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The craftsman
Vol. V, No. 5 (February 1904)

Kirby, C. Valentine
Clay modeling. An appreciation of its value,   pp. 490-497 PDF (2.6 MB)


Page 490


THE CRAFTSMAN
CLAY MODELING. AN APPRECIA-
TION OF ITS VALUE. BY C. VAL-
ENTINE KIRBY
'101H, yes, making mud pies," and
           the visitor's face beams as he
           enters a modeling room, for al-
           though clay properly handled is
not mud in any sense, there is something so
delightful about it, that visitors almost in-
variably recall their mud pie days. Clay,
however, becomes mud only in the hands of
the most inexperienced persons. In its
proper condition it is the cleanest plastic
medium known, and the most valuable in all
the world as a means to develop skill in
craftsmanship.
  Out of clay     our remotest ancestors
fashioned their rugged vessel forms and
scratched crude designs upon them, or
created the grotesque semblance of a god.
The discoveries of clay works among the
remains of the earliest savage tribes, in all
parts of the world, would indicate that clay
was not only universally used, but that its
use antedated drawing and painting.
  In our plan of art-education to-day,
drawing has a firm place and rightly so, but
clay modeling as a factor of true culture
has not yet come to its own. And yet,
drawing might better be omitted than clay
modeling; for while drawing is the repre-
sentative of form, modeling is the actual
construction of form and means personal
contact with reality. We often wonder at
the feebleness of many of our modern artists
and artisans, as we are amazed at the con-
summate skill of a Ghiberti, a Donatello, a
Cellini, or a Michelangelo. We aspire to
reach the heights attained by them, but we
are not willing to follow the trail which they
490
blazed. They were craftsmen and not
ashamed of it, and they put art into the
humblest utensils, considering them worthy
of their skill. Donatello was equally skilled
in the art of working in clay, marble-cut-
ting, wood-carving, and the chasing of pre-
cious metals.
  Ghiberti and Cellini sketched in clay and
wax the thoughts which found permanence
in gold, silver, or bronze. And there are
still in existence little clay studies of human
anatomy which Michelangelo executed, in
preparation for the marble statue. In
building up the form in clay, he built up a
           Figure I. Modeling tools
counterpart in his own mind, and in the
block of marble which might have had no
meaning or value to others, Michelangelo
saw a slave struggling for freedom and
released him.
  The best art schools in this country and
Europe require clay modeling, and it is to
be observed that those who model, render
form on a flat surface better than those who
give their attention to drawing alone. A
draughtsman may soon forget the model who
posed for him, but the modeler is able to
draw from memory in many positions the
model he has made perhaps years before.
Drawing means the interpretation of a sin-
gle view; while clay-modeling requires the
actual construction of many views, and de-


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