As an intro to figure sculpture that uses wire and Sculpey clay--a project I've done for several years now--students first spend some time drawing figures in correct proportion, based on the "average" human figure being 7 "heads" tall. After deciding upon who they want to sculpt, students find and print pictures of the "sculptee" and do several more sketches.
In the 2004-2005 year, we tried some new techniques for this project. Instead of using Sculpey to form solid heads for the figures, we followed the guidelines in Maureen Carlson's books, "Family and Friends in Polymer Clay" and "How to Make Clay Figures" and made aluminum foil "eggs," which were covered with a thin layer of Sculpey. This not only reduced the weight of the heads, but it also conserved our clay. I highly recommend both of these books and my students have used them extensively while working on their sculptures. Ms. Carlson's step by step illustrations are wonderful!
Another new discovery was that we could use glass "pearls" as eyes for the figures. These were purchased inexpensively in the crafts department at Wal-Mart. Beware of using any type of bead, however, that is made out of plastic, as it might melt when the heads are baked! The glass "pearls" do fine in the oven, and add a spooky--yet "realistic" touch--early on in the process.
Students started with the heads of their figures, getting the basic shape and size established. Once that was done, they used the roughly sculpted head as their unit of measure, and drew a simple, proportionately correct figure on a large piece of paper. Most sculptures are between 12-18" tall. Aluminum wire, salvaged from electricians' entrance cable, was used to create a "skeleton" directly over their drawing.
Arms and legs were attached by first crimping pieces of wire onto the "torso" and then reinforcing with small amounts of duct tape. They used masking tape to mark the placement of elbows and knees, then bent the wire to the desired position. "Muscle" was simulated with newspaper and masking tape, and papier-mache was used to form "skin" for any "flesh" that wouldn't be covered with fabric.
In most cases, hands and feet were made from Sculpey, and after the head, hands and feet had been baked, they were taped (and/or hot-glued) and then papier-mached onto the body.
The Sculpey was painted with acrylic paint, clothing was made from papier-mache or fabric, props were created, accessories were added, and all manner of creative problem solving took place for this project.
Students are always required to make a sculpture that is so well balanced that it can stand on its own (feet may be glued to a base) OR they must create props or "environments" that will support their sculpture in a realistic pose. Check back soon for more pictures and instructions from the 2004-2005 year figure sculpture projects!