This little pinched rabbit is built by enlarging semi-spheres with coiled additions, which are in turn pinched, to make larger sections to join together. The technique is used to increase size for all pinched forms, whether open or closed
You will need:
A grogged clay suitable for sculpting – craft crank, T material, etc. Paper clay also works well
Iron and manganese oxides for decoration
Transparent glaze (small amount)
You can make your rabbit in a realistic or stylised way, but to get some idea of the form gather together some images or make a few little sketches to guide you through the making process. Having a vague understanding of the anatomy of the rabbit is useful, even if you want to exaggerate some features.
Form two equally-sized balls of clay that sit comfortably in the palm of your hand.
Press down into the centre of the first ball with your thumb until you can feel pressure in the palm of the hand holding the clay.
Pinch out the wall of the clay in small, even pinches between the fingers and thumb.
Concentrate on getting the base of the section finished first because it will be hard to reach as the shape gets larger.
Keep the top as closed as possible until you’ve almost finished, then pinch it out to complete the shape, which should be cup-like.
Pinch the second ball in the same way, but as the shape increases in size check it against the first half periodically, and pinch it until the two shapes fit together neatly.
Roll a thick coil of clay and sit it around the rim of one pinched section. Overlap the ends of the coil and cut through both.
Butt the ends of the coil together and smooth over the join with a finger until sealed.
Blend the coil onto the pinched base with a thumb in a downward movement. Support the inside of the section with your fingers as you work.
Repeat on the inside of the shape, again pressing the clay down with the thumb to blend the clay onto the base.
Now pinch the coil out until it’s the same thickness as the rest of the wall, maintaining the shape of the base as far as possible, and not allowing the wall to flare outward.
Repeat the process on the other pinched section.
Note – if you want to make the rabbit even larger you can repeat this process until you reach the required size.
Again, check the two halves are the same size and fit together neatly.
If the sections seem a little floppy, firm up the clay a little with a hairdryer until the spheres hold their shape better, but don’t overdo it, there needs to be some flexibility in the clay for modelling later.
Score and slip the rims of the two sections, then join them together.
Hold the sections for a minute or two, applying a little pressure to ensure a good seal.
Reinforce the join with a coil of soft clay, blending it in with a finger or suitable tool.
Smooth over the coil with a rib when all the clay has been blended in, to remove lumps and bumps. When finished, you might find it useful to paddle the surface of the form with a spatula to reinforce the join and even-out the shape.
Make a hole at one end of the form with a pin. This allows you to manipulate the shape more easily. Sit the shape on a board.
Using your thumbs, and with one end of the form pointing towards you, begin to shape the head of the rabbit – refer to your drawings or pictures as you work, to get an idea of the anatomy and proportion, and work on both sides simultaneously for even shaping.
Continue to shape the form by drawing in the line of the limbs, first with a finger then, when happy with the positioning, apply a little more pressure to develop the shaping further. It doesn’t need to be overly exaggerated because rabbits are – for the most part – fluffy, round beasts. You only need a vague sense of form.
Form the feet with your finger or a modelling tool, pressing into the clay carefully to avoid breaking through the wall. If the clay is still soft enough this is quite easy, but an alternative approach would be to add these details as coils if preferred.
Smooth over the clay roughly with your fingers periodically, to see the form developing more clearly.
You can develop the shape further if you aren’t happy with it, by cutting out sections where required, then joining the wall back together.
Here, a leaf shape section is removed just behind the head to give the line of the back more definition.
Once a section has been cut out, score and slip the edges to be joined back together, then press them together and blend over the join well, reinforcing with a thin coil if necessary.
Rabbits have quite bulbous eyes, so form two small balls of clay and fix them onto the head after marking the position and scoring and slipping the joining surfaces.
Roll a very thin coil of clay and encase the balls to form the eye shape.
Blend the outer side of the coils onto the head, as shown, beginning with a modelling tool then smoothing over with a finger.
To make the ears, pinch a section of coil as thinly as possible, but to a point where it can still hold its shape. Cut out the ear to your required size – this is one feature that can easily be exaggerated to give the form more character.
Repeat the process for the second ear, measuring it against the first one to ensure they’re the same size.
After cutting out, pinch around the edges of each ear to thin them further and neaten the cut line.
Pinch the end of the ear to be joined to the body into a more realistic ear shape, and position on the body to decide how you would like it to lie – upright or flattened.
When happy with the position, blend the ear onto the body with a modelling tool, as shown, at the centre point. Then roll the sides together to close the opening slightly, to make it more realistic.
Fix the second ear in place in the same way, changing the angle as preferred, to give some character. An upright ear will hold upright better if reinforced at the back with a coil of soft clay – make sure you blend it in well. This can be quite tricky because the ear is so thin, but if the coil’s very soft it will be much easier.
Impress the nostrils and mouth carefully with a modelling tool. Getting this right can be strangely difficult, but the clay can easily be smoothed over for a second, or even third, attempt if you make a mistake.
Pinch a small ball of clay to form the tail and position it at the back of the rabbit at board level.
Blend the tail onto the body with your finger or a modelling tool. If the clay is soft enough you don’t need to apply slip before joining.
Finally, make a hole in the underside of the rabbit for the release of air in firing.
Allow the finished rabbit to dry slowly before bisque-firing.
After bisque-firing, simply apply a thick iron and manganese oxide wash to the body of the rabbit then wipe it back so that it only highlights the details.
Paint the eyes with black underglaze, then apply a tiny amount of glaze just to the eyes, so they shine when fired.
Fire to your clay’s top temperature – this little critter was fired to 1240ºC in an electric kiln.
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