Experimentation, Expression & Dirty Hands: Student Ambassador vs. Modelling Clay

by Cass Art Student Ambassador

We catch up with Fine Art student and Cass Art Ambassador, Christina Marshall, who has been playing around with DAS Modelling Clay to make unusual, abstract forms.

What draws you to working with clay?                                      

I like to work spontaneously, and clay allows me to re-mould and re-model my work numerous times. There is a freedom in the resilience of the material, that makes me feel able to take risks and find out how a piece can change and evolve. Much of my artwork represents my own emotions, and I see clay as a particularly expressive material; it's incredibly tactile and malleable, and when kneading and warping it with my own hands I feel I am really able to relay my feelings. Playing with and appreciating the textural qualities of clay is also incredibly therapeutic and relaxing, and of course I love to get my hands dirty!

Your work is quite abstract; do you plan your pieces before making them, or do you work instinctively as you go?

Working instinctively allows the most creativity and imagination in my pieces. Without planning I'm able to connect my mind more fully to what my hands are making, and to honestly express my fleeting thoughts and feelings through my work. I tend to be quite spontaneous as an artist, and I constantly try to push my personal boundaries by experimenting with a range of materials and processes, which means I can enjoy an ever-expanding comfort zone. I'm currently at university, and keen to explore and discover what my artistic practice is, and can be. 

Did you use any tools to help you create the form, or did you just work with your hands?

Working with my hands is very important to me as it helps to intrinsically link myself to my work, and adds a deeper level of authenticity to the pieces I make. In this piece I didn't use tools, and found that working directly with the materials allowed me to psychically engage with the object and its subject matter.

What are the themes behind this work?

I explore a range concepts through my practice, and often fall back on the ideas of abstraction and reconstruction. I am also extremely inspired by themes of human nature and emotion, including compassion, peace, transformation and pride.

How long did the clay take to dry out once you’d finished sculpting your piece?

Air-drying clay tends to dry quite quickly, and my piece took around 2-4 hours to dry and harden. It's really great to find a clay that dries so easily and that I can use at home. It's also fun to work in a familiar medium that follows different rules than the norm. 

Did you consider painting or decorating the work at all?

I did think about painting the piece, but decided that the form and the idea should be the main focal point. The work is quite experimental; I drew influence for it from my experience of making it, and I wanted the marks made with my hands to be the main decorative element of the form. I use paint a lot at university, and I wanted to create something completely different and step out of my comfort zone.

Does this piece link in with the work you are currently creating at university- if so, how?

This piece is definitely relevant to my current studio practice, as they both utilise abstraction to tackle themes of transformation and deformity. At university I am currently using deconstruction and reconstruction to play with materials and create unusual and unique objects, which is what I have attempted to achieve in my clay piece.

Do you see this as a finished piece or more of an exploration of the material?

To me, this is definitely an exploratory piece, the benefit of which has been to find out more about clay, and think about how it can be applied to relay the themes within my own practice. Some of the pieces I make can appear unfinished- as I judge a work's completion purely on my own intuition. I'm conscious not to over-work an idea, so often force myself to stop, take a step back and move on to the next thing.

How do you imagine the piece being displayed?

I see this piece being at home within a natural environment. The piece is deliberately unusual, and I am keen for its exhibition to be as unexpected as its appearance, and as such I would like the artwork to be displayed outside of a gallery, in a non-conventional setting.

Do you have any tips for somebody else using DAS modelling clay?

My top-tips for making experimental objects using DAS air-drying clay are:

  • Work in an open, clean space (protective covers for furniture can come in handy) 
  • Be open-minded and imaginative with your design
  • Engage fully with the material and don't be afraid to get your hands messy!
  • Feel connected to the object and feel free to change your ideas as you go
  • Go beyond your comfort zone- make something unexpected 
  • Use expressive gestures and play with the tactile quality of clay
  • Think outside-the-box when displaying your piece

Feeling Inspired?

Find more of Christina's work here.

Shop for DAS Modelling Clay online at Cass Art.

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