Working Methods

I now employ two main techniques to make my figurative ceramic sculptures:
1 – Hand Built Clay

My hand built clay sculptures are unique, hand-built one-offs. Using a system of rods developed by Ian Gregory , I freely build the figures, removing the supports once the clay can withstand its own weight.

I have adapted Ian’s technique by incorporating a solid ‘back-iron’ support. These working methods allow for free and spontaneous variations on a particular theme, each piece being subtly different from its predecessor.

I sponge-decorate my work with oxides, stains and glazes. All my sculptures are individually signed and dated.

2 – Hand Carved Clay

My usual method of hand-building clay sculptures is to add “wet” clay to the general shape and keep building outwards. Just recently I have discovered a new method of “hand-carving” clay, which I am excited by, and very much enjoying. It grew out of a desire to make small clay sculptures that were very bold and graphic, their simplicity lending them a power which belies their small size.

Inspired by Folk art and Inuit carvings (mixed in with my love for the work of Matisse and other 20th century masters), they use the language of simple lines and planes. I start by drawing out the basic outline on to a thick, rolled out sheet of clay, which I allow to go leatherhard.

I use knives and sharp blades to cut into and scrape away at the resistant, but still soft, clay. It is akin to carving in wood, but is much quicker and more immediate. Every mark of the tools is left on the surface – it is like a history of the making process. I prefer to interfere with the surface as little as possible once the design has been achieved, keeping it fresh and vital. Pieces can also be joined together with slip to add a base or other elements.

These hand-carved clay sculptures are all unique one-offs but I can produce very similar pieces if required although they will never be identical.

Paul Smith January 2012