The medium the sculptor chooses to create his piece (“model”) is a personal one – determined by asking these questions:
- What do you want to do with the finished model?
- Do you have a preference for the material’s ingredients?
- What feel or texture do you want while sculpting?
If you want to reproduce your finished model by making a mold and then cast of the piece, then you will want to sculpt using an oil- and wax-based material such as Plastilina. If you want your model to cure naturally producing a finished piece with no further mold making and casting required, then sculpting with a direct modeling material such as self-hardening clay (also known as air-dried clay) would be your choice. If you want to fire you modeled piece in a kiln, then a water based clay, such as pottery (ceramic) clay would be your best bet.
While all clay bodies have clay flour as a major component, their uniqueness is found in their individual formula’s remaining ingredients. In simple terms, Plastilina is an oil-and wax-base clay; self-hardening clay has a ceramic clay body as its base with natural additives to make them air-harden. Pottery (ceramic) clay is made from base clay with additional components mixed in a ribbon blender or pug mill while adding water.
Lastly, while not a medium you would normally think to sculpt in, many choose to directly model with wax in order to create a finely detailed piece. Other carving waxes are ideal for the mold making and casting process.