Clay is an age old material used to make small model maquettes, as well as the full scale statue for bronzing.

Oil-based clay doesn't dry out and remains pliable indefinitely.

Water-based clay is easier to work with, and can be applied quickly. But it must stay moist (by covering) when not in use.

Picture Dunton bronze

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Dunton clay

Here clay is used for the small model as well as making the full sized statue.

Another bronze that started out with a clay model.

trooper prototype

Its been said that a sculptor puts his heart and soul into the small clay model. Scaling it up is more of an engineering process. It's also much easier to make changes on a small figure than a full scale statue.