Memorial Sculpting for Grief Recovery 7…the bowl

Premier paper clay

One of the important aspects of this memorial sculpture was the opportunity for the family to become involved and to put their own hands into the work also. When discussing this with the mother we touched upon the idea of having the family make the bowl that the boys would be holding in the final bronze. The problem is that they live in Nebraska and I live in Colorado. I spent some time thinking about how we could make the work. The other problem is that I would need to bowl in my studio in order to sculpt it with the boys in clay. 

I decided that the best course of action would be for me to create the bowl first to get the overall size, scale and shape that works in the sculpture. Then I would get that bowl to the family and they would re-create the bowl in close proximity to the size/scale/shape and then send me their bowl, which I would then use to finish the sculpture.

The thought was that the family would have an intimate connection the bowl - it would have their love and literally their fingerprints in the piece that would be picked up by the mold and transferred into bronze along with the figures.

Because we would need to mail (or drive) the bowl during the summer we were faced with several challenges to find the right medium to make this work.

1) Oil Clay:
 Pros - it is malleable and would be easy to work with and would hold their fingerprints
Cons - it is soft, may loose its shape and would be damaged in transport or shipping

2) Wax:
Pros - it is strong and would hold its shape - holds fingerprints
Cons - it is likely to warp/melt in summer heat during shipping/transport

3) Epoxy Clay:
Pros - very strong, cures in hours, won’t dent, warp or melt in transport/shipping
Cons - difficult to sculpt - would be hard to keep the proper shape before curing. 

4) Polymer Clay:
Pros - soft to sculpt but cured hard in oven for transport/delivery - seals easily for moldmaking
Cons - hard to keep shape during baking - likely to warp in oven

After considering the different options I decided to go with Paper Clay. I chose Premier but LaDoll or Creative Paperclay would work just as well. I used a cheap plastic bowl with a diameter of 4” to use for the form, lined it with plastic wrap so the clay wouldn’t bond to the plastic bowl and pressed the paperclay in into the bowl to a thickness of about 3/16” of an inch and then used a small, smooth stone to smooth and compact the surface letting it dry over night.

The next morning I took the paper bowl out of the form, removed the plastic and then smoothed the outside of the clay. It dried exceptionally hard and the paperclay surface can be re-wet and additional clay added, or sanded smooth. This gave us two options: the family could make the bowl in paperclay and mail back to me with no problems in shipping - or they could take it a step further and make the bowl in paperclay, let it dry and then they could put a very thin layer of polymer clay on top. The polymer clay is very soft and easy to sculpt, write on and press fingertips into. As it would be applied to the hard paperclay it wouldn’t warp while curing in the oven. The added benefit is that the polymer clay would be much easier to seal and take a mold from.


The mother really liked this last idea as it gave the family the most freedom to put their impressions into the bowl and not to worry about it not fitting into the sculpt or being damaged in shipping.


Now that the logistics of the bowl have been worked out I am back at work getting the boys fleshed out in clay and starting to add the clothing and base. 

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