How to make the Great Wall of China out of clay

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Talk about a killer assignment: you've been asked to make the Great Wall of China from clay -- a job that took thousands of workers hundreds of years to complete and you're on the clock. Not to worry. This is a model, not the real thing. You'll find directions for making a variety of clays for your project within this article, tips on making an armature that's worthy of a professional sculptor and suggestions for adding finishing touches that, when followed, could earn you an A for effort and another A for artistry.

Check your local library's collection of travel books to locate a photograph of the Great Wall of China, or head for the Internet to get one. Pick the view that, in your opinion, is most likely to make a great-looking sculpture.

Purchase a thick piece of wood on which you'll build your model and transport it. Choose, for example, a piece that's 60 cm (24 inches) long by 30 cm (12 inches) wide and 2.5 cm (an inch) thick. Refinish the wood base with stain and seal it to protect the colour.

Prop up or hang your photographic reference of the Great Wall of China on or above your work table so you're able to refer to it frequently as you proceed with your sculpture. Put down dust sheets or newspaper to protect the table. Use a piece of chalk to draw the wall's boundaries on the wood platform if needed.

Bend and wrap wire to follow the curves of the Great Wall section you've picked. Don't worry about aesthetics: this framework will be covered by clay; your goal in making an armature is to provide structure for your model so it won't collapse or fall apart. Refer to the Paint Sculpt website (see Resources) to see how professionals wrap wire. Anchor the finished armature to the wood base with hammer and nails.

Choose ready-made clay like Sculpy, Crayola (known for child safe-products) or generics available at craft shops. Alternately, make your own clay from recipes (see Resources) that combine kitchen ingredients like flour, salt, tartar, water, cornstarch, oil and bicarbonate of soda. Use your hands to knead and shape Great Wall of China sections to your armature and a small spatula, spoon or knife to smooth and shape edges.

Allow your Great Wall of China model to dry thoroughly before painting it earthy colours. Mottle the finish by dabbing on a variety of tones: brick, grey, mossy green and brown. Sprinkle sand over the Wall while the paint is still wet to add texture to your finished sculpture. Glue moss or greenery around the base of your model to disguise the juncture between wall and wood base. Use a sealer on your Great Wall of China model so it stays pristine and doesn't attract fingerprints--especially when it's passed around for kudos and admiring glances.

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