How to Make a Portrait Face Jug




About: We are two Dental Tech's who both started out as Artist's. One day we both answered an ad for artist's at a dental laboratory - fell in love....and the rest is history. We live and breath Creativity and self...

Here is a step by step Guide to creating a functional piece of art.

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Step 1: Start With a Jug and a Good Photo

If you have the capability to throw a Jug Shape, Then your well on your way. If you have a friend who can throw one for you - you could ask them....but you have to start with a good Jug that fits the proportion of your working reference photo. By holding your photo up to the Jug, you can begin laying out reference points with a needle tool. Just poke through the paper right onto the surface of the clay.

Step 2: Begin Roughing Out the Features.

This technique is what I like to call "The Wet Finger-Brush Sculpting Method". Start by using very wet clay then with your fingers - Very basically start smearing on the details according to your reference marks. Be sure to keep the working surface moist and not to wet by periodically spritzing with water.

Step 3: Start Connecting the Facial Structures.

Keep checking your photo and begin adding more detail as you see fit. At this stage, your still just roughing it in. Keep your sculpture moist on all sides as you work - You want it to be consistently moist at all times. If you need to step away for any length of time......Mist it well and place a bucket over it. This will act as a humidor and your piece will equillibrate in consistency. (Even Overnight)

Step 4: Start Defining Details and Adding Character.

You can begin using your brushes by smoothing and compressing the details and even shaping. You can also gently push in the eye sockets with your thumbs and begin working on the eyes. Be sure to have some thick watery slip. The slip will be a glue as well as a smoothing agent. Avoid trapping air pockets and keep spritzing with water.

Step 5: Cross Reference Your Photo and Start Refining.

At this point, I decided to emphasize a spout. (That's Optional). Keep checking your photo and work in small areas....but be sure to move all over. Don't stay in one spot too long. This helps with continuity and a progressive workflow.

Step 6: Don't Ignore the Rest of the Piece.

As much as you mist with water, It will start firming up as you are working - so you should start considering putting a handle on the back before it's too late. Handles come in all shapes. I chose a simple handpulled design. Use your brushes and fingers to add and smooth - and keep checking your reference photo. You should now be at a point where you can decide whether or not to smash it with your fist......or......Keep going. I think he's looking pretty good, so I'll continue.

Step 7: Start Adding More Structure.

By using the Photo in the same proportion as the Jug, It is easy to get the correct size when adding details. Be sure to stay moving around the piece....not staying in one area to long. This is all a process of adding bits and pieces a little at a time. Just stay moving.

Step 8: Start Working on Secondary Details.

At this point, you should have the Primary anatomy mostly done. The Secondary anatomy would be things like Facial Hair, Hair, Moles, Glasses, or anything not to be considered the basic structure of the face. Work with your brushes (both ends) and keep the slip handy. Use a bowl of water to help keep things clean. Clean your brushes as you go along.

Step 9: Sharpen Secondary Anatomy and Start Controlling Moisture.

Once you have your Secondary details dialed in, you can further sharpen with a hair dryer. Don't go nuts with it....Just hit the spots you want to work on in order to firm the clay just enough to take a little "light" carving. Soften details ever so slightly with your brush and re-mist with water.

Step 10: Work on the Hair - Save the Eyes for Last.

Okay....Jerry-Curl is very elusive for me. Sculpting Hair is tedious for anybody and is the most time consuming part. Let the Pictures lend some guidance because this process is a real chore. Save the eyes for last.

Step 11: Consider How Hair Grows and Work Naturally.

Hair won't look very natural if you don't follow the rules. Work in layers.

Step 12: Be Patient - Work Steady.

Like I said....This can be a long and almost boring process. Just keep at it. It's just a Jug and the hair is more representational than anything else since this still has to be a Functional piece.

Step 13: Finalize the Details.

This is where you can start tightening up and bring it all together. Add a couple sculptural attributes - and you are ready to start the eyes.

Step 14: The Eyes.

I save the eyes for last because they require more detail. The clay should be stiff leather hard when attempting to carve out the eyes. It's pretty simple......Just carve out the iris, add a highlight, and hopefully you nailed it. Good Luck - I know you can do it. LOL! (lot's of love)

Step 15: Hope the Video Plays!

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    16 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Tough sculpt, great job! Did you write "bad a$& mother F!@£€r" on the bottom of the jug?!

    7 replies

    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks so much! I didn't know if I could pull it off so I just sat down and did it. Hope I did justice for Mr. Jackson.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    It is so beautiful!

    do you know that head-shaped jugs are ancient traditional crafts in Sicily and expecially the head of a moorish man. And "testa", the italian for "head" means "crock, jug" in latin. So, your idea has ancient roots

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks very much! That's some very great information. I was inspired by a friend who is a folk potter. He makes traditional southern face jugs.

    Thank you so much!....I was responding the emails on my phone,and did not realize until notified that you wont see it unless I respond directly on the site. Sorry - my bad......I'm a little slow.

    I fail many times a least five - sometimes more than that.You will make lots of mistakes if you want something to happen. The biggest failure would be for you to stop and be frustrated......then just give up. You can make ANYTHING......Just don't stop trying - and DON'T give up. You can make anything you want as long as you keep at it. Keep making......You could change the world.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    when I first clicked this instructable, I thought this was a tribute face jug for somebody's dad or uncle. Before I even scrolled down I thought, "this dad sure looks like Samuel L. Jackson...."

    lol, you got my vote good job!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! I chose Mr. Jackson for his iconic appearance and thought it would make a better statement rather than some random person. The same rules apply for any face though. I plan on making many more and sharing them. I think Mr. Nicholson may be next.