This page looks at some of the leading clay sculptors currently working in the areas of fine art and decorative industrial art.
On this page, the emphasis is on clay sculptors. Some sculptors work on a smaller scale for industry, some in the fantasy and hentai/anime/manga genres and others work on a larger scale as fine artists for gallery or outside exhibition.
All are classed as sculptors, yet are so different. Even within the same genre people work with totally different methods. The point is 'each to their own', there is no right or wrong - each are utilizing the artistic medium of 3-dimentions in their own way.
My work comes into the decorative (industrial) ceramic porcelain art category.
The sculpt shown on top left and below right is a commission I completed for the Coalport Factory, part of the Wedgwood group. It was designed and marketed by off-page retailers Compton and Woodhouse.
The name of the piece is 'Birthstone', finished in pure white fine bone china with gold accessories.
Purchasers choose a handmade flower associated with their birth month which is applied post production ('cold stick-up' as it is rather un-glamorously known in Stoke-on-Trent).
The reason I mention this piece is, the sculpting of it was interesting and way different to the norm.
Birthstone piece was interesting in that the making of it involved an ancient technique known as sprig moulding. All of the lace patterning on the upper half had to be sculpted on flat clay, off the sculpt, and then applied. I have used sprig moulding before, but never quite in this way.
A plaster of paris mold was then taken. Clay was manually pressed into the mould and then removed. The resultant thin strips of patterned clay were then added to the dress.
The difficult bit was to try to ensure that once the extra layer of clay was applied, she didn't look too large for a slim girl (and that her figure was still great). This meant she had to start off extra slim.
I am fascinated by the little secrets each different type of clay sculptor uses.
I watched a video by the Shiflett brothers who swear by Sculpey clay for their fantasy figures. Their work of a very standard, but I have never been able to do anything half decent with Sculpey.
I have met and seen in action the guys who make the War Games tiny models.
They work on a tiny scale with a plumbers putty called Green Stuff by Kneadite. They are constantly building up tiny layers as the epoxy mix gives a couple of hours working time before hardening off.
In the UK , naturally, with such a strong history of ceramics, the emphasis was on sculpting with ceramic clay.
And even today, with the UK industry having all but faded away, having been outsourced to the Far East, there are still very good artists working.
Famous UK People in My Own Genre
UK sculptors working within decorative industrial art specializing in female sculptures in the UK are John Bromley, David Lyttleton, Jack Glynn, Nada Pedley, Valerie Annand and Neil Walsh.
Masters from the past include Alan Maslankowski, Charles Noke, Leslie Harradine and Peggy Davies.
Andrew Bill, Andrew Hull, Michael Abberley specialise in animal and fantasy figures in the UK.
A Rich Mix of Talent
As mentioned above, the Shiflett Brothers are top guys from the US, specialising in comic book style fantasy work. Clayburn Moore is another one of the interesting clay sculptors in this field in the US.
Paul Smith, a fine artist working in clay in the UK. He also uses his unique sculptural techniques to achieve his very different results.
However, Smith's work, is fine art rather than decorative industrial art, or pottery.
Each piece is individually sculpted in clay then decorated and fired.
You can see more of Paul Smith in the 'clay artists' section .
Another 'fine art' clay sculptor is Christy Keeney.
------ A Christy Keeney Sculpt------
Keeney sees his pieces as paintings in three dimentions.
He is observing the human spirit as it is expressed in all its forms.
Completely unlike the way I work, he lets the moment dictate his direction. He has no definite plan of where the sculpt is going beforehand. This must be an exhilarating way to work.
The only time I get near to working like this is when I do pen and ink portraits straight onto the paper - no alterations no preparation.
Keeney is a clay sculptor, there's no two ways about that. However, he crosses over into the art potter category because he does use slab technique and he has all the knowledge and skills involved in decoration, glazes and firing.
Many clay sculptors are breaking boundaries and are uncategorizable. Keeney's work is definitely fine art though. My work is not fine art, it is decorative art and I have none of keeney's skills in ceramics - I leave that side of it to the egg-heads in the factory or my local pottery shop.
Talking about fine art, its now come the time to draw a deep breath and look at clay sculptors who specialize in working on larger exhibition pieces.
Think of Auguste Rodin and you'll know where its going. These artist do 'big'. They are 'Grand Fomage'. They do 'expressive' or 'momumental'. They can't be fiddling with small insignificant stuff and nonsense.
Look back a hundred years or so, and there is a painting called 'The Artist's Studio' by John Ballantyne, c.1865. He painted sculptor & artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer working in the studio of fellow sculptor Baron Marochetti.
Landseer was depicted sculpting the clay originals for the famous lions he created for Trafalgar Square, London. You can see him dwarfed by the lion. Typical of the Grande Fromage type of artist he had an argument with 'lesser' artist Ballantyne for not painting it right and showing the painting in public before the bronzes were finished.
Working on an even more monumental scale than Landseer is sculptor Sean Henry. In August 2007, Henry constructed the first ever off-shore sculpture in Britain - a piece called 'Couple'.
Standing at about 40 feet high, you can see how big the structure is by looking at the scale of the clay sculpt of the woman figure.
It makes a fine sight at sunset in Northumbria.
Sean Henry also goes for a realistic colour finish on some of his exhibits. As can be seen on the piece shown in Summer 2005 'Catafalque' on Golden Square, London.
Mexican artist Javier Marin is just about as expressive as they get.
You can read a great article on Marin on American sculptor Patrick Johnson's website - go to
The Figurative Clay Sculptures of Javier Marin
Johnson sums it up perfectly: "Clay is an extremely smart choice of medium...... Clay has qualities of fragility under tension and great strength under pressure, so it suggests conflicting duality by its nature.
"Clay is the earth".
I couldn't have put it better myself.
For more information on ceramic sculptors return from clay sculptors
or alternatively back to clay art