In this text, using examples and pictures, I explain how to make a hollow female torso. Here are the necessary tips that a beginner should read before starting.
This text can be ordered via “contact” on the menu bar.



STEP 1: Searchin
g for documentation.

Maybe you’ve seen somewhere a good example on photo. This may be a good reason to start. Don’t imitate anything but have the intention to create your own design. However, it can’t hurt to save some pictures of sculptures you like and find out why you like them, or what you find so nice about them, like the detail, color, finish or style.

STEP 2: Making sketches on paper.

Sketch on the paper the selected photos, it helps you to memorize these things.

book fig1
Fig. 1: Sketches.

Make a rough sketch on paper of your future sculpture.

book fig2

Fig. 2: Sketch


STEP 3: Design or model.

Make one or more models (clay sketches without details or finish) with a height of about 20 cm.

book fig3

Fig. 3: Small clay model

From here, the THIRD DIMENSION begins to play a role. Front, back and sides have to form a harmonious whole. If this is not the case, keep the clay model (to learn) and create a new model. Continue until you are satisfied.

STEP 4: Choose the height of the sculpture.

Choose the height of the sculpture as a function of the place where it has to be placed: a closet, pedestal or possibly the floor. Choose the height according to your own abilities: beginners do not go beyond 50 cm because they are unfamiliar with the gravity of the clay. A sculpture of 1 meter height with a shard thickness of 4 cm is no longer liftable and will be difficult to make the finishing and sliding in the oven. Keep strictly to the chosen height.


I chos
e a sculpture 70 cm in height, the height of my oven.


 STEP 5: Calculate the magnification.

Divide the height of the future sculpture by the height of your three-dimensional model, then you can use this factor to calculate all sizes, including the breadth and depth.

book fig4

Fig. 4: My sculpture becomes 68 cm high, my clay model is 22.6 cm high, the magnification factor is 68 / 22.6 = 3 cm. I use this magnification factor in the construction process. Hip width of the clay model is 8 cm, the hip width of my sculpture should be 8 * 3 = 24 cm


STEP 6: Shard Thickness.

The shard thickness must be maintained as much as possible over the entire sculpture. Thinner parts dry and shrink faster during drying. This creates tension between thicker and thinner parts and this often results in cracks. Parts more than 5 cm in thickness are usually constructed hollow or excavated. The choice of shard thickness depends on the height and the shape of the future sculpture.

book fig5 v

Figure 5: The shard thickness of my sculpture varies between 1.5 and 2 cm.

STEP 7: Preparation.

Take a shelf that is large enough to carry your sculpture, wood absorbs moisture from your clay and lets the clay easily come off the shelf. This is useful in the first phase, in which the sculpture dries a bit and the clay becomes firmer. However, remember that after a few hours it is a disadvantage because only the bottom of the clay remains to be dried and the risk of breakage and the crack is enlarged by uneven drying. So, prefer a waterproof shelf or put a piece of rigid plastic on the shelf. This is also more convenient to cover if you leave it aside. Don’t take a micro film, which is too thin and breathable, thus water-permeable.


STEP 8: Choice of clay.

There are many types of clay. I would suggest the use of chamotte clay.
What is chamotte?
Chamotte is already baked and crumbled clay, which is added in a certain percentage on the fresh clay. Chamotte pieces vary in size betwe?q??q??i? ?(r??q?@?q?e percentage of chamotte can vary (0 to 25%). For sculptures higher than 50 cm it is advisable to use chamotte of ( 1 to 2 mm, 25%). The more the chamotte , the less the shrinkage.
The use of chamotte may affect the texture of the sculpture at the finish.

The color of fresh clay is always different from the color of
baked clay. The color can range from white to yellow, brown to black, beige or red. The color gives a special meaning to your sculpture. For good depth, perception and shadow, use a white or light color. The color of the baked clay depends on the number of degrees of heat on which it is baked. Therefore, make test plates.

Create test plates of about 0.5 cm thick with dimensions of 10 cm by 7 cm, and then try many different textures (polished, rough or scraped). Bake these plates at different temperatures, e.g. 900, 1000, 1100 degrees Celsius. Choose the right color and texture. Measure the dimensions of the baked test plate again and then calculate the shrinkage.

I choose white coarse (rough) chamotte (1-2mm) clay with a high percentage (25%) of chamotte. During the construction, t
he clay is less limp and the shrinkage is less.

Store the clay well sealed from air with a heavy plastic over 0° Celsius. There should be no holes in the package.

What do you do when the clay is too dry?

Crush the completely dried clay into pieces with a hammer. Dissolve the crumbs in a bucket of water, stir well, wait until all the dry clay is moist and pour a lot of water. Place a cotton cloth in a plaster mould. Lay the moist clay on it. The plaster draws the moisture out of the clay. Let it dry until the desired humidity is reached and keep the clay under plastic. The fabric facilitates the removal from the mould and prevents getting plaster particles in the clay. These have a different coefficient of shrinkage than clay and give cracks during the drying process of the sculpture.
Wrap the semi-dried clay in a wet cotton cloth and put it in a sealed plastic bag. Moisten the cloth if it gets too dry. This takes time.


STEP 9: Composition.

Build your volumes with the colombintechnique.
Make clay rolls (sausages), press them flat and work together along the inside and outside, that way no air bubbles are trapped inside. Air has a different coefficiënt of expansion. While drying, the clay could crack. A bubble that has no connection with the outside detonates the sculpture.
The thickness of the rolls is according to the size of the sculpture and varies between 1,5 and 3 cm.

book fig6

Fig. 6: Colombintechniek.

It is not always helpful to start at the bottom of the sculpture. Divide the sculpture into several volumes, it is useful to first create the largest volume and the narrower parts to be built later.
What do you do when the sculpture starts to sag?
I use two techniques:
Stuff the parts with pieces of crumbled newspaper. This sucks the moisture. Refresh the newspaper when it gets wet. Place a strip of wet cotton cloth on the edges, and cover it with plastic wrap.
If the border is too dry, make scratches on the edges and fill the scratches with vinegar.
This method takes time.

book fig7

Fig. 7: Newspaper

Move the Bunsen burner or hairdryer on all the parts evenly. Please note that the clay should not be too hard. If this happens, place a wrung out cloth on the clay, cover it with plastic, and wait for the clay to soak more moisture.

For a long time, cover the sculpture completely with a heavy plastic (no micro) film. If the edges which should be built on are too dry, you can fix this. Put a wet cotton cloth strip on the edges, cover it with plastic and wait. Then make scratches with a needle on the edges until it bursts. Use vinegar on a brush in order to fill the scratches, so there is a layer of clay mud. Repeat if necessary, making the scratches until you have a good wet surface for the next layer. Ensure that the scratches are completely covered, otherwise you shut air into the clay. Instead of vinegar you can also use clay mud.
How do you make CLAY MUD?
Take fully dried pieces of clay and dissolve them in water to get a paste with a thickness of plain yogurt.

What do you do when the sculpture is too wide?
You can take a gusset from the clay. Make scratches on the edges so that it bursts and moisten it with vinegar. Bring the parts back together and fit it well, especially where the hole is small you have to add more mud or vinegar and squeeze it well until all the air disappears.

book fig8

Fig. 8: clay gusset.

What do you do when there is an opening in the surface caused by taking too much clay?
Make the hole bigger until
all the edges of the hole have a good shard thickness. Make scratches on the edges and moisten it with vinegar, then take a fresh and wet roll of clay and push it to the edges until everything is closed. At the end, it is difficult to put your finger into the inside of the sculpture. Try to fill the opening with a bulb of clay and press it on the hole.

book fig9 abook fig9 b

Fig. 9: Fill the Hole.


What do you do when a superficial crack arises?
Remove a part of the clay on all the sides of the crack and make sure everything is conical. Moisten it with vinegar and fill it with wet clay. Repeat several times if necessary.

book fig10

 Fig. 10: Superficial crack.


Take regular breaks. If you concentrate for a long period you will see only what is in your mind, not what is actually in front of you. After the break check the sizes. Dare to cut, remove or pull out. The dimensions should be respected for the whole sculpture.
Put the sculpture and the model on a rotating disk and watch from a distance of five meters. Compare from all the different sides. Good watching saves a lot of time.

book fig11

Fig. 11: Watch and compare.

Take pictures of the different sides and print them on A4. You can then mark the improvements with a red pen. Transfer the improvements to your sculpture. Repeat several times until you are satisfied, an improvement on one side can result in a wrong effect on the other side.

book fig12

Fig. 12. Improvements on paper.


Do not finish particular parts at this stage, they may still have to be redone or removed.
Sometimes you have to make supports for weaker parts. Do not use unprotected wood and take the support off if the sculpture needs to dry. Upon drying, there is already a considerable shrinkage of clay while wood does not shrink.


STEP 10: Finish.

If the overall shape is upto your satisfaction, go on to refinement and detail. Also make sure that an arc does not contain straight parts. Remove any support from your sculpture. Pieces of newspaper may stay, remove wooden sticks. Make sure that the hollow parts have an exit, so prick a small hole with a needle into the clay on an invisible place so the warm air can escape during baking , otherwise everything explodes in the oven.
You can polish it with a loomer or stone.
You can scrape it with a metal loomer, knife, etc.

You can roughen with different things (textile, wood
, or scrapers)

book fig13

Fig. 13. Scraped skin.

During the leather hard phase (end of drying), with a metal loomer , scrape into coarse chamotte clay. Wells and passages are formed on the surface (skin).


STEP 11: Drying.

Do not dry on a heater or in the sun. Uneven drying can cause cracking. Protect narrower parts with a plastic in the initial phase of drying. They dry quickly and can break.
The tops and ends dry faster, cover them with
a plastic wrap.
The drying process must be done very slowly (for large and complex
sculptures take a few weeks). Respect this.

STEP 12: Oven stoke.

Biscuit stoke (first lighting) around 980° Celsius.
Pottery around 1050° Celsius.
Stoneware is above 1200° Celsius.

The higher the clay is baked, the stronger the sculpture becomes and is more resistant to humid air and freezing temperatures.
There are gas ovens, electric ovens, etc. Follow the instructions of the oven.
Slow warming during the first three hours is recommended because there is moisture to escape.

 book fig14


Fig. 14: Final result. Baked in an electric oven at 1080° Celsius.

During a group exhibition with students
of the KUL, Shanah de Boeck wrote this text in order to explain my sculpture.

After thousands of years, the human being has been able to translate the knowledge of the earth into words and to store these in encyclopedias.
Thanks to the electronic world we live in today, this information is available to virtually everyone. Words are translated into code, and vice versa,
so wikipedia knowledge is shared and expanded with and through other people.
The science of life is spread through invisible energy flows, allowing us to expose every possible screen that it can receive. Social media and its many followers feed on any memory that was being placed on photographs, on any shared sense of being judged by others.
Vicky Media allows you to depict itself in the most literal and figurative way; free to exhibit in the most sensitive way, caught in the web of the media.
Text: Shanah BOECK