How in Clay

sculpture progress from armature & clay to bronze

The Process of  JOEL making a sculpture in clay

The example of the making of a Thoroughbred Horse sculpture

The project starts with photography sessions and detailed measurements by the Sculptress JOEL

Red is the horses name

This was the target  -  Katie and Red,  and below Katie delighted with the finished sculpture

Thoroughbred Horse Red and owner


Owner and Thoroughbred Bronze by JOEL

Diary by JOEL

The first visit to meet the horse and owners has taken place, and the project discussed. Decisions have been made about the size, and pose of the horse in the sculpture.

Lots of time spent with Red, watching him and taking detailed measurements of his body and head.

We watched him in his settings of home stable and in action in the field.

He is a fine upstanding thoroughbred, with an early and very successful career as a racehorse. You can see from his conformation that he was built for speed and for jumping.

Below is the first stage of the armature,

with its steel rod and wire and base of clay begun.

JOEL progress early stage armature

The armature can look very mis-leading ! Remember it has to all be completely inside the sculpture and it has to support the weight of the clay. The wire is a special modelling wire, it is flexible and can be bent and rebent.

This sculpture has two grades of wire, the thinner wire for the legs. This wire has a square section, which helps with strength but can be a challenge in fine legs.

The support for the top line is in place, and I have used extra mesh for further strength.

JOEL progress add mesh and filler

I am going to have to alter the line near the forelegs and under the belly.

On this project I have decided to use filler to strengthen the armature further yet and to bind the wires of the top line to the main frame, and to fill in some of the mesh.

Little Red as I call him, then went off to the Leicester County Show, where people could see the work in progress and the details of the armature.

I had begun to build up the form of the body and the line of the shoulder, all the early stages on the one side.

What a time we had at the Show!

JOEL and Horse sculpture at show

It was good to show Red off in progress and to explain how the clay is built up on the armature.

I had purposefully left one side so people could see the wire and support, which made Red look a little odd.

Stephen Jeal of the NFU Mutual Melton Mowbray with me and the Sculpture, you can see we were there in wind, rain and shine.

Sculptress JOEL at Horse show

Then back home and lots of study of skeletal structure and Red's conformation, musculature and joint characteristics.

You can see the near side fetlock joints starting to develope and the wire on the off side is now covered. I have started to mark out the line of the shoulder and build up the muscles of the rear.

JOEL progress muscles of horse

The client has asked for the head to be turned a little, so that has been done and you can see I have raised it into the alert pose characteristic of Red.

Then off to Wales to spend time with Red and his people.

Happy Days...we had a great time in Wales.

The weather was sunny and hot with some cloud which was just as well.

Red was his well behaved self and the clay work progressed.

JOEL progress sculpture of horse at home stable

Long hours of careful adding and study ...Red mooching around his yard.

I am able to do some good work on his fetlocks and shoulder muscles.

Making the most of the days

The off side has had much more done and now has almost caught up to the nearside.

JOEL progress off side Thoroughbred horse sculptur

Time for the Sculptress JOEL and  her dog Chloe to go home, but not before Red has a good look at the sculpture.

JOEL progress Red Horse views clay

We shall take some more pictures at the studio as there was further progress including on Reds eyes and head.

JOEL progress clay development of detail of horse

We have had another trip to work on Reds portrait...good hours put in amongst the heavy rain showers - until rain and poor light stopped play.

The off side is coming on, and so too is the build up on chest and rear.

We have come a long way since the pieces of bent wire.

JOEL progress clay horse to final detail

The amount of clay is now putting a strain on the armature and bolt - so I am having to be a little more careful with how I move the sculpture around.

It makes it so much easier when you have a well manner horse like Red to work near.

Home at the studio - lots to do in smoothing and finishing and refining, then a last trip to touch in the fine details...oh yes and by then the sculpture will at last have a proper mane and tail built on !

Remember this is where we are aiming for

JOELprogress compares clay to original


Wet Weather and Final Detail

We had a very good last session with Red at his home in Wales - even though the work had to be done between heavy rain showers and torrential downpour.

JOEL progress clay fine weather and wet

This is all a little different from working on the Life sized German Shorthaired Pointer last year, when I had to get up and work in dawn and carry on late into the evening in order for it to be cool enough for the clay to be manageable !

Red was a brilliant model, very well behaved and tolerant of sculptress peering at him and following him about.

His owners were such a support and gave encouragement and helped with all the details all the way through.

They had a last thorough check, and it was good to see smiles of delight

JOEL with happy client and last look at detail

Chloe and I managed some more walks on the beautiful  Pembrokeshire coast, then it was away back home through the floods.

We are on the final straight now...talking of which I have found out that Red's sire is a well known Foxhunter Stallion - Deep Run.

More to do at the studio all the final finishing to the surface and the base, and another image taken between showers, though we did have some fine weather in early August.

Then off to the foundry.

The lovely Bronze sculpture is presented to Katie by husband can read Katies letter to the Sculptress below.

Presentation Bronze Thoroughbred horse sculpture




I just wanted to thank you so much for my wonderful sculpture. It has been a fascinating journey, to watch him progress from a rough outline to the magnificent sculpture that now sits on my fireplace.

From the very beginning it was Red, just the outline of the metal supports covered thinly by clay. You have managed to capture not just the look of Red but the essence of Red, something truly wonderful.

I'm sure that every owner of every creature that you so beautifully sculpt truly believes that their 'friend' is the most precious, but I have to say JOEL, that what you have created in Red's sculpture is exactly who he is. With my eyes shut I can run my hands over the beautiful bronze and feel the horse that I know so well. This was something that I know was important to us both, not only does the sculpture show Red as the magnificent creature he is, but it also feels like Red, the muscles, the cheeks, the face. This really is true testament to the dedication and detail that has gone into this work of art.

Red is majestic, strong, noble, kind, caring, fearless and proud, he is my one in a lifetime and it is plain to see that you have captured all of this in his sculpture. I am so proud that others will have the chance to meet and adore my wonderful horse though your work.

Thank you JOEL..... Such a wonderful gift.

Katie Welch Proud owner of the Thoroughbred