Sculpt a Fast Face in Clay


Looking for great ideas for your next paper mache project or a gift idea? Check out my patterns and videos for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts.


Sculpt the Face in ClayLast week I accidentally stumbled onto a new way to sculpt faces, and I’m having so much fun with it that I had to share it with you. These clay faces are not portraits, and not “right” in any way – but that’s what makes them so much fun.

In the video you’ll see that I just grab a lump of WED clay from the bag, check to see if it already has an almost-mouth or nose or eyes, and if I don’t see anything face-like in the clay I keep squashing and folding it until something shows up. In this case, it was a mouth. Then I start adding to it, always trying to let the clay do most of the work.

No expectations, no “right” way to do it, (and no “wrong” way, either!). It’s just for fun.

Ode to the Human Face

I think it’s also a great way to remember how important the creative process is for our well-being – perhaps even more important than the item we create. Of course, I’m not the first person to realize that making stuff has therapeutic value.

In fact, one of my favorite books is Ode to the Human Face: Seeing/Modeling the Human Face as Meditation, by Frederick Franck. I go back to it several times a year because it’s such an inspiration.

Yeah, I know my little face is silly, but I really enjoyed playing with the clay, with no expectations about how it should look when it was done. So, let me know what you think. Does this look like fun?

24 thoughts on “Sculpt a Fast Face in Clay

  1. Hi Jonni, As I am watching this video I can see the excitement in your fingers! it seems to me that you found an aha moment. I’m most interested in your new book. Glad you’re sharing your fun with the rest of us. thanks so much for the video.

  2. Hola Jonyy!! Como siempre que veo tus vídeos me dejas encantada!! Creo que debo intentarlo, aunque no tengo este tipo de arcilla, tal vez con un poco de papel molido y pegamento?? Me gustaría mucho ver que muchos jóvenes y niños tuvieran la oportunidad de jugar un poco con ésta clase de entretenimiento, seria estupendo!! Muchas gracias por compartir tus creaciones y tus ideas!!! Debo confesar que no sé hablar inglés pero aunque no comprenda tus palabras, con tus vídeos y al verte trabajar me enseñas más de lo que te imaginas!! Muchas felicidades por el nuevo año y que hagas muchos proyectos nuevos!! Salud y prosperidad para ti y los tuyos!! Un fuerte abrazo con todo mi agradecimiento!!!

    • Hello, Alma. I’m glad you enjoy the videos. You can use any pottery clay to make these little faces. You don’t need the special WED clay, if you can’t get it locally. Have fun!

      Translated by Google: Hola, Alma. Me alegra que disfrutes los videos. Puedes usar cualquier arcilla de cerámica para hacer estas pequeñas caras. No necesitas la arcilla especial WED, si no puedes conseguirla localmente. ¡Que te diviertas!

  3. Happy New Year Jonni!
    What a great video. Thank you for all your wonderful sharing of your great talent. There is no doubt in my mind that art calms and helps to even out many levels of anxiety or other emotional situations. As a former instructor for children facing physical and mental challenges daily I used art to bring harmony back into a stressful day and to calm. It not only helped them but brought me back to a place of quiet and calm so I was better able to assist them. I am not sure what my next project will be but I am leaning towards the horse template I got from Rex. I was thinking too that it might be fun to start right at the beginning of your animal book and work to the end. What ever I decide I know it will be fun.

    • Hi Diann. Happy New Year to you, too. I hope we get to see your next project, whatever it may be. And thanks for mentioning your experiences with the calming nature of art. I think it must be a form of magic. 🙂

  4. Great face Jonni! He reminds me of the kind ogres often seen in children’s movies.
    I learned the hard way to combat depression with creativity. I suffered every winter with a seasonal type depression until one year I took on making these miniature Christmas trees made out of potpourri. I wound up making one for everyone for Christmas and lo and behold, no depression! From then on, I made sure that I stayed creative in the winter and have never looked back! I try to relay that info to anyone I know who suffers in that way.
    When teaching the paper mache class this past fall to adult seniors, I saw how some had labeled themselves as “non-artists” and disputed their claims. I tried to get them to see how art is in the eyes of the beholder and if they were happy with their results, then it was art in my eyes. They were very appreciative and wound up being very happy with their chickens, even though some did not exactly look like mine or yours from the book. I think that was the most gratifying thing about teaching this class.

    • Hi Eileen. I hope you keep spreading the word about the powers of creativity to combat depression. And I hope the people you talk to about it will listen – it will make such a difference in so many people’s lives.

      I hear from so many people who don’t think they have any talent, and it makes them so unhappy – until they watch a video or read a book that has good, simple instructions, and they learn to create something they can be proud of. I’m even starting to think that my next book should be about the talent myth. Although it could end up being a rant because I have such strong feelings about it.

      • I do spread the word, and it can be any sort of art like music, writing, gardening and the like.
        I think any teacher of art would agree with you about talent and a book on the subject could help them to address that subject with their students. One of my mentors was this dear old nun who taught art at the university level. Art was not a major in her particular college so the students who took her classes were at all levels of achievement. She was always able to find something good in their work, discuss that, and then perhaps “suggest” something to improve the work. She had her students in the palm of her hand! They all came away with knowing they could achieve and that was very empowering for them.
        A book about the talent myth would be interesting but I wonder how much it would sell as it has a limited target population. If you will be going through all the work to write it, you need to be concerned about the bottom line. Perhaps an article to be submitted to a magazine or publication would be better…then the rant couldn’t go on for TOO long! Even an article for this site would be great.

        • What a wonderful teacher! She sounds like a real gem. I’ve done some quick research since my last comment, and it looks like there are tons of people interested in the subject of creativity. Many more than are interested in paper mache – or any form of sculpting, for that matter. I wonder why there are only a handful of sculpture books on amazon.com, while there are literally thousands about drawing. Is it because sculpting isn’t as much fun, or that it looks like it would be too hard to learn?

          • Oh good, so now you have a new subject to write a book about. Does a subject like that require research, or can you just state your opinions and the like?
            Sculpture is probably daunting to some, there are so many forms of both additive and subtractive sculpture. I prefer additive as you can always add more. However, if you subtract too much off a soapstone, you can ruin the whole thing! That could prove expensive. Also, people tend to have more wall space for pictures than table or shelf space for sculpture. Even the art shows I am in have way fewer sculpture artists than wall art due to storage problems.
            Let us know if you tackle a book on this subject.

            • If I do it, I’ll definitely let you all know.

              I’ve been told that sculptures don’t sell well in galleries, but they like to have some in a show because they help fill out a room. I don’t know it that’s true or not. I do know that I have run out of room in my own house, but I know people who collect little whatsits and always seem to find room for one more. I personally think playing with clay is more intuitive than drawing, but I like gardening, too – so maybe I don’t mind getting my hands dirty as much as some people do. 🙂

  5. I love the face! Since you made it out of WED clay, does that mean you won’t be keeping it? In my experience, WED clay crumbles once it is dried. Happiest of New Years and please keep posting. I love reading your words of wisdom.

    • Thanks, Ann. You’re right, WED clay turns back into dirt when it dries. I have some Rebound 25 silicone left over from another project, and I think I’ll try making a mold. I kind of like the little guy. We’ll see if it works.

      And happy New Year to you, too!

    • Hi Barbara. I gave up on the idea because too many people wanted me to organize it. I’m not a great organizer, so I thought it would be best to liberate the idea and let people do it if they want to. It’s a great idea, on a personal level, though.

  6. I love this! I agree—creativity is so empowering in getting over depression/anxiety. I have felt how this kind of activity can restore balance. This type of approach is also a great way to teach children art. Kids are such natural artists: I love the freshness of their art.

      • Working in a quick spontaneous manner helps to unleash creativity. It frees us from the restrictions of being perfect and liberates us to more fully enjoy the act of creating. When I was in art school one of the life drawing instructors accomplished this using various exercises. One of these involved using pieces of chalk and very rough pieces of newsprint. We were given 30 seconds to draw the model. At the end of 30 seconds, we had to change seats and draw a new sketch from a different position. We were not allowed to hang out and perfect a drawing. When he said stop and move we had to flip to a new page, take a new seat and do a new sketch. For those who were used to spending lots of time on a single drawing this kind of rapid sketching was a major challenge, but it was also very liberating. The exercise taught us to see what was before us quickly and to trust ourselves to capture that with faster techniques. We would do these exercises once a week and did it routinely for months. I think everyone learned something really valuable about their own process and those things which might have been holding us back creatively. I suggest that working in clay, as you’ve described is kind of a variation on that idea.

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