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3 Types of Sculpture Materials to Consider Using as a Hobby

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3 Types of Sculpture Materials

3 Types of Sculpture Materials

Sculpture is a form of art expressing itself in a three-dimensional object. The object may be molded, chipped, or cut, depending on the medium used. It is art because it is beautiful. It is a craft if it has a practical function. It can be both an art and a craft because it is both beautiful and functional.

Types of Sculptures and Sculpture Materials

The sculptor may choose to work with clay, sand, sawdust, paper, plastics, or any other soft malleable medium. Sculpture can be chipped or cut from wood, metal, stone, marble, and other medium to hard classifications of objects.

Many of us have used clay and sand in school classes for many types of art and craft projects. Most of these objects were assembled using our hands. My first clay project was making an ashtray.

In the advanced grades we were allowed to chip our designs from soap, wood, or any other soft material which could be chipped using assorted types of special knife blades. My project was called “chip art”. The chipping was done on a wooden jewelry box.

The serious sculptor art student experiences cutting figures from trees, ice, and other selected medium with a power saw or they may choose to weld metal pieces together to create an art or a functional piece.

A person may specialize in one outlet or take on multiple outlets. It is a matter of adjusting or having a preference for different types of mediums. Start with small projects and experiment before deciding to sculpt a major piece of work.

These adorable clay figurines are made with clay and shaped by artistic hands.

These adorable clay figurines are made with clay and shaped by artistic hands.

1. Sculpting Clay

All school children have experienced molding clay in school or in the home. With our hands we start working the clay until it feels just right to be molded or cut. Some of us will start with a round ball of modeler’s clay and cut away unwanted areas or add additional clay pieces depending on the creation.

Example: A round face is the head of a person. We then cut away or indent the clay where necessary or add pieces of shaped clay to bring detailed features to the head. When completed we then paint our artwork and place it in the kiln for a permanent finish.

Others may roll the clay in the same way we roll out pastry dough, and then cut the pieces which will be needed. The cut pieces are then connected by pinching or pressing the clay pieces together.


We can create stick figures of gingerbread men or other favorite cartoon or animated characters with different shapes of cut clay. A cookie cutter or a sculptor's knife may be used to cut desired shapes. Additional pieces of clay may be applied by pressing the pieces together with our fingers or using a flat blade tool.

Starting on a small project is affordable. However, should you decide to make larger pieces, like pottery, additional accessories and a kiln will be required? You may wish to take classes and be exposed to the tool necessities before investing in more complex clay projects.

A carved wooden heart highlighted with a kissing couple.

A carved wooden heart highlighted with a kissing couple.

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2. Wood Carving

This art-form has been with us since the dawning of man. Wood carving made eating utensils, bowls, vases, statues, jewelry, religious articles, canoes, decorated woodwork in and on buildings and boats, visual art, and other art decor.

Unfortunately, wood is easily destroyed by water, insects, mold and mildew, and fire. For longer lasting items artists and craftsmen prefer carving stone and marble. However; the warmth and beauty of wood is very popular and favored by many.

Draw the design before beginning the carving process. The sketch is our pattern guide for cutting away unwanted wood to create the finished product.

Carving will require special tools and deciding on the type of wood to be used. It can become a very expensive hobby. If you are not sure if this is going to be your hobby of choice; start with a small object. A pen knife and a bar of soap is a very inexpensive beginning to help determine if carving is suitable for your talents and skills.

Carving tools:

  1. A pocket knife or an assortment of wood carving knives
  2. Hand chisels for detailed work
  3. Gouges, spoon shaped or straight, for chipping away
  4. V-tool for relief carving
  5. The type of wood and the project determines which tools are to be used
Ice sculptures require speed when working because of the cold temperatures. The life length depends on the temperature of the environment.

Ice sculptures require speed when working because of the cold temperatures. The life length depends on the temperature of the environment.

3. Ice and Snow Sculpture

Ice sculpture is beautiful but lasts for hours or perhaps a few months depending on the environmental temperature. The question is …”Are you able to live with creating an object which will disappear in a short period of time?” Ice carving and building a sand castle on the beach are beautiful but short lived. Some people do not mind repeating building the same object over and over; are you one of them?

Ice sculpture is no different than the other sculptures in that it can be carved into realistic figures or abstract art. The ice must be kept at freezing temperatures. A more permanent ice-like medium would be glass or crystals.

Sculptured ice figures may be seen in the great winter outdoors, on grand buffet tables’ at large conventions, weddings, and other special gatherings, and at ice festivals which feature these works.

The figure is carved from blocks of ice which has been removed from frozen rivers, lake, and ponds. The size of the block will determine if hand tools or a power saw is to be used. An individual or a machine may do the carving depending on the size of the ice block. A quicker method is to place water into a mold, freeze, remove, and refine the details. Colored ice is created with dyes.

An alternative to ice carving is snow sculpture. Every child enjoys making a snow man. Adult creators like to take it a step further by creating many other figurines and objects. Snow sculpture is similar to sand sculpture.

Both art-forms are created on the spot with available medium. The creation is done by one or many while onlookers enjoy watching. Hands or hand tools may be used. The snow sculptures are accomplished by packing the snow very tightly or from snow blocks which froze hard overnight.

The technique for packing the snow tight is the same technique used in sand creations.

Tactile Art

John Wall is busy working on a marble statue. Working with marble is for the more advanced sculptor.

John Wall is busy working on a marble statue. Working with marble is for the more advanced sculptor.

Questions & Answers

Question: what material is clay composed of?

Answer: Clay is earth mixed with a variety of minerals and rocks. Natural clay is available in red, yellow, and terracotta or brownish color. Most of us find it more convenient to purchase clay at an arts and crafts store.


RAMESH K K. BHAGAM ARTS KERALA on February 27, 2020:

I am a sculptor i have making woodern and rock sculpture so my life for art

Tricia Deed on June 17, 2019:


I took a tour online to check out stone carving in Kenya. It this is the type of work you sculpture; it is beautiful. It appears to me that the natural stone in your area offers the opportunity to sculpt any object to create unusual and different stone grain patterns in finished pieces.

The photos of the sculptured pieces which I saw online are stunning.

Gerard Motondi on June 12, 2019:

Grew up in a stone carving community in Western Kenya. I enjoy sculpting any type of stone. Garden sculpture is decorative, records history, and commemorate events. it is also therapeutic

Tricia Deed (author) from Orlando, Florida on March 30, 2018:

Deborah, click into Wiki How on the Internet. They have an article on oil based clay with illustrations to help you make this clay.

Tricia Deed (author) from Orlando, Florida on March 30, 2018:

Deborah, I found an article by WikiHow describing how to make an oil based clay. The article includes step by step instructions with pictures. Check out their website for this information.

Deborah Atwood on March 28, 2018:

I have been searching for hours, for Homemade Oil based clay.

And only able to find 1. The guy doesn't give out the Recipe.

Is there anyone out here that has a recipe they don't mind sharing with me?