Ramblin' Dan's Workshop

The Sanctum of Fine Art and Invention

Getting Started in Sculpting

I am expanding my creative efforts into a new medium. I like wax carving so I am going to try sculpting in clay or a clay like material.

Clay is both additive and subtractive when creating. Wax is mostly subtractive except for adding small details with hot wax or doing repairs. Wax is a lot like wood carving. Easy to take away material but much harder to add back.

Working with clay is interactive in both adding and subtracting as needed. Much more forgiving on making changes.

The major problem is it is usually a soft material and will not hold fine details where handled. This is the problem with doing small pieces that are held in the hand for working. A lot of (larger) clay work is mounted or held on a stand and the artist seldom touches detailed areas.

There are several new sculpting materials that are heat sensitive and harden when cool. Applying heat or using heated tools allows for surface manipulation of the details. It is a cross of clay and wax carving skills. So it should fall right in with my wax carving abilities.

I intend to give it a try. I want to work on larger dimensional subject matter than jewelry. I could do that in wax but I like the hard clay process as it seems like it can be a bit easier to work.

The reason for carving in wax is that it can be burned away in lost wax casting. That can’t be done with clay, so there is an extra step.

Clay requires making a mold, either from RTV type rubber, then cast in wax or resin, or sectional plaster molds that come off the clay master in pieces and are reassembled into a complete mold.

Many soft clay sculpting techniques, require the fine detail be done in the wax before making the very final or finished cast. If casting in resin, there may need be a wax copy made, so it all depends on the very fine details desired.

The newer hardening clay, allows skipping the wax stage for adding the details. Because the clay surface is hard (like wax) when cool, very fine details can safely be added to the first stage.

I am presently waiting on materials to arrive. I ordered some Cx5 from Adam Beane Industries. It has been 11 days as of this writing and I am having fears that he may no longer be in the business. The web site says it may take up to two weeks to ship, because of the holidays. That is a poor excuse in my estimation for simply being unprepared.

There is another product that is almost the same material except for color, that many artist use. It’s called Castilene made by Chavant. Its seems to be readily available from several U.S. suppliers and is half the price per pound than Cx5.

Of course this is all still speculation gained from my studies of the products and my somewhat limited past experiences with clay modeling. It should be an interesting process to explore.

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