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How To Create A Very Large (4-5Ft) Statue?


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I'm new to working with clay, but my research has shown that Kiln's dont typically come much larger than 2x2. or 3x3 at most (which will run you 8,000+ dollars).  I got my hands on a 15x17 kiln which is plenty large enough for most smaller projects, but I could see myself wanting to work at a much larger scale, as well.

 

If I wanted to make a sculpture that was 3 feet tall I obviously can't fit the entire thing into my kiln.  I imagine I would need to fire the sculpture in parts and then attach it together, but that seems like it could be disastrous.   How are most large clay sculptures made?  I would really love a link to a guide detailing some of this if anyone has one.  

 

I dream of one day moving on to large stone statues, but that's very expensive so I want to practice my hand with clay for a while first.  

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Welcome to the forum.

 

You indeed stated the best method for making large sculptures,mbased on the constraints of a smaller kiln. Make the sculpture in sections and connect them afterwards. They make a lot of great, strong adhesives, that you can use to connect them.

 

Many large sculptures, including ceramic murals, are made this way. In both cases, you build the whole thing at one time, and then cut it into smaller pieces, then fire.

 

Like you might guess, some larger sculptures are just fired in larger kilns.

 

I've seen photos of really large sculptures, that are fired in place. They are wrapped in a ceramic fiber blanket, and heated with multiple torches.

 

Best of luck.

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Welcome to the forum.

 

Make the sculpture in sections and connect them afterwards. 

 

Definitely the way to go.  Make sure the parts interlock and are stable - think of the way a doll is jointed, with wires holding the two arms together.  also use any feature lines as joints.

 

I've always wanted to make a large obelisk, like Cleopatra's Needle in London, or the obelisks in Karnak and Luxor, Egypt, except not quite as big.  I've just never worked out where to put a joint as these are smooth from top to bottom!

 

Good Luck.

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Also remember that clay shrinks. If you are going to join parts with bolts, or match them with other materials. It is best to match up the joining holes on all the clay sections before firing otherwise they may not line up once the piece shrinks.  Even with that you may get differential shrinkage, liquid nails adhesive and ceramic tabs between sections also works well for pieces with simple vertical joins.

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I have some larger gas kilns that the door on the side and the floor roll out on for loading.

 

From what I have found. With larger pots as in over 50 pounds the thickness of the clay becomes important with lead to drying issues the 573*c quartz, and the shrinkage in the vitrification stage of firing. If you get a nice long crack it will normally be on the side where most of the heat came from. A very even slow heat is the key.

 

I have been told by people with larger electric kilns they have the same issues.

 

A lot of art is not fired much past bisque stage from what I have read.

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Yogzula,

i don't know what your situation is, or if you have the space and infrastructure for a large kiln, but if you are patient and do some looking around kilns can be had very inexpensively. They are large and sometimes difficult to move, taking them in pieces is time consuming and can be challenging, so sometimes people just need to get rid of them...fast, and great deals can be had. I got both my gas kilns that way, one is a nice home made 10 cubic foot gas kiln i paid $200 for based on a trent thomas design and moved it brick by brick, and the other is a 16 cubic foot alpine i was given for free, just the cost of a forklift and truck rental. Check the message boards at your local ceramic shop, with schools and craigslist.

best of luck

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A lot of art is not fired much past bisque stage from what I have read.

 

Yes. The art side of ceramics doesn't need to be vitrified. This means that keeping the firing schedule at low temperatures the work stays larger (good) and has fewer technical issues (good).

I find that clay shrinks most on the phrase from wet to green and then again at vitrification. The drying is easy to control to make it happen slowly and thus trouble free. The firing of a large piece also must be fired very slowly from about 100°C to 600°C to allow chemically bonded water to escape and quartz inversion to happen slowly. A large fully vitrified piece is more likely to develop cracks.

A clay with coarse grog (about 20%) will also have fewer technical issues with firing and more structure and strength during the building stage.

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Large scale ceramic sculptures can be fired in place, usually with wood or gas. Steel and fiberfrax structures are built around the work. http://www.ninahole.com/

 

Some educational and private facilities have much larger kilns custom built for their larger work. Modular and sectional building methods are possible, but not always ideal for the work. The temporary frax kilns are by far the most cost effective short term solution, assuming you've exhausted local university and artist resources. 

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I have done some sculptural type pieces back in the day that had to be fired in multiple loads and assembled. the big thing is planning, preleiminary sketches, or even scale drawings help a lot. There are two main ways to go here. Construct the entire piece, and cut it into sections, or to draw out each piece create, and assemble for checking then tear down and fire. Either way, making certain walls are of consistent thickness, structural supports are added to support weight above, and areas to be glued/mortared together are tight fitting to allow for strong joins.  If working from sketches and in a modular manner, thrown pieces are easily added into the mix.

 

 

best,

Pres

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I created 44" ceramic sculptures a while ago. The kiln was a 45" electric Alpine. Some of the challenges I had were drying very slowly, too fast and there were cracks, especially where the seams were ( I built them using coils). I created a drying cabinet using plastic bags, worked well. This changed with the seasons, winter being the driest and needing the most attention while drying.  

 

I built them in one piece and a seam wouldn't have worked with the pieces. There is a huge difference in making something large and one medium height. My studio kiln is 23" high, it took a few tries to get it 44" high, no cracking.

 

The weight of the final piece should be taken onto consideration. How to move it when it is being made, green ware, etc....

 

Both bisque and glaze firing were done slowly with a 15 -20 minute soak with the glaze fire as the top and bottom of the piece had the potential to be different. The soak allowed the glaze to even  out. I suppose you could do that with the bisque as well.

 

The application of the glaze was somewhat of a challenge as there was so much surface. I experimented with pouring the glaze but found the drip marks were a problem for the work. I do not spray because of the significant amount of waste but it might work for you.

 

Best of luck. I will be looking to see how you do.

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