Sculpture is a visual art form in which the chosen material is worked using suitable tools and techniques, to create three dimensional pieces which could be abstract or representative of subjects such as people and animals. Often we think of sculpture as statues and whilst that is true, there are many forms, materials and techniques to creating pieces both large and small.

One of the great things about sculpture is that the materials used often survive for extremely long periods of time. This means that pieces have been found that date back tens of thousands of years.

The sculpture in Europe is influenced by and shaped by its past. Starting with Ancient, Classical and Hellenistic Greek works and then moving through the years, with Roman, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Mannerist, Rococo, Baroque, Neo-Classical and Modernism. This wealth of European sculptural heritage inspires modern day sculptors in the UK.

Both the Gothic and Renaissance sculptural periods were dominated with works for churches and cathedrals.

Stone carving tools will include, a variety of chisels and hammers, sharpening stones, sandbag and magnifying glasses for detailed work.

For clay sculptors will use wire end, hardwood, metal and plastic modelling tools, callipers, palettes and scrapers.

Making moulds out of plaster or similar materials you would need a mixing bowl, mould dividing skim, carving chisel, key knife, plaster rasps and mould makers knife.

If you were carving wood then chisels and gouges, skews, parting tools, fish tails, short and long bents and a set of wood carving knives would be used. As well as an adze, sharpeners and mallets.

The materials used to create sculptural works is many and varied, as highlighted in the techniques section.

A very popular metal for both ancient and modern sculpture is Bronze, because as an alloy of mostly copper mixed with other metals usually tin, it is harder than copper on its own. Steel is another popular material as are precious metals like silver and gold.

People working with stone will often choose granite, which is a rock made up of Biotite, Feldspar and Quartz, chosen for its strength. Marble and other stones are also popular.

The volume of materials available to a sculptor is very varied, glass, plastics, woods, concrete, bricks, plaster, fibreglass, paper, ceramics and clays, findings and the list goes on.

There are four main techniques employed by sculptors. One is the subtractive method, where material is removed from a larger piece to create the relief or statue. Another is casting, where a mould is made and a liquid is poured and dried, to create the shape. There is also, the modelling techniques where material are shaped and placed together. There is also stamping, once the stamp is made, multiple copies can be created.

Often the technique is forced upon the sculptor by the materials they are working with. Wood and stone for example lends themselves to carving, whilst metals are cast or stamped and clay is usually modeled.

To make it as a sculptor you are going to need a certain amount of natural talent and the willingness to work hard. Learning your art is important, so education whether self taught or in college is going to be key. You can dip your toe in by taking a course or two.

Find your own style, work within your own niche, find and work with your chosen materials rather than spreading your skills too thinly.

Try to learn the principals of sculpture first before you focus on the craft of making your pieces.

As well as thinking about commissions for larger works, the film and other industries have roles for sculptors.

If you are already an accomplished sculptor you may like to take a look at the the Royal British Society of Sculptors.

As well as going into the town centers to see large architectural pieces, it is a good idea visit your local art galleries. If you are in London then visit the galleries, they are free and very inspiring. In particular, the Tate Modern for modernism and Victoria and Albert for classical pieces. Alternatively, there is the Saatchi Gallery or the Wallace collection.

The world has over time been sculpted by nature and is a three dimensional space to explore and gain inspiration from.