British Wildlife Sculptures

The Sculpting Process

How a piece comes into being.

My time in nature, chance encounters and connections spark my inspiration for each animal sculpture.

It’s not simply a case of observing and record taking, it’s a feeling and emotion on a much deeper level. It’s my intention to channel those feelings and emotions into each piece.

This is why no two sculptures will ever be the same – they are as individual as the animal and the encounter we shared, meaning every sculpture is a one-off piece of fine art.

I often take my camera with me on walks and so I usually have some reference photos to help me bring the piece to life, so I’ll set up the sculpture stand and photos and start to shape and form the clay using a variety of hand-building techniques.

Once I’m happy with the rough shape, I allow it a little time to rest before going in and refining the lines and adding the details. Although I’m very keen not to include superfluous intricacies because I don’t want to detract from the main character or feel of the subject.

Up until this point I will have used only my hands, but then I carefully pierce hundreds of holes to release any trapped air, before smoothing the surface further with my favourite artists brush, which gives the distinctive surface marks you can see and feel.

It’s crucial to allow the piece to dry fully before firing, because any trapped moisture will expand and cause the clay to rupture as the kiln heats up. When the sun is shining and there’s a gentle breeze it’s perfect drying conditions, but in winter, pieces take much longer sitting around drying. You have to be patient when your chosen media is mud and water.

Once I’m as certain as I can be that the piece is ready for fire, I will place it carefully in the kiln. I set the temperature to rise slowly, hold steady at 82°C for a couple of hours to help remove any last bits of moisture I may have missed, before setting it to continue to slowly increase to 980°C. This is the first firing, known as a “bisque,” firing. It leaves the clay just porous enough to accept any glaze but also gives is some strength whilst I continue to work on it.

Allowing the glaze to fully dry, the base of the piece is wiped clear to prevent the piece sticking to the kiln shelf. It’s not an exact science, and the added element of alchemy makes glazing an exciting process.

Bringing the piece upto 1240°C allows the glaze to melt and the clay to become fully fired. All that’s left to do is wait for it to cool and pray the kiln gods have been kind!

Conkers

Unique ceramic red squirrel sculpture by Sarah Brabbin

Hand-built using the ancient coil technique from professional stoneware clay.
Bisque fired to 950°C.
3 layers of glaze painted on, fired to 1240°C.

Slippy

Unique ceramic seal sculpture by Sarah Brabbin

Hand-built using the ancient coil technique from professional stoneware clay.
Bisque fired to 950°C.
3 layers of glaze painted on, fired to 1240°C.

 

Angel Moon Hedgehog

Unique ceramic sculpture by Sarah Brabbin

Hand-built from professional stoneware clay.
Bisque fired to 950°C.
3 layers of glaze painted on, fired to 1240°C.
Moon effect glaze has 7 layers.

 

Sculpture Commissions

 

Commissioned Sculpture

Do you have a favourite species of British wildlife you’d love to see as a sculpture?

Maybe you have a special place just missing a unique piece of artwork, but you’ve not seen what you’re looking for.

Perhaps it’s come to that time of the year again when you’re struggling to think of what to get that loved one who, “doesn’t need anything” but you still want to give that wildlife lover a gift.

Perhaps you’re thinking about having a legacy piece of art to celebrate a special milestone or event in life – a reminder of a wonderful time or person.

Whatever you’re considering a commission for, you can be sure that there is only one of these ceramic artworks in the world, a truly special piece.

Commissioning Sculpture

On a practical level, working with ceramics is a lengthy process, so the sooner you’re able to get in touch with me the more chance I have of creating a sculpture in time.

Things you might like to consider include the size and location available for the piece – is it strong enough to hold the sculpture? Is the area light enough or will it need lighting? Is there a budget to stay within?

What about the feeling of the piece – what are you wanting to convey? Love, joy, playfulness, contentment, family, connection… Wildlife shares the same emotions as us – something that I love to convey through my sculptures.