Molds When pushed into a mold, a pliable material such as clay (shop clay) will adhere to the mold’s shape, most often with extreme detail. Molds are available pre-made, and all you need to do is push the modeling material into them to create the shape. These push-molds are great fun for kids and crafters who find the results can be used as jewelry, ornaments, wall hangings, magnets, etc. Molds from clay can also be custom made from any original piece of sculpture. Custom moldmaking is a complex process and complete books on the subject are available. Armatures No matter the modeling material you choose, if your final sculpture will be quite large, you will most likely need an armature. An armature is a structure used to support the sculpture, similar to the skeleton of your body. Modeling materials such as clay adhere directly to the armature and the whole, including the armatures and wires, becomes the final sculpture. Armatures are available pre-formed in basic figure and animal shapes or you can make your own. A variety of substances can be used to make armatures. It’s best to experiment with different types of wire and wood as they, at times, have different working properties such as bending ease, sturdiness, and size, to find what works best for your technique.
Clays and Tools Modeling materials may be placed into two categories: traditional and non-traditional. Clay, such as firing clay, clay mixtures, papier-mâché and plaster of Paris are considered traditional materials. Clay, also called earth clay, is very common and is what most people think of when they consider modeling. The one deterrent from beginning modeling using earth clay is that the final product must be fired in a kiln. Unless you have access to a kiln, begin your modeling education using air-hardening or oven-hardening clays. Clays made from synthetics, such as Fimo and Sculpey polymer clays, or made from clay mixed with chemicals and oils known as plasticine, are for obvious reasons considered non-traditional. Polymer clays come in a huge assortment of fully blendable colors; they remain pliable until you fire them and can be fired in a home oven. Plasticine clays also come in a variety of colors but remain totally pliable–they are used mainly in preliminary sculptures and for animation. Because clays are so pliable, it is easy to manipulate them with simple tools that may be fashioned from everyday objects. A bent piece of wire or different size nails are quite useful in shaping sculptures as are toothpicks and scissors. For more professional results clay tools are available. These tools are typically shaped wood or bent metal wire on wooden handles. Just a few will allow you to define your sculptures with precision.