This winter, I enrolled in a hand building class at Midwest Clay Project here in Madison. The teacher focused on figurative hand building, and started us out with a bunny. I took lots of pictures along the way to show you a bit of the process.
The first two heads I started with were too round and too human like, with eyes directly in the front of the head. I added a beak nose, fat lips, and horns to one of them, then threw them both in the reclaim bucket!
Here’s my third attempt at a head, which I decided to keep. The head shape is more oval, and the eyes are set back from the nose and mouth. On the right, I’ve added ears. There are small clumps of clay behind the ears that I used to keep the ears upright, in place and stable while they dried.
Because the clay on the ears is a lot thinner than the rest of the body, I needed to keep them wrapped in plastic so they didn’t dry out before I got the body finished. Each time I worked on the rabbit, I unwrapped the ears, sprayed them with water, made sure the placement was still correct, and wrapped them back up. I’ve attached the head to a body in this photo, and you can see that I had the front arms looking more like a human, coming out of shoulders at the side of the neck. I changed that later in the process.
Once I had the body shape almost completed, and when the clay was dry enough to better hold its shape, I cut the body in half. I dug and scooped and scraped out as much of the inside clay as possible, then stuffed the body with newspaper, which helped maintain the shape while it dried even more. There was a hole at the end of the rabbit where I pulled the newspaper out later, then closed up the hole.
Here she is, almost done. You can see I’ve changed the shoulder/arm position. The ears are still wrapped. If part of the sculpture dries out faster than another part, there’s a greater chance of cracking. To avoid that, I want the entire rabbit to dry out evenly. The body will take a lot longer to dry than the ears, so the ears will be unwrapped when the rabbit’s almost dry. I’ve still got the ear supports on, and will take those off at the same time, when she’s almost dry.
Here, she’s completely dry and being weighed on the scale prior to bisque firing, then she’s out of the kiln with no cracks and ears intact. Hurrah!
Here she is after glazing and awaiting her last firing. I painted her eyes with blue underglaze, then painted liquid wax over the blue so the body glaze wouldn’t cover the blue. I also waxed her teeth so they’d stay light colored. The wax burns off in the kiln. I poured a brown colored glaze over the rest of her body.
And here she is! I used black acrylic paint to line her eyes and give her pupils. I doubt I’ll ever make another rabbit, but the process of sculpting an animal in clay was good for me to work through. She’ll be placed in my garden this spring. Hippety Hop!