Coil Building Expressive Ceramic Sculpture

Ceramic sculptor Arthur Gonzalez was trained as a photorealist painter, but grew to dislike the control and predictability of that genre. So it is no surprise that when he discovered ceramics (not exactly known for its predictability!) he became hooked. He explains, “I can instantly materialize a thought and then destroy it if it does not deliver what I need.” This immediacy satisfies a love of exploration.

In today’s post, an excerpt from Ceramics and the Human Figure (which is on sale through today, September 27, 2017!), Edith Garcia explains how Arthur approaches his coil-built figurative clay sculpture. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.


Building Process

Gonzalez creates multidimensional sculptural pieces by using mixed media and sculptural techniques. In the photo series shown here, he demonstrates how to construct a small female head and torso using terra cotta. When complete, this would be integrated into a larger mixed-media work.


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The human figure appears in clay throughout history and continues to evolve today. Artists are working with the figure in unusual ways, playing with materials and forms, and using new technologies to produce challenging and unconventional work. Ceramics and the Human Figure explores the role of figurative ceramics through history and in contemporary contexts, and also reveals the methods of six key contemporary artists, using how-to images to illustrate their techniques. And through today, you can save 20% on this great book!

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He uses the inside-out technique, in which clay is pushed and manipulated from the inside of the object to establish a basic form (figures 1–5 ). Building his terra-cotta pieces in this way allows him the flexibility to push the clay in and out, manipulating it to get the exact structure he is searching for. He then slowly builds up and models the facial and figurative details (figures 6–12).


Allowing the pieces to dry, he then bisque fires the work to cone 04. After the bisque firing, and with the application of slips and engobes (figures 13–14 ), he multi-fires his works until he is able to achieve the surface quality he is searching for.


After completing the firing process, he enhances the narrative within his sculptural practice using cast glass, found objects, painting, and drawing. By using mixed media he is able to push the boundaries of the human form and clay.

  • Adrian C.

    Has anyone tried firing a sculpted clay piece in an electric kiln where styrofoam or paper was used as a filler for the ceramic shell formed? During firing, the paper or foam will burn off. My concern is the effect the chemical carbons will have on the kiln’s firing elements?
    Thank you.

  • Carole S.

    Interesting article since I am currently morphing from functional ware
    into sculpture. I checked out the link Shannon shared to see the finished
    product. That was overwhelming! Fabulous work! Arthur Gonzalez has a new

  • Great technique, interesting surfaces…wow, really? found objects? painting? mixed media? where??…its always so disappointing when you don’t show the finished piece or at least an example of the artist’s work. Its not nice to tease!!

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