La Perdrix – Head Building

During our time in the beautiful La Perdrix, we were set the task of modelling another person’s head in clay. We were strictly told to work from first hand observation rather than relying only on photos as this would make take away from the depth in our sculptures.

I’ve always enjoyed observational drawing but I’ve never thought to make the transition from 2D to 3D, only ever making things that I have designed or thrown. In this respect I knew that this would be a valuable experience for me.

We used a special type of raku clay, that once fired would actually turn more orange.

After Day 1;


Claire Curneen – “Guardian” 2011

It surprised me how quickly the head began to take shape. We spent a great deal of time on the base of the head and neck; making this considerably thick to ensure it could take the weight of the clay that would be built on top.

Towards the start of the building, I was smoothing out the lines in the clay which had come about when I had been adding bits on. I later realised that I actually liked this texture more and forced myself to stop smoothing it out subconsciously. It was later pointed out to me that this texture is actually quite similar to Claire Curneen’s work, and looking at it now I can certainly see the resemblance.

After Day 2;

IMG_1903 IMG_1904 IMG_1905 IMG_1906 IMG_1907 IMG_1908

After only two (not even full) days I was essentially done! I’m really pleased with the finished piece. Although, I regret putting the ears on in day 1 as it meant I couldn’t adjust them as easily the next day; but I think I made it work.

I’m not sure why, but I really like how I’ve left the top of the head as an open void. Perhaps this is simply because it’s something unusual to us as people; unsurprisingly we don’t normally go walking around with big gaping holes in the back of our heads. However, I think it’s also partly to do with the fact that looking inside the head gives us a bit more insight into the process behind its construction.

Before firing I was able to photograph my sculpture with the real thing, but sadly we didn’t stay long enough to see them come out of the kilns but they will be shipped over with our other ceramic pieces at a later date.

I really enjoyed this whole process, finding it hard to pull myself away from it at times. I feel like hand-building is often an overlooked method of making ceramic pieces and now I have a new found confidence and appreciation of it. I will certainly be a lot more open to using it within my subject projects now.


Model Marek and my sculpture.


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