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The Making of 'Beltane'


- Beltane -


Beltane is a traditional Celtic festival which honours life and celebrates the peak of spring and the beginning of summer.

On May Eve, legends say that the May Queen and the Green Man are reunited once a year to share a kiss. This is the night of the Greenwood marriage and the kiss causes the seasons to transition into summer.

Creating the frame


This was actually my first time attempting to create a clay sculpture, so I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. I picked up some DAS air dry clay in white along with some of those plastic clay tools.

One thing I did know about air-drying clay was that it would crack if my layers were too thick. With that in mind I picked up 2 huge rolls of tin foil and formed this basic structure.



Honestly, I wasn't super happy with how it was looking at this stage. I needed a lot of imagination to try to see how the final piece would look. But, putting that aside, I carried on.



The first layer of clay


Once I had the form worked out I started covering the entire shape in a thin layer of clay. As you can probably see, I wasn't too concerned about making everything smooth or exact just yet. I just wanted to establish a solid base upon which I could work.



At this stage I refined the horns. In order to attach new clay to parts of the sculpture which had already dried out, I found that wetting the dry clay helped a lot. I also had a small bowl with a mixture of clay and water to act as a sort of 'slip' which I basically used to 'glue' on the new clay.



| The Green Man


This stage intimidated me. As I said earlier this was my first sculpture and so the thought of having to sculpt a face that looked good from every angle was really daunting. But what's the point in not challenging yourself every once in a while?





| The May Queen


The May Queens face was a lot more challenging. Female faces generally have curves that are a lot softer than males which was difficult to achieve with the type of clay I was using. It was also really difficult to smooth out all of the lumps and bumps in the clay. After about 2 or 3 days of solid work and re-sculpting, I had this.



I wasn't as pleased with the May Queens face as I was the Green Man's and this, I think, Is mainly because of the shape of my tin foil mould underneath. - I didn't place the head in a very good position so it kind of threw off all of the work I did on top in clay -



| Finishing Details


I made a head band for the May Queen out of real flowers and beads which was inspired by the Headdresses worn during the Beltane festival. I also carved the Celtic symbol for an Oak tree into the Green Man's arm and outlined it in gold jewellery wire. - Which was really difficult and fiddly.




| Finished!







Overall I was really pleased with how this turned out and I definitely would like to make more sculptures. I learnt a lot about clay and there are some things I'd do differently next time, But I look forward to it!


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

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© 2020 by Ocean Hughes