cannot be fired or used for anything but a mold, (and even there, I am the only person I know of crazy enough to try to mold slabs of this size and join them together for a high fire kiln)  but it's a nice start on a project I have been wanting to do for years.  Wish me luck on the next stages!

Head is 42"H.  The new stand is holding up well, and only one prop under the chin to keep the face from falling off!  The ears are just placeholders now as they will not be part of the mold and will need to be modeled and added  directly on the finished piece.

Head is 42"H.  The new stand is holding up well, and only one prop under the chin to keep the face from falling off!  The ears are just placeholders now as they will not be part of the mold and will need to be modeled and added  directly on the finished piece.