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Crafts Job Profile: Sculptor

What does a sculptor do?

A sculptor is a visual artist who creates two- or three- dimensional art using a range of materials— from stone to wood, plastic to paperclips!

Sculptors may use traditional techniques, using tools to carve from stone or marble, carving into walls or other surfaces (a technique called relief) or casting sculptures from metals such as bronze.  Many contemporary sculptors embrace a range of new materials and techniques, from 3D printing to concrete-casting.  

Sculptors work in a range of different ways. They might:

  • Sell their work through galleries and exhibitions
  • Work on private commissions for individuals or organisations
  • Work on a publicly commissioned pieces of work

Sculptors are required to be flexible and creative. This applies to both creating sculptures and earning a living from their art/trade.

  • Working with materials such as clay, plastic, resin, bronze, stone, metal or wood
  • Using drills, knives, chisels, soldering or welding equipment
  • Installing large pieces of work in public buildings or outdoors
  • Networking with gallery owners, agents and dealers
  • Taking up a 'residency', creating work and running workshops in a gallery, school, or other public place

Key Skills

  • Creative imagination
  • An understanding of form and materials
  • Physical fitness (if you want to create large-scale work, which can be physically demanding)
  • Manual dexterity, to use tools on a small or large scale
  • Self-discipline to meet deadlines
  • The ability to work alone or in a team
  • Numeracy skills, to understand measurements for materials
  • The ability to work to a brief, if you have been commissioned to produce a specific piece
  • Good networking skills, to help promote your work

How do I become a sculptor?

University

Although freelance sculptors do not need formal qualifications, in practice most sculptors have developed their skills and artistic practice by studying art and design or fine art, with sculpture as a specialism. These qualifications are offered countrywide in universities and colleges. Some courses include:

BA (Hons) Fine Art Sculpture at Camberwell College of Arts
BA Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Arts
Sculpture at the Open College of the Arts

You’ll usually need:

  • a foundation studies diploma in art and design or
  • 2 to 3 A levels degree, including Art and Design or another creative subject

Some colleges or universities may offer places to applicants without formal qualifications, but with a good portfolio. However, most courses require five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), and A levels are often also required. In all cases the applicant must also offer a strong, varied portfolio of work.

Further training, such as postgraduate degrees or specialist training in certain areas, will help the sculptor to gain more technical skills.

College

You could begin to develop the skills you’ll need as a sculptor by taking an Art and Design course at college.

Courses include:

Level 2 Art and Design

Level 3 Art and Design

Short Courses

To find out if sculpture is for you, you might try taking short courses or workshops at college, university or at a sculptor’s studio.

Onward links

National Society for Education in Art and Design
Guild Society of Artists
Sculptors’ Guild
Artquest
Arts Council England
A-N The Artists Information Company

Featured Maker

Dylan Shields is an artist who predominantly focuses on sculpture, investigating the relationship between traditional, narrative painting and contemporary materials. He explores the relationship between art history and its context in modern society, highlighting the forgotten narratives of old masters. He uses re-cycled cardboard and parcel tape to produce work that is at once familiar but dramatised by its original use of form and perspective. Find out more here.

Photos c. Dave Imms

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