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sculptor Jen Pratt

Sculpting in Clay, Tools for Working With Clay, and Using a Kiln

Here you’ll find the basics for sculpting in clay, from:

  • working with the clay medium
  • a quick timeline for creating clay sculptures
  • tools for working with clay
  • firing sculptures in an electric kiln, complete with orton cone charts

Free art and clay sculpting classes:

Most Popular Clay & Kiln Posts:

Orton Cone Charts: Sculpting in Clay and Using A Kiln

Sculpting in Clay: Tools for Working With Clay and Using a Kiln

These posts focus on the basics of working with clay and ceramic kilns.  From the foundations of working with the clay medium, to clay tools, to sculpting timelines and quick overviews of the clay sculpting process; you’ll find the information you need to understand the basics before moving on to the art projects above.

Along with clay work, you’ll find details of firing an electric ceramic kiln, which you’ll need if you intend to work with water based clays.

When you’re ready, move on to the art projects and art classes page!

Using a Kiln

Kilns are a big purchase for an artist, and selecting a kiln needs careful consideration. If you work from your home, you may have city ordinances in place that limit the size of your kiln.

  • Thinking about buying a new or used kiln? Know which questions to ask someone who is selling a used kiln, and which types of repairs are easy and which repairs you should stay away from. You can also find out why buying a new kiln may be your best option.  Visit the guide for buying a kiln.
  • Already have a kiln? If you already own a kiln but need more information to get the most out of it, visit the kiln firing charts guide for tips on firing a kiln.
  • You can find new kilns and accessories at Blick Art Materials.

Login is required for some art classes, including some free classes and all paid/premium courses.  Login is useful for keeping track of the classes you've taken and your progress, and if you'd like to be notified when new art classes are available.


You can use your WordPress login if you have one, and your data will not be shared or sold!

Absolutely - I've been contacted by a number of teachers who've used these online art classes in their lessons!  Unfortunateley with the site locked down due to hacking and theft, printing the classes from the website isn't possible.  I'm currently working on downloadable versions of my classes for this purpose - for now, please contact me and I'll get you the information you need.

Water based clays are made from clay and water; oil-based are made from oil and clay. Water based will dry out and must be kept moist until an artwork is finished, whereas oil based isn’t reliant on being covered to keep it wet and pliable. It is up to each individual artist or clay sculptor to decide which type of media they prefer, and at this time water based is by far my favorite.

Clay doesn’t have a lot of structural strength when wet. Larger pieces will deform, sag, and can completely destroy themselves from their own weight without some sort of rigid support. However, that rigid support must be removed before firing.

If you’re not planning to mold/cast the artwork, then kiln-fired water based clays really are more structurally sturdy than unfired water based clays. You can’t dry out an oil based clay. Oil based won’t vitrify like water based. While heating it can reduce pliability and viscosity, you can’t create a “finished” oil based clay sculpture.


If you're working with water-based clay, then a kiln really is essential.  You can use air-dray clays, but they're not as durable as kiln-fired clays.  While having your own kiln is wonderful, it's not always necessary if you live near a school or teaching studio, as many of these venues are willing to fire ceramic artworks for a small fee.

I love the texture and work-ability of water based clays. I can develop incredibly highly detailed artworks when molds and casting aren’t involved. While the finished product can be delicate, the same is said of fine porcelain – these are works of art, and not meant for utilitarian purposes, so a bit of fragility is okay when the piece should be handled delicately anyway.

Unfortunately, this is not something I can fit into my schedule at this time. Clay sculptures especially are very time consuming, and can take weeks to complete just the unfired sculpture. This is why I’ve created the demonstrations in an online format – so others can learn at their own pace.


Though I don’t give personal instruction, I’m happy to answer questions! Feel free to comment or ask questions on individual posts or contact me.  I love to hear your questions, and I've modified some of my classes over the years based on artists' questions!

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