Clay Heads

Susan O'Hara Sculptures

Modern Sculptures & Vases

Sculpting Methods

  • Working With Clay

    Over the years I have developed my own hand-building techniques. Nothing is wheel-thrown; I build free form using slabs or coils, carving or adding clay where necessary. The shape changes with each addition of clay and paddling with a wooden tool to arrive at a shape that inspires me. The heads may be glazed or finished with a technique which produces a wood-like finish. Each piece is unique and represents a particular mood, feeling or emotion which expresses itself as the idea is developed. Much like a writer who is influenced by the character he creates, so too do my pieces interact with me during the creative process.

    • Finishing Techniques

      Terra sigillata is a refined clay slip which gives sculpture a shiny quality without glazing. I have used it on leather hard (nearly dry) clay before kiln firing. The terra sigilata is lightly painted over the entire piece, left to dry, then polished with a soft cloth. This process is repeated two more times. This type of finish gives the sculpture a sheen after it is fired in a kiln.

      Shoe polish gives sculpture a wonderful, natural finish. Unlike terra sigillata, it is applied after the piece is fired. Several coats of mid tan or brown shoe polish mixed with a small amount of paint thinner are applied to the entire sculpture. I have found that using a toothbrush by dipping it first in the paint thinner and then in the polish works very well. It is best not to soak it too much in the paint thinner, however. For large pieces the same process is used with a soft cloth wrapped around the fingers instead of the brush. I let each coat dry overnight and then polish the sculpture with a soft cloth. Once you have achieved the desired color tone and given it a final hand polish, the sculpture is ready for the finishing touches! Spray Krylon satin finish on the entire piece and let it dry overnight to preserve the color. Note that this process is not appropriate to sculptures which will be exposed to bright sunlight.

  • Working With Stone

    I prefer to use alabaster for my pieces because it is a relatively soft stone. Carving is a very lengthy journey - simultaneously tedious and exciting - to a wonderful experience of seeing your final product.

    Deciding what to carve on a new stone is really the hardest process and could take some time. Always wet the stone to bring out the color as it may help to decide what to carve. Once the idea has been developed, then the carving begins. First I use a chisel and hammer to cut away parts of the stone that are unnecessary. I use different rasps as I get closer to what I want to define. I may also change my mind as to the look of the stone as I carve. The sanding begins when the form is fully developed. It is a time-consuming process to remove all the markings in order to smooth the entire piece, but it brings out the true color and beauty of the stone.

    In the sanding process I use wet/dry grades of sandpaper from 80 grit to 1500 grit and continuously sand the stone. Always rinse the stone between sandings. The more it is polished, the more the color of the alabaster stands out. Rub a smooth coat to wax polish on the stone to finalize the sculpture. Once completed, I love to rub my hands on the alabaster, to feel the smoothness and to look at it in all its glorious color; that is when I realize I've created a beautiful piece of art.



Clay Heads