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Adventures into Making Large Owls!

September 18, 2015


I normally stick to making things on the wheel, but this spring I ventured into making animals with armatures. The art studio where I work puts on workshops a couple of times a year. This Spring was an animal building workshop taught by Ariel Bowman. I learned so much and am excited to share some of it with you! She is a wonderful artist! You can check out her website here:

We got to choose what animals we made so of course I chose an owl. Since I have made a few dozen small owls (you can see how I make those in the post titled “Owl Mania”) expanding the shape to a large one was a little easier than an animal I am an new to making.

I started out by drilling a galvanized pipe to a board. The pipe allows me to work with a lot of heavy clay with out it collapsing. The use of armatures refers to using dowel rods and metal pipes to support the body, arms or legs of the piece. I had never done this before. This way of building is heavier because you are molding a solid piece of clay verses coil building and the inside of the piece is hollow. The heavy solid clay tends to collapse under its own weight.


You can see in the picture above the beginning shape of the owl. It starts out very rough and gestural. The process reminded me a lot of the gestural drawings I did in college. We started out with the rough basic forms of our animals then slowly added details, adding and removing clay along the way. I worked from a picture to help me get the proportions correct. You can see the picture I worked from above.


Once I got the proportions the way I wanted them I dried out the piece. It is best not to put much detail or texture on the piece at this point because the next step is to cut it up and hollow it out. I did loose some of the detail on my owl, but it was easy to put back. Ariel had us dry the piece out a lot before we cut into it. If you cut if up and it is too wet it will be unable to support itself and collapse. The out side of my piece was not quite leather hard when I started cutting him up. I was surprised to find how wet the interior of the piece still was.


It was very nerve wracking to cut him up, but it went better than I thought. I used a regular wire tool to take him apart. Ariel had us make guide lines along the area we cut to make sure we could get it realigned properly when we put them back together. If you look carefully in the first picture you can see how I took a small chunk of his head off so I could hollow out his head. I could have cut straight through the face but then I would have lost the detail around his eyes. You can see in the picture above right that I hollowed out his head. I used large loop tools to scoop out the interior clay.


I reattached the top of his head and wrapped it up tight in a bag so that it would not dry out.  You can see the pipe sticking out in the pictures above. The electric tape I wrapped around the pipe made it surprisingly easy to get the pieces off. I cut his bottom half one more time and hollowed out the last part in two pieces.


The pictures above are him all put back together! Reattaching was done by the classic slip and scoring. I placed a coil along the seam and used a scoring rib to really score it well to make sure the two pieces melded together.

IMG_2881 IMG_2432

I had a lot of fun making the texture. The key to any good texture is finding the right tools. Above is a picture of some of the tools I used. The loop tools were used to hollow the inside. The wooden tools were used to make his feather texture. My favorite tool to use for the feathers was the wooden one with the teeth (second from the top). I got most of these in one package at Michael’s.


I let him dry out about 3 weeks before firing him just to be careful. He made if through the first firing with out any cracks! Yay! You can see in the pictures above he has only been through a bisque firing. I haven’t quite decided yet how to glaze him. Once I have I will upload some new pictures! Thanks for reading and happy potting!

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