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A Little About Materials: Plastiline

One of the most frequently asked questions in my studio is about my clay. What's the deal with this oil-based clay?

The clay that I use in the studio is not the same as the clay most people are familiar with, which is ceramic clay. You cannot bake it or place it in a kiln. It's made from oil and wax and when it gets hot, it melts. The benefit of this clay, called Plastiline, is that it never hardens and can be re-used over and over again. For example, one of the clays I use costs $6.00/pound, but I only ever buy it once. So, while it is considerably more expensive than ceramic clay and terracotta, it can be used again and again.

The darker grey-colored plastiline that I use is called Plaxtin. I bought some from Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, but then it seemed to have disappeared from the US market for several years. So, when I went to Pietrasanta, I bought more and now have plenty to last me the rest of my career. I see that Sculpture House now carries it.

I have used Roma, Chavant, and Clean Clay, but prefer Plaxtin for it's quick work-ability and the way it grabs fingerprints and marks.

Figure Armature.

For larger commissions and bas-relief, I prefer this very waxy clay called J*Mac. It's generally used in industrial modelling, but I like the way it really holds it's form. It is very hard and can be worked to a high level of detail. You can buy this on Amazon, believe it or not. I ordered it directly from the manufacturer before Amazon existed.

Since this class will not be fired in a kiln, an artist has to use an aluminum armature to hold the shape. I used to make my own armatures, but now I prefer to buy them from Sculpture House, unless the figure is very large. (Very large figures require heavier supports and usually involve welding.) Again, since the clay is reusable, that means that the armature is as well. I keep several of different scales on hand at the studio.

Once I have a model take the pose, I can bend the wire to the same shape. Then I add the clay. You can see in this image how the wire pokes out! Once the sculpture is finished in clay, the mold-making process can begin. More on that in a later post!