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One Artist's Comments re: Working with Supersculpey Clay

It seems that most sculptors enjoy working with super- sculpey as a sculpting medium. So, working with this exciting clay will be the topic of this discussion. As many of you know, Supersculpey has marvelous qualities that when employed correctly can produce beautiful results. This clay, unlike oilbased clay, can not only be easily shaped with fingers or metal tools, but it can be baked to a hard finish, sanded, drilled, polished and painted. Hardened parts can easily be reshaped with cheap carving knives and changed with fresh supersculpey. Many examples found in this artist's Gallery located at are created entirely in supersculpey. The main reason that I wanted to learn how to use this medium, was to avoid the messy and costly moldmaking process. I thought that I can just create a sculpture, pop it into an oven, wait about 20 minutes and viola! a permanent piece suitable for display! Well, that's partially true. It is hard, but not nearly ceramic hard as the box describes. And, it may be true that the sculpture is shatterproof... but, it doesn't mean that it isn't fragile. Any sculptures that I tried to save in the past have been eventually damaged by day to day normal living.

Creating form

Once the armature is constructed and posed in the desired position, it is time to skin it. Working with my fingers, I start by pressing the right amount of clay (supersculpey) onto the armature, constructing large muscle groups as I go. Each layer of clay carefully overlaps the next, paying close attention to anatomical accuracy. I never apply a hunk of clay to an area and whittle it down into a recognizable form. Instead, I try to estimate as accurately as I can the exact amount of clay needed to produce the form and carefully reshape it with metal dental tools. This technique keeps the scale accurate and saves time during the creation process.

Using Tools

After the masses are blocked out, a large, heavy toothed rake is used to roughly bridge the forms by removing a little bit of material at a time. Smaller rakes with finer teeth are then used to refine the surface and to produce even subtler forms. Next, I'll brush down the surface of the clay with a short and flat bristled scrubber brush (made from flat brushes with the bristles cut short) dipped in 91% rubbing alcohol. This removes the scratchy lines left behind by the rake and if used well, further refines the form. Brushes are like having a thousand tiny fingers lightly caress and shape the form. Follow up with progressively softer brushes dipped in rubbing alcohol, until the surface is smooth. Caution must be exercised at this stage as most beginners tend to overbrush their sculptures and destroy their labored details as well as making mush of their forms. Remember that details do not make a great sculpture, the forms do.

Baking Supersculpey

If you desire to have a finished hard piece for display or for molding, then clearing your oven of tonight's' dinner is the next step. Preheat your oven to no more than 225 degrees F. (not the 275 degrees F. that the box states) and place your sculpture carefully inside. If you have any thin tapering tips like horns or long teeth, cover them with a little piece of aluminum foil to prevent scorching in that area. Continue baking the sculpture at this temperature for another 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your creation; the thicker the mass (2 inches or more) longer the bake time. After the desired time is reached, the sculpture can be carefully removed from the oven and allowed to cool at room temperature. If stress cracks should appear, try applying a thin amount of superglue inside the crack to prevent further crawling. To cosmetically hide the crack, I've pressed milliput into the crack and brushed over it with water. That seemed to do the trick.

See Also:
Air dry Clays
Sculpey (a)
Sculpey (b)
Fimo and Cernit
One Artists View
Other Clays

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