Sculpture begins with piece of mind

Back to Community Guide


It starts with an idea. At conception, the idea for a sculpture is buried deep within an artist’s mind. As the craftsman’s hands busy themselves in the contemplative task of kneading a cool ball of clay, layers of detail are added to the soon-to-be work of art.

One local expert, Sister Mary Paula Beierschmitt, I.H.M., heads the American Academy of the Sacred Arts at 1629 Porter Street; She said a sculpture is a representation of an idea that comes to life through inspiration. Then, she added, "Sculptures are recognized as inspirational motivators. They help bring peace and beauty to all who view them."

As the clay becomes more pliable, that which is visualized becomes the focus of the artist’s attention. Its shape comes to mind. Details emerge. It’s more than an idea now. It is the next project on tap.

That clay may become for Sister Paula a rendering of an angel with outstretched wings. In the hands of a different artist, a tiny glob of clay resembling a fish with arms may evolve into a finely detailed mermaid, a work smaller than a quarter. When artists collaborate, statues of soldiers may become a monument erected at the entrance to a battlefield.

Chris Buonomo and Mike Gaudioso, artists from Viking Sculpture Studio in South Philly, have been working on a massive piece depicting a gathering of immigrants. The work will grace the wall at a local park and be dedicated to those who settled a city. Big or small, every project starts with an idea. And a lump of clay.

As one watches Chris and Mike work, it becomes apparent that sculpture is the expression of an idea. The idea can come to life in concrete or resin or bronze or gold. Some methods call for the first rendering of a design to be done in wet clay. Features are carved with a variety of instruments tipped with tiny blades, hooks and gougers. Then, a mold is poured around the prototype. The resulting cavity can be filled with concrete or various other materials that when dry will last for years.

Most artists agree that sculpture is an activity that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. As a hobby sculpture is easy to do. It’s an activity where improvement is noticeable almost immediately. In addition, creating a piece of sculpture gives the artist a real sense of accomplishment. It’s amazing to most folks how an idea that begins in the mind winds up as a work of art. The sculpture may wind up standing on a pedestal in the middle of a flower garden. On the other hand, it may spend its days on a doily in the corner of a proud parent’s desk; the proof is in the numbers of families whose treasures include baby’s first handprints, cast in stone.

A masterpiece of your own may start with just a thought and an intention. Think of something you’d like to make. Form the intention to stop by the nearest crafts store and purchase a supply of the modeling medium of your choice. Most stores offer a variety of materials, substances whose properties differ in color, hardness and drying time. Then, go for it. All it takes is a little curiosity – and a lump of clay.