Sculpture 101

The art of sculpting is a multi-step, multi-discipline process, but can be broken down into four major steps: modeling, molding, casting, and finishing.

Modeling:  Metal goods from hardware stores are used to construct an armature, or skeleton, for the piece being sculpted. This armature supports the weight of the clay and keeps it from collapsing. An oil-based clay is then added to the armature in small pieces - the artist shapes, or sculpts, the clay as he or she continually adds small amounts of clay. The sculptor often works from a sketch, photograph, or from imagination. This stage is the most creative, and one of the most time consuming, in the sculpting process.

Modeling:  Metal goods from hardware stores are used to construct an armature, or skeleton, for the piece being sculpted. This armature supports the weight of the clay and keeps it from collapsing. An oil-based clay is then added to the armature in small pieces - the artist shapes, or sculpts, the clay as he or she continually adds small amounts of clay.

The sculptor often works from a sketch, photograph, or from imagination. This stage is the most creative, and one of the most time consuming, in the sculpting process.

Molding:  After a piece has been completed in clay, the molding process begins. Polyurethane, or synthetic rubber, in liquid form, is applied to the clay with a paintbrush. This sets quickly and forms a layer of soft rubber. This step is repeated several times  

until the desired thickness is reached. This soft rubber mold is the first, or inside mold.

The soft mold, however, is not sturdy enough on its own for the casting stage. Therefore, it is necessary to make a second mold, known as the "mother mold", that surrounds the soft inner mold. It is made of a modified gypsum resin, a plaster-like material, and is applied by hand.

Once set both the mother mold and the soft inner mold are lifted off the clay. Each mold is individually cleaned and prepared. The two molds are then joined back together again (but without the insdide clay sculpture), secured to prevent leakage, and readied for casting. The entire molding process usually takes several days.

Molding:  After a piece has been completed in clay, the molding process begins. Polyurethane, or synthetic rubber, in liquid form, is applied to the clay with a paintbrush. This sets quickly and forms a layer of soft rubber. This step is repeated several times 

until the desired thickness is reached. This soft rubber mold is the first, or inside mold.

The soft mold, however, is not sturdy enough on its own for the casting stage. Therefore, it is necessary to make a second mold, known as the "mother mold", that surrounds the soft inner mold. It is made of a modified gypsum resin, a plaster-like material, and is applied by hand.

Once set both the mother mold and the soft inner mold are lifted off the clay. Each mold is individually cleaned and prepared. The two molds are then joined back together again (but without the insdide clay sculpture), secured to prevent leakage, and readied for casting. The entire molding process usually takes several days.

Casting:  Casting is the process which results in the final sculpture. The sculptor chooses a material to be cast into the final piece. Materials often used include plasters, metals, resins, and fiberglass. The material is poured, brushed, or rotated into the hollow area of of the molds and allowed to set, or harden. (In teh case of metals, additional steps must be taken during the casting process.) After the casting material has set, the two molds are removed from the cast piece. 

Casting:  Casting is the process which results in the final sculpture. The sculptor chooses a material to be cast into the final piece. Materials often used include plasters, metals, resins, and fiberglass. The material is poured, brushed, or rotated into the hollow area of 

of the molds and allowed to set, or harden. (In teh case of metals, additional steps must be taken during the casting process.) After the casting material has set, the two molds are removed from the cast piece.

Finishing:  Finishing of the cast sculpture involves removing surface irregularities that may have occurred as a result of the casting process, and joining any parts that have been cast separately. 

A variety of material may be used to color the surfaces, including paints, dried pigments and waxes, shellacs, and other materials the artist may choose. A clear acrylic layer is sprayed onto the sculpture when coloring is complete to protect the surface. This stage of coloring is highly creative, and is done by hand, making each sculpture truly unique.

Finishing:  Finishing of the cast sculpture involves removing surface irregularities that may have occurred as a result of the casting process, and joining any parts that have been cast separately. 

A variety of material may be used to color the surfaces, including paints, dried pigments

and waxes, shellacs, and other materials the artist may choose. A clear acrylic layer is sprayed onto the sculpture when coloring is complete to protect the surface. This stage of coloring is highly creative, and is done by hand, making each sculpture truly unique.

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