Clay Animal Figures

Hi Everybody,

I was watching the Antiques Roadshow last Sunday and one of the first items to be discussed was a clay child’s toy called a zebu or cow. I looked further into this and it was interesting to note that most ancient clay animal figurines are depictions of domestic animals such as cattle, cows, goats and sheep. Wild animals are rare. The figurines are sometimes decorated with incisions, lines and holes and used for toys and rituals.

In our clay sculpture workshops the making of clay animals is as popular as it was in ancient times, but it’s notable that the students often want to make more exotic animals that they have seen on TV documentaries.

Anything of any scale in ceramic sculpture needs to be hollow to avoid cracks or even exploding in the kiln. To make a largish clay model of a horse I would divide the horse in my mind’s eye into different components, such as body, legs, head and neck and then fix it all together. The biggest part of the horse would be its body or torso. One of my favourite techniques is to make a large thick coil of clay and then poke the handle of a long paint brush through the long length of the clay to create a hollow tube. This will be the body of your horse. Now it probably resembles a large thick clay drainpipe, but the great thing about this technique is that you can then get your fingers inside the clay and manipulate it from the inside to form the muscles and structure of the horse or whatever animal you are trying to create. You can prop the body of the horse up with another piece of clay then attach the legs, neck, and head. In the new year we will be downloading this technique with a bit more detail and lots of other animals you can make on our YouTube channel. Have a go yourself and speak next week.