How to make a clay person

This article was co-authored by Natasha Dikareva, MFA. Natasha Dikareva is a San Francisco, California based sculptor, and installation artist. With over 25 years of ceramics, sculpting, and installation experience, Natasha also teaches a ceramic sculpture workshop titled “Adventures in Clay” covering concept development, hand-building techniques, texture, and glazing techniques. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, Abrams Claghorn Gallery, Bloomington Center for the Arts, Maria Kravetz Gallery, and the American Museum of Ceramic Art. She has taught at the University of Minnesota and the American Indian OIC School. She has been awarded the Excellence Award at the 1st World Teapot Competition, Best in Show at the 4th Clay & Glass Biennial Competition, and a Grand Prize at the American Museum of Ceramic Art. Natasha holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota and a BFA from Kiev Fine Arts College.

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Making people out of clay is an easy way to get crafty with your hands and have fun! Maybe you just want to pass the time with a little sculpting, or maybe you want to make a claymation movie. You can put your little clay person on display somewhere when you’re done or you can squish it up and make something else. You can use any kind of clay, but modeling clay works best. Remember to be creative! All the details are up to you, but this technique will give you a good clay person to start with.

When it comes to adding a touch of charm, character and genuine good humor to your garden, nothing ticks all the right boxes quite like these amazing DIY flowerpot men! Bring your outdoor living spaces to life and be the envy of your neighbors in just a few simple steps and with a few basic tools – you won’t’ believe how simple these incredible results can be!

Put together a single Flowerpot Man to stand as a centerpiece for the whole garden, or perhaps create a whole family in a variety of different shapes, sizes and finishes! You can use the plant of your choosing to serve as the little guy’s hair, get creative as you like with the paints and feel free to use as many decorative accents as you like!

One thing’s for sure – there’s really no such thing as going OTT where these amazing garden ornaments are concerned!

Fab for Friends, Great as Gifts

Chances are that once your friends and family lay eyes on these, they’ll all be asking you to whip up a few for their own gardens. Luckily, DIY Flowerpot Men are not only easy to make, but extremely affordable thanks to a pretty basic list of supplies!

VIEW IN GALLERY How to make a clay person

You’ll need:

  • 27 Flower Pots With Different Diameters: A Dozen 6-Inch – For The Arms; A Dozen 8-Inch – For The Legs; A Couple Of 12-Inch – For The Body; And One 10-Inch – For The Head
  • 12 Pieces Of 3-Inch Thick Styrofoam
  • Strong Wire
  • Wire Cutters

That’s really all there is to it – check out the free instructional guides you can access through this page and get ready to bring your garden an amazing transformation!

Other fantastic garden projects

VIEW IN GALLERY How to make a clay person

VIEW IN GALLERY How to make a clay personDIY Clay Pot Candle Holder and Flower Planter Combo – Tutorial from Cfabbridesigns

VIEW IN GALLERY How to make a clay person

How to make a clay person

Many gardeners enjoy decorating their green spaces with whimsical accents. Why not add some cute flowerpot people to your outside area? Flowerpot people are so easy and fun to craft that you’ll want to make many versions of this project with your kids who are age 8 or older. Once you understand the construction process, you can whip up a clay flower pot person in no time.

The pot sizes that we recommend for this project are just suggestions. You can use any size pot you wish and make the project as big or as small as you’d like. Although you can make this project with plastic pots, it’s best to use terra-cotta pots. Terra-cotta is a porous material that paint sticks to well.

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors

Materials

  • 2 8-inch clay pots
  • 4-inch clay pots
  • Acrylic paint
  • Clear acrylic sealer
  • Strong glue
  • Macrame cord (or other type of strong rope)

Instructions

Paint the Pots

The smaller flower pots will be the arms and legs, and the larger pots will be the body and head, so paint accordingly. If you have an overabundance of brush strokes, you may have to paint two layers to get a smooth surface. Let the paint dry and then seal the paint with several thin coats of clear acrylic sealer.

If you are a bit stuck as to how to decorate your flower pot person, visit Pinterest for inspiration. You will find hundreds of painted flower pot people to guide and inspire you.

How to make a clay person

Assemble the Arms

Place a small pot on a table upside down. Cut a piece of macrame cord about 3 feet long and run it through the drainage hole on the pot. Tie a knot onto the end of the macrame cord inside the pot, making sure the knot is larger than the size of the drainage hole. Pull the knotted cord up until the knot is flush with the bottom of the inside of the pot. Repeat with the other small pot.

How to make a clay person

Attach the Arms to the Body

Take the end of the macrame cord that runs through the small pot (the side that isn’t knotted) and run it through the drainage hole on an upside-down larger pot that represents the body of the flowerpot person. You will now have a cord running up through the arm and down into the body pot drainage hole, peeking out at the bottom. Do the same with the other “arm.”

How to make a clay person

Build the Legs

Take the unknotted cord that is peeking out from the bottom of the body pot, and run it into the drainage hole of an upside-down pot that represents the leg of the flower pot person.

Tie a knot and pull the cord so that it is flush against the inside drainage hole of the smaller pot that represents the leg. Pull the arm and leg to level it out against the body. Repeat on the other side.

How to make a clay person

Attach the Head

Place the flower pot person in your garden and then attach the head. You can place the head directly onto the body without gluing it and fill it with soil and flowers. However, if you wish to make your head more secure, glue the head onto the body. Pick some pretty plants or flowers to represent the flowerpot person’s hair and plant as you would a normal flowerpot.

How to make a clay person

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There are several ways you can make homemade clay for modeling and arts and crafts projects. The recipes below will help you make refrigerator clay, a clay that hardens when you bake it, one that you can coat for a glossy finish, and one that molds and stays pliable much like store-bought modeling clay.

Homemade Modeling Clay Recipe 1

This basic clay is essentially bare-bones cooking dough, which is easy to make with ingredients in your kitchen. It is sufficient for basic modeling projects, but you’ll want to throw it out before it starts growing bacteria. All you need to make it is:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  1. Mix the clay ingredients together.
  2. Store the modeling clay in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic baggie or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.

Homemade Modeling Clay Recipe 2

This homemade clay uses oil and cream of tartar for thickening, producing a clay that’s firmer than the one above. It’s perfect for simple modeling projects, and it only requires a few ingredients:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  1. Stir together the dry ingredients. Mix in the oil. Mix in the water and food coloring.
  2. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the clay thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pot.
  3. Cool the clay before use. Store the clay in a sealed container or plastic bag.

Homemade Modeling Clay Recipe 3

This recipe produces a modeling clay similar to the two above, but it uses cornstarch and baking soda rather than flour and salt:

  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  1. Mix the ingredients together over low heat until a dough is formed.
  2. Cover the clay with a damp cloth and allow it to cool before use.
  3. Seal completed clay products with shellac.

Homemade Modeling Clay Recipe 4

This recipe produces a clay with a smooth consistency similar to that of store-bought Play-Doh for kids. Air-dry products made with this clay.

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cream of tartar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Vanilla extract for scent (optional)
  1. Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the oil, food coloring, and vanilla extract. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and cream of tartar) in a bowl.
  2. Add the hot liquid to the dry ingredients a little bit at a time, stirring until you produce a pliable clay.
  3. The clay may be stored indefinitely in a sealed container at room temperature.

Homemade Modeling Clay Recipe 5

This recipe can be used to make clay for ornaments, jewelry, or small sculptures. The clay hardens after baking. Pieces may be painted and sealed if desired.

What comes to the mind of many people when the clay is mentioned is modelling clay.

You know, the clay that hardens when heated in an oven.

Growing up, I always loved art. I used to ask my parents to buy me modelling clay which I used to model dolls, cars, houses and many more.

As I grew up, I came to love the art of pottery and made myself a clay pot and a few clay cups.

Hardening the clay was a challenge for me at the time.

My several attempts to bake the clay in the oven failed to work.

As a DIY lover, I learned how you harden clay and here’s how

DISCLOSURE: TheRuggedRooster.com is reader supported so if you buy any products featured on this site I may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my full disclosure here.

Types of Clay

Before jumping into the how-to procedure, you need to understand the types of clay.

Understanding this will ensure that the process you choose to take works correctly for that specific type of clay.

The four kinds of modelling clay include ceramic clay, watercolour, oil-based clays and polymer-based.

Polymer Clay

Many people use polymer for crafting.

Drying

This type of clay can be hardened by baking it inside an oven.
Freezing polymer clay before heating it makes it more flexible.

How to Harden Clay With an Oven

Step 1. Read the Instructions

Make sure to read and follow the instructions.

There are different types of clay and, each kind requires different baking temperatures.

You can get this information from the manufacturer manual online.

Step 2. Preheat the Oven

The next thing to do is preheat the oven as per the instructions given. The temperature will probably fall between 220 °F and 300 °F degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 3. Place the clay in Parchment paper

Place your clay on parchment paper.

This paper will prevent the clay from sticking to the metal pan, which will ruin your art. Alternatively, use a glass dish.

Step 4. Place your clay at the centre of the baking tray

The heat will move in and out of the sculpture evenly.

Also, place the baking tray in the middle of the oven.

Step 5. Let the clay cool

Cooling the clay will prevent it from cracking.

You can cover the clay with a small towel. After 20 minutes, you can start to decorate your sculpture.

How to Harden Clay without an Oven

As mentioned above, these are some types of clay that do not harden with heat. There are different methods.

Method 1: Chemical Reaction

Step 1, Buy a binder like glue. You can also use white vinegar.

Step 2, Mix the binder with the modelling clay. A tablespoon for every half cup should be enough.

Method 2: Getting a dehumidifier

Dehumidifying is the most current and safe method of hardening clay.

Step 1, Put one pack of clay in front of another package to keep the level of humidity at a constant.

You can also use a space heater or humidifier. This equipment will maintain the level of humidity.

Method 3: Use A Heat Gun

Another option is to employ a heat gun.

Heat guns work as an alternative to ovens.

They are also cheap. General tips for hardening clay is to keep your area of work arranged and tidy.

How Do You Make Clay Hard?

These are the 3 main methods of hardening clay…

  1. Oven
  2. Chemical Reaction
  3. Dehumidifer
  4. Heat Guns.

This article was co-authored by Natasha Dikareva, MFA. Natasha Dikareva is a San Francisco, California based sculptor, and installation artist. With over 25 years of ceramics, sculpting, and installation experience, Natasha also teaches a ceramic sculpture workshop titled “Adventures in Clay” covering concept development, hand-building techniques, texture, and glazing techniques. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, Abrams Claghorn Gallery, Bloomington Center for the Arts, Maria Kravetz Gallery, and the American Museum of Ceramic Art. She has taught at the University of Minnesota and the American Indian OIC School. She has been awarded the Excellence Award at the 1st World Teapot Competition, Best in Show at the 4th Clay & Glass Biennial Competition, and a Grand Prize at the American Museum of Ceramic Art. Natasha holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota and a BFA from Kiev Fine Arts College.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 87% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 120,748 times.

Sculpting a face can be a challenge for the beginning sculptor, but there are a few simple tricks that will make it easy. It just takes some simple techniques and proper placement of the facial features. So, find a subject you want to sculpt, grab a few tools to help you add detail, and start sculpting.

How to make a clay person

Use some linked tutorials below to make miniature dolls and figures in several scales using basic sculpting techniques and polymer clay, epoxy putty or air dry clay. The dolls can be made fixed or poseable, making them useful for all kinds of miniature, dollhouse and gaming applications. If you want a new character for a doll’s house or a war game, the techniques are the same, but the scale and materials may be different. The figures are sculpted with a wire armature, and information is given on how to make separate hands, feet, torsos, and heads so you can make solid posed figures or poseable dollhouse dolls.

Body Proportions and Sizes for Miniature Dolls and Figures

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Lesley Shepherd / The Spruce

The tutorial on body proportions will show you how to make your figures look correctly sized. Figure proportions are important when you sculpt dolls and other miniature figures as they will help determine the age and character of your doll or figure. The average person is measured by artists and sculptors based on the proportions of the head. All parts of the body, even the arms, legs, and feet can be related to the size of the head as a comparison to make sculpture easier.

You can adapt the age and appearance of your figure by giving them a larger or smaller head than normal for their height. Babies have heads proportionately larger than the heads of adults, and you can create interesting caricatures by adjusting the size and proportion of the head in relation to the size of the rest of the body.

If you want dolls that are not all the same height and age range, you need to study proportion. Figures that are different sizes, and proportioned according to age, will lend your scenes, or games much more interest than figures which are all exactly the same height as those cast from molds usually are.

Sculpt Heads for Miniature Dolls or Figures

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Lesley Shepherd / The Spruce

The head is the place to start learning to customize dollhouse dolls and other miniature figures. Once you learn how to sculpt basic miniature heads, you can create entire families, make characters of particular ages, or caricature your friends. Sculpting a head is much easier than you think. All the parts of the head fall in regular spaces, and if you adjust those, you will adjust the appearance of your character.

There are some slight differences made much easier by particular materials. If you like making heads with soft or ‘plump’ facial features, polymer clays which are highly elastic will work well. If you prefer to sculpt in slow built up stages, you may prefer working with two-part epoxy putties.

Make Miniature Hands for Dolls or Figures

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Lesley Shepherd / The Spruce

Hands can add expression to a doll or figure pose or hold props for a scene. If you can make miniature hands, you can avoid trying to rebuild plastic and resin cast figures to make them more lifelike. Hands require good attention to proportions and pose, and tools that will allow you to work with very fine details on your chosen material. If you create various sets of hands in your working scale, you can make casts of the hands to easily create suitable hands for a range of characters, without beginning each sculpture from scratch.

Make Miniature Doll or Figure Torsos, Feet, and Shoes

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Lesley Shepherd / The Spruce

Sometimes you need more than a head on a stick. Sculpting miniature doll or figure torsos lets you set heads on different poses, show off jewelry, armor or clothing details. The torsos can be sculpted to show upper arms as well as the chest. For poseable dolls and figures, you may want to limit the amount of the torso that is made from polymer clay or epoxy putty, in order to allow for a dressed body which can be bent and twisted into realistic poses.

There are many ways to pad the armature on a miniature doll. If you can make a head and hands, you can create the rest of a full figure or doll by padding out a body over a wire armature. The same techniques work for creating a padded body with traditional porcelain doll parts.

You may need a leg, a shapely ankle, or a roughened barefoot for a particular miniature scene. Feet are easier to sculpt than miniature hands, and if you don’t like the idea of trying to sculpt tiny toes, just sculpt a shoe on the bottom of a leg.

Wig Your Doll House Dolls

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John Burke / Getty

How to wig your dollhouse doll has Information on wig fibers, wig caps, wig blocks and where to find online or in print wig making tutorials. You can give doll’s and figure’s hair with a range of different fibers, from embroidery floss through to mohair, Tibetan lambswool, and viscose. Wigging figures is not particularly difficult, but you need to decide if you want one fixed hairstyle on a doll or the option of changing out hairstyles by using removable wigs.

How to Choose a Doll House Doll

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Lesley Shepherd / The Spruce

Miniature dolls or dollhouse dolls are constructed of many materials and assembled in many different ways, making it difficult to choose between them. The majority of dolls are chosen for their costume and pose not their features. Here are some suggestions about how to choose a doll that suits your needs for particular scenes or styles.

Doll Making Tips and Tutorials

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Subir Basak / Getty

This range of tips and doll making information should help you sculpt the figure you want. Dolls are as individual as the dollmakers who create them, and you should find the technique that works best for you and your style of doll making.

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How to make a clay person

  • Water-based clay
  • A strong work surface e.g a thick masonite board
  • Modelling tools (wires, knives, spoons, old kitchen implements)
  • A mask

Working in three dimensions can be an interesting artistic challenge. Our guide on how to make clay sculptures breaks it down into simple, easy-to-follow steps.

How to make a clay person

Sculpting clay is a brilliant way to ignite your creativity. Although if you’re new to the medium and wondering how to make sculptures at home, it can be hard to know where to begin. From picking the right clay to improving technique, the following advice on clay sculptures for beginners will help get you started.

What clay is used for sculpting?

Before you start your clay sculpture you need to pick the appropriate clay. There are several types of clay used for sculpture, all varying in terms of handling and finish:

Oil-based modelling clay can appear unrefined and can be tricky for detailed work. But it stays soft and workable, making it good for practising with.
Polymerbased modelling clay is equally soft and can be baked in a household oven to fix a composition. It can be prone to cracking though.
Pottery or ‘firing’ clay – a water-based clay which can be shaped and fired at temperatures in excess of 121°C to stay firm. This is the method used for creating household ceramics.

What is the best sculpting clay to use at home?

Out of the above clays, the water-based option is best for beginners sculpting at home. Although it is often shaped on a potter’s wheel, it is by far the easiest to use to create shapes and forms using hand-building techniques.

How to start sculpting?

Now you’ve got your water-based clay sorted, it’s time for the creative part. Working in three dimensions will take some getting used to. However, these five useful tips will teach you how to make clay sculptures, from the initial idea to how to improve.

1. Envision the final piece

It is good to have a clear idea of how you want the final clay sculpture to turn out. So, before you start, make sketches of various imagined viewpoints and projections. Also consider the dimensions of the main shapes and the ratios between lengths.

Another recommendation, if you’re a beginner creating a 3D sculpture for your home, is to think about what direction it will most commonly be viewed from. Then if your attempt isn’t perfect from all angles, it will at least look good in position.

You may even want to consider trying a relief sculpture. As this involves adding forms onto a flat slab of clay, the final product won’t be viewed from all sides. It also lessens worries about weight and balance.

2. Test clay for wetness

Now you know what form your sculpture will take, it’s time to pick up your clay. Before you start, however, you’ll need to check if it’s wet enough as dried clay is difficult to work with.

Luckily, this is easy to test – pull off a small piece of the clay you intend to use and roll it in your hand until it forms a cylinder, about 1cm in diameter and about 10cm long. Bend the cylinder double. If it bends smoothly, it should be useable; if it cracks, try adding more water.

3. Build forms cleverly

If you are working without a potter’s wheel, there are still several simple ways of building up forms. Coils of clay are a good way of building up the sides of a hollow shape – laying the clay down in a spiral prevents it collapsing easily. Recesses can also be created by pinching the clay, digging out with your thumb and forefinger.

4. Avoid protruding shapes

A common question from beginners is how to make clay figures. You may have seen more advanced sculptors create these, with extended legs. The chances are that these artists will have used armatures – long, metal skeleton structures that support the weight of the clay.

Brass rods, aluminium wire and other stronger materials can be used for this too, but it is often easier to practise clay sculpting at home with more contained shapes. Once you’ve got the hang of this, then it’s time to consider adding armatures into your repertoire.

5. Look out for a local studio

While some art skills can be learnt through observation and practice, the more advanced aspects of clay sculpture can be tricky and need expert guidance. Look out for courses or local studios and sign up to find out more.

This gives you the chance to try firing your finished works for permanence and will ultimate improve your clay sculpting skills.

For more artistic advice and expert tips every month, subscribe to Artists & Illustrators magazine.

How to make a clay personRelated Articles

The Author

Artists and Illustrators

Artists & Illustrators is Britain’s most popular magazine for practising artists, whilst also being equally relevant to professionals, aspiring amateurs or to those who paint purely for pleasure. Full of step-by-step practical advice, readers’ own work, exclusive features on famous names and expert product tests, this is the top publication for every artist seeking inspiration, whether they favour painting, drawing or printmaking.