How to Make a Head Out of Clay.




Introduction: How to Make a Head Out of Clay.

This instructable will demonstrate how to construct a head out of clay. It is a very easy method which provides a realistic result. As a bonus, it is always looking at you, similar to the effect of the "Mona Lisa" except it uses a concave-convex illusion. I hope you enjoy this and create many sculptures. Feel free to add onto these ideas to create your own artwork.
I realize that the number of steps in this instructable is rather large, but each step is quite quick. You will be able to finish them faster than you might think.
A tip that I have for you is that you should not rush, concentrate on what you have to do on each step and try to follow as best as possible. Each head will turn out different. If it seems that it will become a sad face, let it become a sad face, if it seems that it will become a laughing face, let it become a laughing face. Don't get discouraged if it does not come out exactly as I did mine or as you expected it to be. Trying to change it will most likely ruin the sculpture.
It is very easily done with common household supplies. The supplies that you will need are a pair of scissors, a blob of clay, a paperclip, a Popsicle stick, a straw (optional), and a length of string that is about 2 feet long (optional).
Please follow this instructable and please, HAVE FUN DOING IT!

Step 1: Your Supplies

As mentioned before, these are all of the supplies you'll need. You will need the clay to make the head and a base for the head, the Popsicle stick and the paper clip for detailed features, the straw for making a hole in the head if you wanted to make it a bead, scissors for cutting the string, and the string for making a necklace out of the bead.

Step 2: Shaping the Ball of Clay

Separate a piece of clay that is about the size of the circle created with your pointer finger and thumb. Roll this into a tight and smooth ball. Then, shape it so it is a bit oblong like an egg (make sure it doesn't come out like a cylinder because that will distort the face and make some steps very difficult).

Step 3: The First Impressions

Take your Popsicle stick and press it into the clay twice to create the eyes and press once for the mouth. IT WILL END UP LOOKING LIKE AN ALIEN! Try to keep it the same as in the pictures. This part is essential for fine details later on. You start with the coarse details and end up with the fine ones. Do not press too hard nor too softly. Practice is what makes each head better. You may notice that in the fourth picture in this step, it looks vaguely that there is a nose there but from the side it looks flat. The next step involves making that nose look like a nose from all directions (except the nostrils which will come into play when we do the finer details).

Step 4: Picking the Nose :P

We now need to take the spot where the nose should be and squeeze the sides together so it pops out. BE VERY CAREFUL to not let it get too thin or it may crack or get accidentally destroyed. Shape it a little bit so you like how it looks.

Step 5: The Neck and the Chin

In this step, we will be creating a neck and a chin to go along with our head. It is very important not to make the chin too close to the bottom of the nose because there will be no room for the mouth and the bottom lip. The way you create the chin and neck are all in two moves. The first one is pushing the bottom sides together to make the neck and the second is to push down the bottom front to create the chin. If this all makes sense to you, you should get it right. It takes a lot of practice and is hard to explain in words.

note: the neck should be around the same width of the head, not thin.

Step 6: Mouth and Lower Lip

This step is where we will be sculpting the mouth and lower lip (YAY!). Take your Popsicle stick and use the tip to create a deep horizontal impression where the mouth should be. remove the Popsicle stick carefully. Now, you need to create the lower lip. You now need to place the tip of the Popsicle stick onto the chin so it is resting there and push it forward so the bottom lip almost touches the top lip without disturbing the chin.

Step 7: 'eye'-'eye'

Create impressions the same way you did to make the mouth, but in the eye sockets. Make sure that one is not lower than the other. Next, take your paper clip, unfold it partially, and poke holes in the center of the eyes for pupils. If you rotate the head, the eyes follow. I find that pretty neat.

Step 8: The Fine Finishings

Take the Popsicle stick and smooth out any rough parts to make it look more realistic. Take the paper clip and VERY carefully poke holes underneath the nose to create nostrils. The ones I did were little off center and a bit too small. Try to make it a realistic size and symmetrical.

Step 9: EXTRAS

Here I have provided two ideas of what you can do with these heads. One is to stack them on top of a hunk of clay with one, two, or maybe even more of these heads. Another is a bit more complicated. Take the head and push a straw through the side with a twisting motion and let it come out the other side. If the face becomes distorted, VERY CAREFULLY squeeze it back to place. Cut an acceptable length of string and thread it through the head. Tie a knot on the string and wear it as a necklace.



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    52 Discussions

    Excellent first instructable. May I make two suggestions though? First, I'd suggest using a smaller straw like a coffee stirrer. Then you'll be less likely to distort the face. Second, I'd suggest using smaller string (maybe use some fishing wire so it'll appear to be "floating" in front of you) to fit into the smaller hole. I'm going to try this with play-doh later because I don't have any clay....

    8 replies

    Awesome. I like to hear the responses. The smaller hole is an interesting idea. The only thing about that is if you are going to fire it (i.e. you are using ceramics clay) the whole thing shrinks and it is also likely to get clogged. You could expand it a bit by wiggling it around. As for the fishing line idea, that would look AWESOME. I am not sure if that would hurt your neck or not because it is so thin. I suspect that you could have it under a collar of a collared shirt. Thank you for your comment. I really worked hard on this instructable and this was my first one.

    Perhaps you could put a knot on either side of the head to keep it in one spot and coat the part of the wire that'll go around your neck with some clear glue or rubber cement. I forgot about the clay shrinking. I haven't "played" with clay for like 2 years now. I don't even know where I would be able to fire it unless I went back to my art teacher and had him do it for me after I allowed it time to dry (or built my own kiln). Or I could, in theory, use my mother's self cleaning stove (that should get hot enough, but it would suck if the clay had air bubbles....Ka-boom)

    Good ideas. There may be some sort of an art center where you live amd mabye they have a kiln there. Yeah, it would explode if it had bubbles in it.

    Nah, I live in the woods. No kilns around here except the High School's. I made several nice things though before I graduated. In fact someone else's project blew up and destroyed the hollow ball that I created (one of the first "instructional" projects we did) along with other peoples' projects (some were lucky). I glued the ball back together (as best as I could), though I didn't have to cause my teacher had seen that it was well made and one of his rules was that as long as he saw it before it went into the kiln (unless it was the exploding project) and it ended up breaking due to someone else's, he'd give you a good grade, depending upon the workmanship of the piece beforehand (otherwise, you'd fall behind). I was off by a year, I haven't used clay for 3 years. I still remember the rule of the thumb though....(clay no thicker then your thumb, at least that's what I was taught :) ) If I really wanted to make something, I could always visit him and even buy some of the clay he has (or recycle some of his old clay) and bring back anything I wanted fired.

    FrenchCrawler: I was taught to throw pots & such at 1/8th of an inch thickness but then again my teachers were potters with the art being passed down through more generations than I know because I'm from a Native American Indian family and the records only go back so far but it's how my family (maternal grandmother's ancestors) got their last name: Potter. I took an advanced pottery class in 2008 as a refresher b/c it'd been so long since I'd worked on the wheel and I had bought one to start back working in pottery... I learned in the refresher course that nowadays, people tend to throw a standard 3/4 of an inch thickness. Even though I still threw at 1/8th of an inch out of habit, when we had our pit fire project, which was a large part of the grade, a decorative decanter I made survived the pit fire nicely; hwr other students inc. my instructor couldn't believe that I only had one piece in the pit yet that one piece survived without episode or incident whereas others had several to a dozen or more pieces in the pit yet by the time the pieces were pulled out, they were lucky if 1-2 pieces survived it. I had experience in throwing for pit fires though b/c my grams and great-grandfather used to fire using pit fires, an outdoor wood burning kiln, and a few indoor commercial sized electric kilns. I made a marbled piece from contrasting clays that went into an art exhibit several counties away as it was made in a traditional Native American manner without the need for anything more than a coat of clear glaze since the contrasting clay colors (Buncombe White & Speckled Brownstone) were wedged just enough to remove the bubbles and align the molecules where it would throw well on the wheel yet not over-wedged to the point where the clay was the same color. It turned out extremely well. My pit fire piece went in a separate exhibit then on to another one before being returned to the college then to me. I want a kiln and a Peter Pugger so bad it hurts but can't find any organization that can help me obtain either or help with a building so I can continue working with my clay. The college only offers 2 classes and my experience level was so far ahead of the beginner class the instructor/professor moved me into the advanced class where I passed with a perfect score. He teaches and grades on the "Trial by Fire" method. If it doesn't survive the "Trial by Fire" you don't get the grade. None of my pieces every broke or cracked in the kilns or even in the pit but then again I had much more experience than the other students too not to mention being the oldest student. The professor was only a year, if that much, older than I am.

    Well...I guess the large hole makes any part of the clay "no thicker than your thumb." I learned that you should never have it more than 1/4 inch...which is vurtually the same thing

    You can probably dig out the back of his head with the straw :-)

    Piano wire works great at making openings in pottery when you don't have true pottery tools. Though in fact, piano wire is actually used in pottery. It's strong and most of your clay cutters (wood ends with a wire in the middle used to cut clay from the bag before wedging and used when cutting a pottery piece off the pottery wheel once you throw on the wheel and complete the project is made using piano wire). You can press piano wire into the head then gradually wind it outward adjusting the clay head as needed until the hole is open. I took an advanced pottery class back in 2008 as a refresher course since it had been so long since I'd thrown clay & fired it. My mother & the majority rule of her siblings sold my grams studio after she died including my kick wheel pottery wheel (manual wheel) that my little brother nicknamed the "Flintstone Mobile" because the manual pottery wheels requires one to kick a wooden pedal in order to make the pottery head (top wheel where you throw the pottery) turn. To him, it was like driving the Fred Flintstone car b/c one has to use your foot to make it turn. LOL! I have a slew of pottery tools including chopsticks to ensure the same height when throwing repetitive pieces... such as several to a dozen cups or bowls I need to be the same size with each pull of the clay.

    As for the hole to make it a bead: Why not form the clay around the straw to start with, then cut the ends of the straw off when you are done?

    Hi! I tried to make a head as cool as yours, but I didn't have the talent and/or patience... As it didn't look very human, I decided to make an alien baby out of it and put it in a jar. I displayed it in our bathroom self, but my mom didn't like it and hides it behind some bottles... i feel like a misunderstood artist ;) However, thanks for sharing!


    you should see some of the crazy heads i make out of blue-tac which is alot harder to make things from ! I've posted a few pics of a head i made when i was bored one night, it took me about 35 mins to make. Let me know what you think and i might make a instuctable on it !

    Picture 003.jpgPicture 001.jpgPicture 002.jpgPicture 004.jpg
    5 replies

    relentless, you've inspired me. i saw your pics, and thought, hey, i want to make a head like that, and i did. then i decided to try to add a torso, and i think it turned out preatty well (i also made a scared face, but it is hard to see in the pics). so tell me what u think of my heads. P.S. AWSOME INSTRUCTABLE!!!!!!!!!


    Hi skeleton1102 ! First of all I wanna say how grateful i am when someone actually says that i have inspired them ! i think its really cool, and secondly i want to say how well you have created your models swell, the first guy you made is an almost identical copy of mine, except mines blue because i made it from blu-tac and not clay. I will have to go buy some clay and make an instructable on this as the pictures where only of what i could do and they had no instructions with them. Anyways keep up the good work man and heres a tip for future work, Use a mirror (like a hand mirror) when making the head of your model, that way when you need to put an expression into the models face you use the mirror and look at your own face whilst pulling the expression you desire to create, this way you can use your own face as a reference to tweak and change the clay till you get what you want. Sounds a little mad pulling faces in the mirror but it helps ! look forward to seeing more pics of everyones creations, Relentless.