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Mikelle

Armature Help

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I am brand new to sculpting and I need to get a few more pieces in my portfolio to get accepted into an art program. I decided to begin using ceramics and earth clay instead of oven-bake polymer clay and I really need help on how to keep my clay from cracking around my armature. I don't know what materials are safe in a kiln and what materials will make my clay explode. I sculpted a hand with a wire armature and as it was drying it started to crack. I looked it up and found out that I need to have room for shrinkage and ways to help is to wrap newspaper around the wire. Is it safe to put newspaper and wire in a piece and have it not explode and crack? How am I supposed to control the drying environment so that my clay doesn't crack? And I’m also trying to sculpt a skull and I was wondering if it would be easier to hollow it out than to make an armature.

 

Any tips and tricks wanted!!!

 

Thanks!!

Mikelle

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Mikelle-

What scale are you working (miniature, life size, larger)? Rough dimensions are good. Having  an idea of how large your pieces will be allows options for whether you might need an armature , what techniques to use, what materials might be used to make the armatures (if needed), and what kind of armature might be utilized.

Wire armatures work, but you will want to remove them from the clay prior to firing. Padding the armature with paper will help with the shrinking issue as long as the paper is not densely crumpled. You will want the paper to be able to “give” as the clay shrinks. Hollowing the piece is an option, both with and without an armature. This can be done when the clay has stiffened enough to be handled without distorting it too much, but soft enough to allow you to carve away excess clay and to reattach sections you may have cut apart in order to hollow them.

As to controlling drying, wrapping with plastic bags, putting the pieces in an airtight container, or under an inverted plastic bucket all work.

Hopes this helps you a bit. There are lots of ways to successfully do sculptures with clay. It’s just a matter of finding what will work with what you make and how you go about making them.

Regards,

Fred

 

Edited by Fred Sweet

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Thanks, Fred!

I am hoping to create most of my projects roughly life-size but I am mainly concerned about the small, thin details. Will it harm the clay/kiln to leave wires in while I fire it? I'm wondering this because I have already completed a piece with wires in it (they caused a lot of troubles with cracking but I patched that up) and I don't want to break my clay or the school's kiln. It is somewhat thin, maybe 3mm, and buried in the clay and it is already dried. I don't think it would be possible to remove it without destroying the piece. 

Thank you for all your help! I'd love to continue sculpting and become the best I can. 

-Mikelle 

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I’d place the piece on a “waster” slab. Just a piece of clay that you’re using rolled out to about 1/4 of an inch. That way when the wire melts it won’t run into the kiln shelf and ruin it. You can coat the upper side of the slab with kiln wash. Might help release the piece should the metal try to seal it to the shelf or waster.

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If you're pressed for time completing your portfolio, a fired project may be more complicated and frustrating to master quickly. Consider using air-dry clay for now and tackling a fired project when you have more time. (By all means, go ahead with firing the hand, following Fred Sweet's good advice, though you should be prepared for a learning experience.)

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Mikelle-

An advantage to doing sculpture vs. functional pieces is that if repairs are needed they can be done using a good 2 part epoxy (stay away from the 5-minute variety), whether it is the clear adhesive type for joining or the putty type for filling/rebuilding areas. Many of the epoxy types can be “tooled”, meaning you can file and/or sand them to a final surface contour.

Another is that you can use “room temperature” glazes (various paints,  etc ) and other materials (waxes, shellac, graphite, etc) to achieve the final look for your pieces.

Keep us informed regarding your progress.

Regards,

Fred

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