How to Create a Geometric/Man-Made Sculpture Base

*A step-by-step tutorial from Fantasy Creatures in Clay by Emily Coleman.

Creating geometric shapes for man-made environments can be a bit challenging. Since clay is soft by nature, hard edges and sharp angles can be more difficult to attain as opposed to organic forms. Remember, you can always put your clay in the freezer if you need a little assistance in keeping your edges smooth and crisp.

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Step One: I first lay out a grid of tiles, marking in evenly spaced perpendicular lines using my metal detail tool. The lines are drawn lightly as a guide. I then run the tool over the lines several times until the line is clean and defined.

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Step Two: Rivets are placed using small discs of clay. I like to place rivets in all four corners of each metal plate. Scratch marks are lightly etched over the surface of the tiles. This gives the floor a worn or used look. Vary the direction of the lines and allow them to cross over one another at points.

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Step Three: Let’s add a few accessories to this scene. Using even sheets of clay, about 1⁄8″ (3mm) thick, I draw out a gear and a wrench using my metal tool.

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Step Four: The shapes are cut out using a craft knife. Smooth and add any necessary details.

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Step Five: Next up, a crate will be added to the scene. I start with a rough cube of foil and cover it with clay. I stamp each side onto my work surface until it is fairly smooth and even on all sides.

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Step Six: Wooden planks are sketched in using my metal detail tool. Notice planks that frame each side of the box as well as planks that lie flat across the sides.

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Step Seven: The frame planks are bulked out with more clay, and the edges are smoothed out using a metal ribbon tool. The grooves in between the planks are further defined using a metal detail tool.

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Step Eight: Final textural details can now be added to the planks of wood. Wood grain is etched in with a metal tool, and small nails are added using discs of clay. Notice the stippling at the ends of the frame planks where the wood has been cut. Adding small details like this really helps add believability to your pieces.

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Bonus Tip: Check out this Field Note straight from the author of Fantasy Creatures in Clay!

For more cool clay step-by-step tutorials, check out these titles:
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