Do you have a bunch of clay and nothing to make? Why not try making a shoe?
While it may seem simple, creating a shoe in clay is a fun and challenging project and with enough time you can get some fantastic results.
Step 1: Find Your Inspiration
The first step to creating an awesome ceramic show is finding your inspiration.
1. Find a shoe that you really like. Remember you will be staring at this shoe for a really long time, getting to know every wrinkle and gromet. Plus once complete you will have an exact copy of the shoe to display. You might as well be staring at something you like to look at.
2. Take lots of pictures of your shoe. Make sure you get every possible angle of the shoe to get all the details of the shoe captured from different angles. When I sculpted this shoe I always had the shoe with me to compare, but it is very good to have the pictures on hand as well.
3. Take measurements of the shoe. to be able to compare when you are sculpting the shoe.
NOTE: If you choose to sculpt a shoe that doesn't have a lot of detail it DOES NOT mean that the sculpting process will be easy. All shoes have small details. If they are not there they will not look real.
Step 2: Start Simple
1. Start your shoe by creating a basic shell. I used a series of rolled out clay slabs to create the basic shape of the shoe. The three shapes to cut out are the sole, the body, and the tongue.
Don't worry about the shoe looking bulky at this stage. This is the shell that you will be either adding or carving out clay. Slowly your shoe will appear.
Step 3: Creating the Contour Shape
The next step is to add some specific contours to your shoe.
1. Add contours to where your shoe folds and bends. if you look at your shoes you can probably tell that they are not perfectly straight. One side bends differently than the other, and depending on how old the shoes are they have unique lumps, folds, and imperfections. My shoe had some distinct bends near the sole area. Now is the time where you capture those bending imperfections in your clay.
a. You can start by bending your simple shape to capture a more accurate contour of your shoe.
b. Add clay to begin building up the shape on the side of the shoe I had to add clay to the outside to recreate the bend of the fabric
NOTE: Remember when attaching one clay body to another you have to "Score and slip" This is where you make several grooves in the two pieces you want to attach then add slip (a water and clay mixture) to each piece before sticking them together. If this process is not done correctly the pieces of clay won't adhere correctly and are at risk of breaking apart as the clay dries
Step 4: Adding the Details: Shoe Features
Now that there is a clean shape to your shoe it is time to look at creating all the small details. Your details will depend on what shoe you are sculpting so I am going to go through some of the details I had to do and give you some tips on what I learned from the process.
1. Easiest way to add layers is to add clay. I didn't have very many layers to my shoe but I did learn some tricks when I added the side of the sole and the few layers of fabric. The easiest way to create another layer is to add clay on top of the shell. Some people like to carve the layers out of the clay, but when I did it the look did not look as real as it did when I just added layers.
2. Don't worry about the stitching yet. Do the stitching last. The small divits are so intricate and can easily be smudged as you are working on the rest of the features and you will end up having to redo them later anyway. Wait to put the stitches in until the end
Step 5: Adding the Details: Wrinkles
1. Wrinkles in the shoe are more difficult than they look. When I went about the wrinkles initially I thought it would be easy to just put scratches into the clay. This did not work. You must remember as you create the wrinkles that they do not only consist of the folded wrinkly part of the fabric, but all the fabric around it. You have to recreate all the bends that are pulled by the wrinkle being there.
Step 6: Adding the Details: Grommets
1. Do not try to make the holes in the grommets until you put them on your shoe. I tried to make the doughnut shape and then put them on the shoe but the looked really bad. The easiest way to do this is to make a disc shape the same size you want the grommet to be. Then you put it on the shoe and carve the hole out. It was so much easier.
Step 7: Adding the Details: Stitches
1. Do Stitches last. I already mentioned this before. Wait until you are mostly done with the rest of the details before you put in stitches.
2. Use a corrugated scoring tool to do the laces. A picture of the tool is shown above. The easiest way to do laces is to take this tool and slowly guide it around where the stitches are. It is the fastest way to get the illusion of stitches without having to carefully carve each one.
Step 8: Adding the Details: Shoe Laces
1. Shoe laces are tough. Do no be discouraged if it takes you multiple tries to get the shoelaces right. They require a large amount of patience to deal with. The clay can't be too wet where they droop when the go on, but cant be too dry where they begin to crack as you move them. If they do either of these things there is a high likelihood your laces will fall off.
2. Wrap your laces in damp paper towels when drying. If there are any laces that are free standing away from your main piece they will dry faster than than your main piece. This is bad because they will start shrinking and cracking, breaking off of the shoe. The goal is to dry those pieces slowly so the whole piece dries at a consistent rate. Then everything will stay in one piece
Step 9: Bisque Fire the Piece
When you are done with your shoe completely, it is time to bisque fire your piece. This will make it a hard stone and no longer malleable, but prepped for painting.
NOTE: DO NOT PUT THE PIECE IN THE KILN UNTIL PIECE IS 100% DRIED. If there is any part of the piece that is still not completely dried there is a high possibility your piece will turn into a bomb when you heat it up to hundreds of degrees. You do not want your hard work to be destroyed.
Step 10: Painting
Finally when your shoe is out of the kiln it is time to paint the shoe and make it look awesome!
1. Start by painting your entire piece black. This will give you a good base to do more detailed painting. Also it will cover all of the bare clay color.
2. Experiment working with mixing colors. Colors are not as simple as they look. While my shoe looks black and white I found to make a more realistic look I needed to add greys and creams to the mix of colors. Paint it how you would like but if you just use the main colors you will find your piece looks flat and cartoonish.
3. Don't try to paint details if you are bad a detail painting. I did not paint the converse seals on my piece. I actually printed all the converse details on paper then glued them onto the piece before painting over top of it. The result was thousands of times better than anything I could have free drawn and recommend the technique.
Step 11: Amaze Your Friends
You now have an exact replica of your shoe made from clay. Now take it to work or put it on your coffee table and amaze everyone who sees it. No one will believe that its made of clay.