My Sculpture Class

Learn to sculpt onlne

My Path to Paperclay and Fiberclay

My name is Lorri Acott .  I am an artist that is selling work in multiple around the United States.  I have won awards, done shows in museums, have created large public art pieces, have taught workshops around the US and Europe, and have the pleasure of seeing my work on television and in movies.  And the truth is, paperclay and now fiberclay was the vehicle that allowed all of this to happen.

When I was a high school art teacher, I constantly had the parents of my students asking me if I taught adult workshops or if I would teach their younger children that were not yet enrolled in high school.  Once I started teaching workshops, I began receiving emails from people from all over the United States and even around the world. They all wanted to know if I would be teaching a workshop in their area.  They had seen my work, or heard about me from a friend, or read a published article. 

So now I am creating a self paced class that is accessible to everyone  Even people without kilns can create completed sculptures…but more on that later. First I will tell you how sculpture became my passion.




How I came to sculpture


From the time that I was a little girl, I believed I had something to say.  There was something inside of me that longed to create, to tell a story.  I was a good writer, but somehow never really found my voice in writing.  When I was in school I never really perceived myself as artistic or creative.  I took art classes and, since I was never very good at drawing, I decided I was not an artist.  I took pottery in high school and loved it. Still, I never saw myself as particularly talented or good at it, but it was fun.


After I graduated and enrolled in college, I continued doing a little pottery through my city’s parks and recreation department, and I did take a drawing class in college that further reinforced my idea that I was not an artist.  So, I put away thoughts of art and the longing to become a creative person and focused on finishing college, getting a teaching job (special education), getting married, having babies, being a mom, and getting a master’s degree.


When I was 25 years old, my mom gave my dad a bag of clay and sculpting lessons for Christmas. His very first piece was incredible  and he continues to be incredible to this day.  When I heard that he was taking lessons, I was intrigued;  maybe it was something that I’d like to try. When I saw his first sculpture, all hopes of that were completely dashed.  There was no way that I would ever be that good, why should I even try? For five years I longingly watched my dad sculpt, and I never even picked up a sculpting tool.  I never even tried. I knew that I had no talent, so what would be the point?


When I was 30 I had my second child.  My life was full with being a wife, and a mom, with teaching  full time, and with being a good daughter to my parents and a sister to my brothers.  I had quite successfully pushed down the longing to be creative and the impulse that I had something to say. I was too busy to spend time  seeking to add one more thing to my busy life.




Entering the sculpture




As life would have it,  my pivotal day came.  My time with my parents has  always been important to me, so my mom and I would schedule occasional shopping (her favorite activity) outings as an excuse to spend some time together. We always had fun, and it was a great break from all the responsibilities of my life.


On the same day as our scheduled outing my dad was taking a sculpture workshop in a community not far from our town., so we decided to stop by and surprise him by taking out to lunch.  That was the turning point for me: the moment that I walked into that classroom. For the first time I realized I could no longer allow fear to keep me from doing this thing that I wanted to do.  It was something I had to do!   So I told my dad that I wanted to take lessons with him and his instructor, and we started the next month.


Our teacher, Debbie Ashton was a bronze sculptor, so for my first pieces, I used oil based clay so that a mold could be made from it, and my piece could be cast in bronze.  I was pretty good (see image). For the first time  I learned that most sculptors used models.  That's one of the reasons their work looked  so much better than my  feeble attempts during high school.


I took lots of lessons and workshops, developed skills, and cast a few pieces in bronze.  Bronze, however, is expensive, it is not a medium for beginners unless they have a lot of disposable income.  I did not have a whole lot of that, so I had to figure out another way. 





The search for the perfect




Now I was hooked!  I knew that I had to sculpt, that it wasn’t just a desire or a longing, but a necessity for me. I also knew that I had to find a new medium; that I could not continue to spend large amounts of money on bronze.  I did not have a kiln, so water based clay was out of the question. 

 I purchased a material called creative paperclay and made a realistic doll of my then four year old daughter, Madison.  It is expensive stuff, listed as $11.99 on their website for 16 oz. Plus shipping.  I liked it because it did not need to be fired, and it could be sanded and painted.  It was a good product that helped me find my way towards my dream.  Here are some artists that do some incredible work in this medium:


  As I continued looking for the perfect medium, I came across one that I knew about, but had never considered for sculpture: polymer clay. This sculpture is one I did from a photograph of my mom as a young girl.  It was a great experience, but I don't really like detail, and I don't like sewing.  Now, add the detail to the sewing and that's what you have to do when you are sculpting dolls.  There are some incredible artists who work in this medium, and I have to say, one of a kind or limited edition doll artists are so often overlooked as the true artists that they are.  To see more of this kind of work, go to the NIADA site.

 Still I felt lost, For a year I searched the internet, looking for a medium that would work for me and looked for a style and a medium that would allow me to beome looser in my approach.  It needed to be clay-like in consistency, not toxic, not too terribly messy and it needed to be a medium that I could direct sculpt instead of having to make a mold to cast a final product. Molds are expensive to make, messy, and time consuming. Although I did learn how to make them, I didn't enjoy doing it.  Additionally,  I wanted something that allowed me to sculpt and finish a whole lot of different pieces.  I knew the only way that I would develop the skills to make a living as an artist would be to make and finish a lot of sculpture.  Finances were also limited.  I didn't have a kiln, or access to one, so that ruled out regular clay as well.

During this period of searching,  I would find one medium, try it for a period of time, and then move to another.  It was during this time that I found paperclay on the internet, but dismissed it as useless to me because I did not have a kiln,.  At that time I did not know that the properties of paperclay allowed it to be finished without firing and that there were techniques that allowed room temperature glazing (rtg)…more about that later.


                                                                                             Finally I broke down and bought a kiln.  I went back to regular ceramic clay and began firing my pieces.  This worked well for me while I was doing portraits and busts.  Once I decided that I wanted to do more work on the full figure, and even more  decided that I wanted to abstact my work, regular clay no longer fulfilled my requirements.  Now the the symbolism that I wanted to imbue my work with required that my sculpture have long legs. Back to the search for the perfect medium 


As I began again searching the internet, I ran across an incredible artist and teacher named Graham Hay .


 It was this image that caputured my imagination! I could see that something that I previously thought was impossible was possible indeed! 


Now began the real work. The development of my sculpting process took years and at least 100 failures.  For a free intructional article that was published in Sculptural Pursuit Magazine, click here.



Over the past five years, I have taught hundreds of people how to sculpt.  From students at Poudre High School, one of the best high schools I have ever seen, to hundreds of others in provate sculpture workshops, there have been wonderful successes.  Here are just a few pictures of pieces that my students have created:









Most of these pieces were cold finished, which means you could make a finished piece not strong enough to ship safely, but strong enough to display at home, give to a friend, or have as a prototype, without access to a kiln.  

Though I have taught hundreds or people, I know that there are many, many more people that would like to learn to sculpt but...

*are not able to travel to a location where the course is being offered

*want access to the class instruction for more than three days

*want to sculpt at their own pace

Because more and more people have contacted me to learn my sculpting techniques without having to attend a workshop, I have responded to this need with an online class.  The class includes

*video clips


*written instructions

*lists of materials and reference links to suppliers

* photogallery where you can upload your completed sculptures

Some of the topics covered are:

 *How to choose a subject

*How to be successful with whatever subject choose

*overcoming construction challenges

*What makes fiberclay a very different medium than regular clay

*Building an amature

*adding wet to wet clay, wet to dry,  dry to dry and wet to fired clay

*texture and finishing

*glazing and firing

*how to make sure your piece does not blow up if you fire it

*room temperature glazes

*metal paint with patina

*basing your finished piece

*techniques for self critique and improving your work

 My live workshops range between $175 and $375 per person for 3 days. The price of the online class is $169. You can register at any time, and it is self paced

To register, click here

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