Art -- Plastic Arts - Sculpture and Textiles



Table of Contents

Personal Context

Dabbled in stone carving and wood carving long enough to get to know some of the tools but not to develop any skills. Dabbled in metalwork/jewelry and semi-precious stones to equal effect. Did "Persian Rug" (single and double knot) techniques for a few weeks.


3D objects for art's sake. Might incidentally be used as a hat rack, door stop, or pidgeon roost, but the intent is to inform, inspire, and perhaps awe.

The medium needs to be durable and shape-maintaining enough to survive for years to come (except in the case of sand-sculpture, ice-carving, or cake decorating). Yet the material must be amenable to shaping to the artist's vision. Historically wood, bone, and stone have been carved (take away the part that isn't the finished work). These require suitable raw material, strong/sharp tools, eye/ear protection, and patience.

Wood is used widely where it is conveniently available (forests), easy carving is important (household goods, woodblocks), the living aspect is spiritually important (spirit dolls, totem poles), or weight is a factor (masks). Suitable wood is readily available for small pieces, whereas many thousands of dollars (or a sacred grove) may be needed for a large work. Very sharp tools are needed to cut across grain without tearing. Wood workers have developed quite elaborate techniques for sharpening specialized tools. E.g., I use "scarey sharp" (different grit sandpapers on glass plate) for flat blades.

Bone, antlers, and tusks are easily carved to fine details using simple tools. They can be decorative or can have spiritual implications (a bear's tooth necklace from a bear you killed with a Bowie knife has deeper meaning than a piece of tourist kitsch). Larger pieces tend to come from endangered species, so the supply is limited and/or expensive.

Stone comes in many hardnesses and strengths from soapstone to marble to granite. The artwork must be design to allow for the weight and potential to fracture. Modest size chunks (1 ft cube) can be easily obtained, but massive pieces are difficult/expensive to cut from the quarry and to move to the studio. Due to chips flying and constant hammering, eye and ear protection (and maybe dust protection) are needed.

Clay is shaped, then fired, glazed, painted, etc. The raw material is fairly common but the kiln can be an energy hog. There is a certain cachet to using wood-fired kilns, though this is also an energy hog and a source of pollution.

Glass is composed from raw materials melted together, then shaped by pressure (external paddles or molds, internal blowing, centrifugal spinning). The raw material is fairly common but the furnace can be an energy hog. moore2003 has an excellent section on glassworking. To get to Pilchuck standards, start taking classes.

Metals are cast, brazed, welded, bent, hammered, ground, polished, etched, embossed, etc. See mccreight1991. There is subculture of people building backyard propane-fired smelting and iron casting equipment. Because they do not tarnish badly, are easily worked, and are rare, silver and gold get special attention, as in clayton1971


There are two major uses of textiles: Personal clothing and home furnishings. Both require flexibility. Both usually require some insulating properties, and tolerance to moisture. Materials have been skins (with and without fur), pounded bark, and knotted/spun/woven fibers. Fabrics for personal use (soft underwear, waterproof raingear, durable riding jeans, danceable leotards) must be fitted to the body and its actions. Fabrics for furnishing (floor rugs, wall tapestry, window curtains, table linen, bedding sheets and blankets, etc.) must serve their functions. In both cases the fabric must withstand years of use/wash/dry/store cycles.

Once those basic requirements are met, textiles may be decorated to pleasing effect by choice of raw materials, dyed raw materials, woven patterns, knotted patterns, sewn patterns (e.g., quilting), dyed patterns (e.g., batik), dyed finished goods, and embroidery. See speicher79 for mechanics.

Each of these skills can be an artform. See, e.g. duke1987

If the purpose is to show-off/enhance feminine allure, an excellent start point would be the costumes worn by (and sometimes designed by) Sophia Loren. As teenager, young woman, mother, grandmother; as war refugee, siren, housewife, concubine, princess, grand dame; on film and in personal appearances -- Deirdre Donohue captures and explains Sophia_Style



Michael Clayton. "The Collector's Dictionary of the Silver and Gold of Great Britain and North America". The World Publishing Company, 1971.


Georges Duby, Jean-Luc Daval, eds. "Sculpture: From Anitquity to the Middle Ages", "Sculpture: From the Renaissance to the Present Day". Taschen, 2006. ISBN 978-2-8228-5080-0.

Excellent survey. Of course these are photos of 3D objects, so the visceral experience is lost.


Dennis Duke, Deborah Harding. "America's Glorious Quilts". Park Lane, 1987. ISBN 0-517-64604-8.


Tim McCreight. "The Complete Metalsmith: An Illustrated Handbook", revised ed. Davis Publications, 1991. ISBN 0-87192-240-1.

An excellent handbook on materials, tools, techniques. For those who'd rather ben doing than reading.


John H. Moore, Christopher C. Davis, Michael A. Coplan. "Building Scientific Apparatus", 3rd ed. Perseus Books, 2003. ISBN 0-8133-4006-3.


Nigel Spivey. "Understanding Greek Sculpture". Thames and Hudson, 1996. ISBN 0-5000-27876-8.

Provides the story behind the sculpture.

Creator: Harry George
Updated/Created: 2008-05-26