Wednesday, February 2, 2011

clay faces

On MLK Day I went to the first of 3 free clay classes offered at our local clay store. I'm really excited I got a spot in the class as I have been on the waiting list for 3 years! 9 other ladies, all in art education, and I spent the morning learning how to make clay heads and the afternoon perfecting our kiln firing technique and knowledge. (P.S. I learned why it is really not a good idea to glaze before you bisque fire even if it is more convenient)
With permission I documented the process of making my clay head. I had a hard time with this project. Some of ladies also struggled and some had no problem. This was introduced as a beginning project but I question that. It took all of us a good 2 to 3 hours to complete our heads. One step has you push a hole into the head from the neck area to hollow it out and help form the face. I had a hard time with this step, my finger were too short and I have normal size adult hands.
So I would save this one for students who have either more time to work, or more clay experience or maybe are on the older side.
Enjoy laughing at the photos of my attempts!
start with 2 one pound blocks of clay

make one into a ball

use your thumbs to press indents for the eyes and push clay up to make the nose. Use your nail or a pencil to draw a smile.

make the eyeballs to go into the eye sockets (about marble sized)

put a coil of clay across the top and bottom of the eyeball to make the eye lids, smooth them on but leave a strong "brow" bone. Use your finger to start pulling the lips apart

add coils for the lips and try to smooth into the face and keep a natural smile look (ummm....that is way easier said than done I found)

ok now we took the 2nd piece of clay and made it like a hollowed out boat. Flip it over. Attach the head to the upside down boat and pull clay from the back of the head and under the chin to create a neck . This is the only part I feel I did really well. Lots of people's heads tipped backwards but mine was looking straight ahead. Oh and you have to push your pointer finger up into the head to hollow it out a bit. You are supposed to push the cheeks from the inside out but my fingers were not strong enough to accomplish that goal so I had to build mine up with clay.

an hour has passed since the last photo. I got so involved trying to get done before time was up that I stopped taking photos. I used a pen to make the nostril holes and the pupils. It took me about 15 min to deal with the mouth but I still am so so on it. Then I added the hair with the garlic press. She had kind of snotty/judgmental look on her face so I decided to make her a high society lady and give her a little mink around her neck. That is my favorite part and was super fast to make compared to the face. The mink is also helping support her head.

And now for my classmates people (photos taken with their permission!)
my table-mates project

she did a great job with the hair and neck and shirt

look at the character she created! His ears and hat are amazing!

love the baseball hat!

and then we all saw hers and felt like a big bunch of losers. Can you tell she is a professional artist that does art classes on the side. I just love the mask. She reminds me of something from a Midsummer Nights dream.


  1. Thank you for sharing this post. I think you did such a great job and lucky you to get into the class!

  2. Just curiuous, Why is it not good to glaze before bisquing?

  3. Holly,
    The women who taught the class explainted that their is a compound similar to sulfur that occurs in clay. When the clay is bisque fired the sulfur like compounds can turn into gas and burn off. When you put glaze on before bisque firing you are not allowing the chemicals to be relased during firing as they are traped by the glaze. This can produce more "blow ups" and in high levels cause dangerous fumes.

  4. sorry about my crummy spelling during the last reply!

  5. I love your step by step photographs! These make things so much easier for my students. Can I show yours?

  6. these are so cool!!! i would love to try this project :)

  7. Tara,
    go ahead, but seriously try this project yourself first and make sure you feel you kids can do it. Like I said I had a bit of trouble with it and I've taken several clay classes over the years. Then again I could have been doing the adult obsessing about making it look "right" thing.

  8. Hello, I have a question about bisque firing this project. Since the clay was so thick...did any of the projects end up blowing up in the kiln? I would be surprised if none did, but I'm sure they looked great after they came out of the bisque fire and then you all glazed them! Let me know. Thanks!