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Hello, newbie here! Not too long ago, I decided I wanted to make a sculpture for my public library as a part of a Christmas decoration. I have my wooden dowel skeleton fixed up, putting it at 1'-2', and I'm using air dry clay. Problem is that it has been a while since I last used clay, and I don't know where to start WRT applying the clay on the skeleton. I tried putting slabs on it but it was too chunky on the legs and when I got up to the torso, it kept tilting over until it just broke off completely. 

Now, I added more dowels to the legs and spine, and will be adding more for the torso and violin, but I also need some tips on how to apply the clay, such as:

  1. Is it best to bulk it with foil or cotton balls and tape instead of clay? 
  2. Which sculpting method is best? And should I do more than one?
  3. Which parts should I use coiled clay, and which parts should I use slab clay and pinch clay?
  4. Is this something I should do in parts for each day, or is there a different timely process?

Thank you for the help!

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4 hours ago, liambesaw said:

Air dry clay eh... Maybe something like paperclay would be a better choice, air dry clay isn't very strong.  It's usually a starch based product similar to play doh

Yeah, it wasn't my best choice, heh. It was the least expensive option in the store.

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The problem you're going to have is that when they clay dries on your wooden armature, it will likely crack, because the clay dries as it shrinks. Typically when  something is built on a rigid armature, it is either done with an oil based clay that doesn't dry and then a mold is made of the piece, or the armature is removed before the piece dries too much.

I would also say that form making a figure that will stand, you need a beefier armature, and one that is well mounted to a base.

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You can use your armature as a guide, but don't trust it to hold your sculpture together. Plan for a "third leg" (maybe  a tree stump or animal or fence) look at other free-standing sculptures to see how a triangular or tripod base is used for stability. Or you can plan to attach the sculpture to a backing/background.

If freestanding, the weight of the left arm and fiddle will need to be supported - that "third leg" would be handy here - a fence post standing behind the point of the elbow to buttress it?

Instead of packing the clay around the sticks, pad them with taped together crumpled newspaper or foam sheets first. Then make 1/4" thick sheets of clay to form cylinders to wrap and shape your piece. Scratch and slip the seams to make secure joining. Then add all your details. 

Ask again if you run into problems, and please let us see your finished piece. :) 

Edited by Rae Reich

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