Casting a clay figure

Getting a clay sculpture cast into another material can be a tricky and expensive business.

This series of blog posts is to share my experience of getting a life modelled figure from clay, to re-usable mould, to finished cast. I hope it will prove useful to someone as well as being a reminder to me :).

It’s a mixture of notes and resources gathered whilst creating an armatured clay sculpture, from initial measurements, drawings, creating the armature, application of clay and ways of getting it cast.

I started a figurative clay sculpture class in September where we worked with a life model – Fred – for 5 weeks. I’d never tried modelling from life before, but somehow fell into a trance whilst doing it and the hours flew by – I loved it!.

As this was a large sculpture (half life-size, at 90cm) we drew and took measurements to scale him down and used an armature to give the clay strength. I realised hadn’t given much thought of what would happen to the clay once I’d finished. I wouldn’t be able to fire it, and just left it to dry out, the clay would shrink and crack around the metal inside.

I’d enjoyed it so much I decided to investigate getting the clay cast into a re-usable mould so I’d be able to reproduce ‘Fred’ in another material; perhaps even metal. I knew vaguely it’d be pricey, but thought if it were around £1000, it’d be worth the investment. A few people had asked about buying him, so at least I might be able to recoup the cost.

Ah. It was a lot more than I thought! The skill and time that goes into the mould making process, and the rising costs of metals left me surprised. Even taking into account the differences in cost between city and rural foundries, it still wasn’t going to be feasible.

In the end I went on a re-usable rubber mould making course to have a go myself. The results wouldn’t be perfect, but I’d be learning and at least I’d be moving Fred a bit closer to getting cast.

Casting Fred into wax is the next step – in progress.

Casting a clay figure series
Drawings, measurements & armature
Figure and texture
Casting options and research
Reuseable rubber moulds
Casting in wax

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