One of the problems with working with styling clay is that it is not an easy material to ‘read’ unless you are used to the flat appearance of a model. For people in the automotive design industry clay is simply a means of communicating or evaluating a form, it is a language that they understand; whilst those for whom the medium is new or ‘foreign’ it is a dull shape that is undecipherable.
Some help is at hand for those people, a thin flexible plastic sheet, Dynoc, which is almost like a sheet of paint, can be carefully stretched over the model to give the impression of a painted vehicle. Dynoc enables the designer to observe and develop and gain control of reflections on the surface, a lengthy but extremely satisfying process.
The career opportunities offered by becoming a clay sculptor are often overlooked or not understood by teachers at secondary schools. The chance to be so closely involved in the design process — and a good modeler — can play a large part in developing a successful automobile design and can be very rewarding.
It is a troubling fact that many design colleges no longer consider clay work to be an essential part of the development of a design student, believing that everything can be done using CAD.
There needs to be a proper, affordable training course for young people who love the idea of being part of the creative process but perhaps cannot afford the very high student fees being asked by design colleges. Such a course would have to have a design element as part of the curriculum so that the students would have the opportunity to understand the complete design process.
It is important to remember that the computer, whilst being a useful tool, is just a box filled with wires, plastic and sand; there are no ideas inside that enclosure. They are in the designer’s head and in the sculptor’s hands.
About Peter Stevens
Peter Stevens is a world-renowned vehicle designer and former Visiting Professor of Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Art in London. Over the course of his career, he’s been chief designer at Lotus Cars, McLaren and Lamborghini and design director for MG, Mahindra and Mahindra and Rivian Automotive. He’s also worked as a design consultant for Prodrive, BMW, Williams and Toyota. You can catch up with his antics on his Facebook page and his new website.