Armature and Clay

armatureInternal wire support (known as armature) is required for some types of clay sculpting (eg. plasteline, wax and polymer clays etc).

Ceramic clays generally do not require this degree of internal wire support. On this page you can benefit from my 20 years professional experience.

Different clays need different solutions.

My speciality is ceramic based clays with which I normally don't use any kind of internal wire support.

Occasionally in certain critical weight bearing places, I use a straight piece of wire that can be removed.

Otherwise I use external supports, but only if absolutely necessary - I don't get technical - just use wooden cocktail stick, a stiff stick of ceramic clay (the the Egyptian Ladies photo below) or whatever will do the job.

So on this page I am looking at the following:-

1. Ceramic Clay

2. Oil-based Clay (plasteline)

Advice On How To Support Your Sculptures

1. Ceramic Clay

When using ceramic clay (I have always used and would only use potclays 1150 - for detailed figurines). I almost NEVER use any internal wire support (and then it must be easily removable).

armatures for sculpture

If part of the piece needs support (an arm, a newspaper or a big hat etc) I would use an external prop made from the same clay as the piece.

See photo opposite where the weight of the two arms and the tambourine are supported by a clay rod which I made specially.

You can always use things you have lying around like cocktail sticks or any other prop.

When it comes to firing (although I never actually fire my factory pieces as they slip cast for production) the external clay prop I used for sculpting would be removed and a proper 'kiln prop' used for the firing.


Working with water based modeling clay, you will be working on a damp plaster-of-paris bat. To anchor the piece and to stop it moving around you can drill a small hole through the bat and place a nail up through the bat and the sculpture. Not very high tech - but it works fine.

2. Oil-based Clay (plasteline)

armatures for sculpting
I want flexibility with my models, so I can adjust and readjust the design until I'm happy with it.

In order to achieve this you need flexible internal support.

In the picture opposite, I am showing a very high tech example of one of these, but for me, I just make a similar thing out of wire and miliput (very low tech).

What you DO need to do though is make an accurately scaled down 'pin-man' (or lady) made from wire and Miliput.

Having an accurately scaled base to your figure ensures you don't get awkward problems later on in the sculpt.

For all the different sizes of figure I sculpt (8", 10", 15" etc), I have a diagram which I call an "armature guide". Simply a scaled down pin-man (lady) drawing.

This then serves as a ready reference when making the wire armature pin-man.

All the joints are left movable. I put the plasteline clay on and rough out a piece until such time as I am happy with the position of the sculpt. Then I cut into the clay to reveal the flexible points and then seal the joint with milliput for strength.

This clever sculpture technique ensures the piece does not move out of position by accident.

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