Concave / Convex
Open / Closed
HARD edge / soft edge


Ursula von Rydingsvard art 21

Biomorphic forms

Bronzing patina method

Artists and concepts to research:

Constatin Brancusi (article)

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Louise Bourgeois

Nick Hornsby (contemporary artist that often uses the vocabulary of the artists above)

Gregor Spanle & Julia Venske at Margaret Thatcher Projects, NYC opening night, video

Bill Thompson , excellent resource if you consider using painted finish. Notice the seductive surfaces.



Student Work:





Using reductive methods (subtractive) carve an organic form out of plaster. Prior to working you will research various utilitarian forms , for example an old sneaker, a tooth brush, tooth paste dispenser, or a simple fork can influence how you will begin working. Ask yourself, what elements and principles of design are most interesting in the form you choose. What parts are you most attracted to? Your answers will be the origin of the final piece.Based on your research you will make 5 models out of non-harding clay. In addition, as your work evolves you will begin to make decisions responding to the form itself as it takes on it's own identity. Always consider 360 degrees and H x W x D, or x,y,z axes as you work. Consider making deep and shallow cuts to encourage rich design.


Utilitarian Form (from the kitchen, office, tool shed or bathroom)

Plasticine or non-hardening clay (found in craft stores, wal-mart, children craft areas).


Plaster 25 lbs bag of Plaster of Paris (found in Home-Depot painting dept.)

A cardboard box or foam core will be used to mold the plaster

A small plastic bucket for plaster mixing.


2-3 Plastic garbage bags (small) to line your bucket. We have 5 gallon buckets to use for larger pours. If you decide to go this route you must line your bucket with small trash bags so the plaster does not dry inside the hard plastic 5 gallon buckets.

Plastic or cardboard container(s) for plaster casting (it might be necessary to cut it away from the plaster). Milk or large soda bottles are good for such use. Also consider large balloons, cardboard boxes, any container that can be discarded afterwards. Note the plaster will take the interior shape of the form you choose. Consider the size relevant to a large house cat or small dog. You can also cast multiple forms and integrate them.

Brown paper. You must absolutely cover your table during carving.

Chisels and rasps (we will supply tools for in-class work; however, you can find carving tools for working at home as well. (i.e. old utensils, old screwdrivers, wood files, knives). Old Wood chisels are ideal. Remember that plaster contains water, your tools will eventually rust.

Sandpaper for smoothing the surface during the final stages. The degree of smoothness you desire will determine the sandpaper grit you will need. Get a pack of assorted grits. Ideally you will need one of each: 80, 100, 220, 400, and 600 grit.


Cover the tables with brown paper or newspapers while you carve.
Cleanup after you are done.
Dress for a mess!




Find an object of interest or google image search an object of interest. Consider finding several angles of view so if your using a 2-D source. This object should offer elements of design that you personally respond, for example you may be interested in the negative space inside the handle of a coffee cup, or the concave curve of a spoon. Closely study the object you chose. View several different angles, study the interior and exterior contours, then begin to create a few sketches based on specific elements of the form (zoom in an isolate elements of the form). These sketches will be your starting point for carving away material. Always consider the design process: Research, sketch, make.... research, sketch, make, and so on. Eventually, you will just make (execute your design).

When carving a form in any material two methods can be employed. The carver can either let the original mass determine the nature of the carved form by working intuitively and making adjustments during the process, or he/she can determine the nature of the form prior to carving. A combination of the two methods is also used often. In this case the sculptor will loosely conceive of a form to be carved out and during the process of carving he or she will make various adjustments and changes to the original plan.

Carving is a methodical and time-consuming activity. It demands patience and a great deal of focus since the carved material is always prone to breaking when the sculptor is careless. In this sense, the sculptor must be sensitive to the material and anticipate vulnerabilities of your carved form before any accidents occur.

The carving technique is universal for all material in the way that the sculptor will remove first the large unwanted portions of mass before proceeding to break smaller and smaller pieces as he/she approaches the surface of the desired forms. The final stages of the form revelation often involve careful and time consuming sanding, polishing, and depending on the material, finishing the sculpture by sealing its surface.


Finishing plaster

Plaster is offered for a wide variety of finishes and it can be textured, smoothed in various degrees, painted, or waxed. Plaster's white color and silky texture invites attention even without any extra finishing, and if presented indoors it can even be left unsealed. If the plaster is to be presented outdoors, then a sealing coat of shellac (diluted 1:1 with denatured alcohol) followed with a coat of "butcher's wax" is advised. Plaster is a porous material and as such it is a good ground for paint. It can be colored with watercolors, acrylics, or its surface can be rubbed with pastels and even oil colors. For a dramatic effect of emphasizing its texture, powder graphite can be rubbed on the surface with a soft cloth.

Plaster can take a good polish by methodic sanding. Begin with a rough grid (80 or 100 will do fine), and work the polish up with successive passes of finer and finer sandpaper and finish by "wet-sanding" the surface with 600 or even 1200 grid sandpaper.

In order to paint or seal the surface, the plaster must be thoroughly dry for a period of about 2 weeks (depending on the humidity and temperature).

Kilz Klear (image below) works and drys clear (water based). This will seal the chalky plaster surface.

or Bull's Eye Shelac (not water based), tints yellow, but good for applying patinas.








Constantin Brancusi (a true formalist)

"The art of Brancusi is one of rare formal invention, responsiveness to materials, and intense beauty, achieved by acute self-discipline, meditative but nonetheless expressive detachment, and a profound intellectual capacity. The richness of meaning in his sculptures may seem to be at odds with their formal simplicity, but such a difference will trouble only the superficial or unsympathetic viewer: formal simplification was essential to the creation of meaning for Brancusi" (source: Eric Shanes’ book: "Brancusi").


















Louise Bourgeois






















Ernesto Neto














Henry Moore
































Barbara Hepworth, born: 1903