SCULPTING MEDIUMS

The most easily recognized form of modelling materials is clay sculpting, that is, the creation of a 3-dimensional piece of art typically using some type of clay: PLASTILINA (oil-based clay also known as plasteline, plasticium, plasticine), self-hardening (non-firing) clay, ceramic/pottery clay, WAX or other polymer-based material, such as WINTERSTONE. 

Clay is highly versatile, extremely easy to work with, and the ideal modeling material for the beginner as well as the seasoned sculptor. With nothing more than a block of clay, the artist can begin his journey of creativity. Your choice of material is a very personal one - based upon feel, texture, and hardness of the material, and possible required reproduction of the finished piece.

In addition to the materials selected, the artist also uses modelling tools to manipulate the material into the shape desired. These sculpting tools come in various shapes, sizes and styles and are used to cut, scrape or shape the modeling material to create a specific effect. They are usually produced from carbon steel, stainless steel, wood, and plastic.

Sculptors often turn to using armatures, and modeling stands, to assist them during the sculpting process. Armatures, internal support structures often constructed from aluminum, help in building your clay model which may not support their own weight. Modelling stands are a type of work table which can be moved around the studio and raised and lowered for optimum use.

We are working with sculptors, constantly improving and adding to our line of sculpting materials, hand crafted clay modeling tools, and accessories. Known for setting the standards for quality sculpting supplies and tools, we encourage sculptors to begin their journey in creativity here.

Shop our Plastilinas, self-hardening modeling clays, waxes, armatures, modeling stands and a wide variety of wood and steel sculpting tools and accessories.

Sculpting Material

The creation of a 3-dimensional piece begins with your choice of sculpting material: 

The medium the sculptor chooses to create his piece (“model”) is a personal one – determined by asking these questions:

  • What do you want to do with the finished model?
  • Do you have a preference for the material’s ingredients?
  • What feel or texture do you want while sculpting?

If you want to reproduce your finished model by making a mold and then cast of the piece, then you will want to sculpt using an oil- and wax-based material such as Plastilina. If you want your model to cure naturally producing a finished piece with no further mold making and casting required, then sculpting with a direct modeling material such as self-hardening clay (also known as air-dried clay) would be your choice. If you want to fire you modeled piece in a kiln, then a water based clay, such as pottery (ceramic) clay would be your best bet.

While all clay bodies have clay flour as a major component, their uniqueness is found in their individual formula’s remaining ingredients. In simple terms, Plastilina is an oil-and wax-base clay; self-hardening clay has a ceramic clay body as its base with natural additives to make them air-harden. Pottery (ceramic) clay is made from base clay with additional components mixed in a ribbon blender or pug mill while adding water.

Lastly, while not a medium you would normally think to sculpt in, many choose to directly model with wax in order to create a finely detailed piece. Other carving waxes are ideal for the mold making and casting process.

 

Sculpting Tools

While the thumb and fingers are excellent modeling implements to get your basic geometric shape framed out, additional modeling tools are often times needed to complete your work. These sculpting tools will act as extensions of your fingers and will enable you to perform the more intricate sculpting techniques. As with choosing the best modeling material, the tools selected by the sculptor is a personal one.

You can narrow your choices by asking these questions:   

  1. What do you want to do with this tool?
  2. Do you have a preference for the materials used in constructing the tool?
  3. What sculpting medium will you be working in and what size model will you be creating?

Sculpting tools come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes and each tool has one or more specific purpose.

The principal uses for these tools are:

  • cutting
  • scraping
  • shaping and smoothing
  • detailing

The most commonly used tools for cutting and scraping are Wire End Modeling Tools and Hardwood Modeling Tools are typically used for shaping and detail work.

If you are sculpting in ceramic (pottery) clay, which is soft moist clay, a wire end tool will not require the same cutting ability as that used when working in other mediums. A somewhat sharper cutting edge is necessary when working in wax and Plastilina since the material is firmer and detail work may be performed. And a tool that is ground extremely sharp or has very strong cutting edges will be necessary if working in plaster. The same theory holds true for tools made from high impact plastic, chrome, stainless steel and hard woods.

The size of the tools you choose to sculpt with will also be determined by the size of the finished model. For example, a small medallion or bas-relief will not require the same modeling tools you might use to sculpt a head that is twice life size.

You may have guessed that some of these modeling tools are interchangeable. That is, a tool that is used for working in Plastilina and wax may also be used when working in plaster or in mold making and casting.

Many of the tools we carry have resulted from collaborations with professional sculptors who requested that specific tools be made to their specifications. Browse the wide selection of modeling toolsDrop us a line if you are unsure of the tool(s) you should choose – we will be glad to help.

Armatures

An armature provides the internal foundation on which to build your sculpture. Much like our own human skeletal system is the framework which keeps us standing in an upright position, an armature is used to keep the artist's clay from collapsing, while also protecting the integrity of any outward extensions, such as thin limbs or legs. Truly, the most disheartening experience a clay sculptor can have is to create the ideal form, only to have his project fail due to the lack of a sturdy frame.

Armatures also reduce the amount of clay needed to complete a bulky figure, which ultimately makes the figure stronger. 

Although it can be made from a variety of materials, such as wood or steel, the (almaloy) aluminum wire armature is the superior choice due to the following features: non-corrosive, lightweight, fully pliable, non-staining.

Our strong and fully adjustable line of armatures are hand crafted and available as figure, animal, head and head-bust, and in a variety of sizes to suit your every need. Designed and constructed to be proportionately correct, our armatures are pliable enough to provide the artist with true freedom to create, while also being sturdy enough to maintain the sculpted piece’s integrity under the weight of the modeling material.

In addition to the pre-formed armatures, many sculptors choose to construct their own out of armature wire. When selecting this wrapping wire for clay modeling, the artist should look for a wire that is lightweight and strong, yet fully flexible, the key features of armatures themselves.

And don’t forget the wire must be able to withstand corrosion. Why is this important when selecting wrapping wire? Certain polymers and clays do not dry out. Therefore, if the wire is created from a material that has the ability to rust or corrode, the integrity of the sculpture will eventually be compromised. All our armature wire is non-corrosive and non-staining almaloy, making it the first choice of sculptors worldwide.

 

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