Archangel Raphael

Made by Sarah Manchester

Hello Everyone, here is my Archangel Raphael made from Jonni’s clay recipes. I have been planning to make a pair of Archangel sculptures for a few years now and finally got around to it. Raphael and Michael seem to compliment each other well and are two of my favourites. The world could do with a manifestation of Raphael in these times of Coronavirus.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted Raphael to look like. But, as always, he changed and developed as I worked. I started with an armature made from garden wire with lengths for the wings, arms and head twisted together and set into a base made from plaster cast into a pudding basin. A couple of layers of paper strips were glued to the armature to make a base for the clay layer. I spread a very thin layer of Jonni’s original clay recipe over the paper which set very hard and made a strong base to add the smooth air-dry clay ‘feather’ layers to.

The body arms and basic head shape were made using tin foil scrunched over the wire then taped. Original clay was used for everything except the feathers on the wings, building up in layers and smoothing as I went using water and PVA glue. It was progressing beautifully then one afternoon I heard a crash and found Raphael had tumbled off the table onto a chair. The culprit could have been a bird or the cat, I’m not sure. Luckily, due to the wire armature and the nature of this wonderful paper clay medium, there was little damage and it was easily repaired. The main problem was that there was a crack where the wire went into the plaster base and due to the top-heavy nature created by the large wings, it wobbled from side to side. I wasn’t too bothered by this and thought I would repair the crack once I had finished working on everything as any repair could be undone by the sculpting. This, as it turned out, was a mistake. As it wobbled from side to side during sculpting, the inner wires running down the length of the body worked away at the foil inside until even when I fixed the crack at the base, the whole sculpture wobbled and was too unstable. Thinking cap on… As much as it pained me, I decided I had to reinforce Raphael from the inside. I sliced him open across the waist and down each side, cut the wires off at the base, removed the foil inside the body cavity, drilled the remnants of wire from the middle of the base, wired a new, thicker steel rod to the existing wires and re-set the whole thing with an extra, wider piece of cast plaster with shingle added for weight. The original pudding basin base sat on top of the new piece and the whole was ‘glued’ together with fresh plaster. This is why the fish on the sculpture looks a little high up. It was already fixed to the original base and curved from top to almost the bottom. When I added the extra base piece, it altered the position of the fish relatively. However, the piece is now very stable and I will not have to worry about it getting knocked and toppling over. The air dry clay is just fantastic at sticking to existing dry clay. I did grind away the clay from around the joins and wetted them with water and PVA glue before squeezing air dry clay into the gaps and Raphael is as strong as he would have been before any repair.

The serpents forming the helix around Raphael are taped garden wire with air dry clay smoothed on. I find it an excellent sculpting medium. It can easily be added to build up shapes and I smoothed it as I went along with plain water. The only area, other than the plaster base, where I didn’t use the clay, was the face. I found it easier to model the features using dry decorator’s filler mixed with water to a fairly thick paste.

Raphael will be painted once he has had a little longer to thoroughly dry out. I will post a picture here for you to see and a link to my sculpture blog with lots of pictures and detail of the whole process if any of you are interested in seeing more. The blog isn’t done yet though.

I am thrilled with how Raphael has turned out and Michael is waiting for me to add detail and wings. I just need to brave the shops to get some ready made filler to make a fresh batch of clay.

The more I work with Jonni’s recipes, the more I like them. The possibilities are endless.

Raphael Close Up
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Raphael from the back
Raphael from the back

[Note from Jonni – if you’d like to see another project by Sarah, click here.]

3 thoughts on “Archangel Raphael”

  1. Sarah, I agree about painting. Everyone has a little different technique, and I look forward to seeing yours. I put four glazes on each elephant. (That’s not a suggestion.) Heatwave begins here tomorrow.

    This is a wonderful work. Stellar.

  2. I’ve always loved your creations, and this is certainly at the top of the list. You are not only a sculptor but a surgeon! Reading the process was painful because I’ve been through it many times, but I’ll stick with my face jobs and not from the waist down. Thanks for your story and the lessons. This is a beautiful sculpture. Can’t wait to see how you paint it. Thank you.

    • Thanks Rex. I always appreciate your comments. I’m looking forward to painting Raphael but it will be difficult to get the effect I want and might take a few layers as I repaint over and over until I’m happy. That’s the beauty of paint. I will definitely post a picture when he’s done. I’ll start as soon as I feel he is perfectly dry. Won’t be long now. We are having a heatwave here!


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