top of page

A Christmas Art Lesson

Polymer Clay relief sculpture of a mother and child, Mary and Jesus.
Mother and Child, Sara Joseph

Now that the bustle of Christmas has subsided, I'm posting this polymer clay relief sculpture as a Christmas art lesson.

The finished work was sold some time ago and now belongs to one of my collectors.

Polymer clay works really well for creating low reliefs that are small in scale, but rich in texture, color and detail.

As a mother myself, I'm always moved to create some Christmas art that includes Mary and Jesus. I find myself pondering the complex emotions that are inextricably bound up in the relationship of every mother and child.

Holding their babies close, mothers are universally overwhelmed by the mystery of what life holds in store for their beloved children. How much more profound Mary's emotions must've been! She'd been told that a momentous future affecting all humanity was yet ahead for her baby. This work explores the complexity of that relationship, which will change over time as Jesus matured into an adult, but was tender and innocent now.

Drawing detail on polymer clay of a mother and child.
Mother and Child, Drawing Detail

I began with a flat sheet of cream clay, on which I incised my drawing as I thought about the verses in Luke 2.


"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19


Mother and Child polymer clay relief detail.
Mother and Child, Detail 2

A combination of cutting into the clay and building up by adding more clay is the process for creating a low relief sculpture.

As I worked, I remembered the vulnerability of the baby who gave up all heaven's majesty—for me. The wonder of the divine plan, is something that never ceases to amaze me!

I'm convinced that reverentially keeping the words from the Bible in mind infuses the work with awe and a profound sense of gratitude.

Two sheets of white and blue clay
Skinner Blend Preparation

For the background, I decided to create a Skinner Blend of blue and cream clay.

Clay being rolled through a pasta machine.
Skinner Blend in the Pasta Machine

To create a soft transition between the blue and cream clays, I folded the clays together and sent it through the pasta machine, fold side down. After sending it through several times, I arrived at the blend you see. Gradients caused by the Skinner Blend technique are smooth and visually captivating.

Rubber stamp and Polymer clay
Stamp Detail

Using a rubber stamp helped add some geometric detail and richness to the background.

I love polymer clay for its sensitivity to any impression—from fingerprints (not my favorite!!) to any texture—like the pattern on this beautiful stamp.

Mother and child sculpture in polymer clay
Mother and Child, Detail

Needing some cohesive element to unite the various parts of this relief, I sprinkled some silver pearl metallic powder over the entire surface. By gently brushing it into the crevices and wiping it off the higher surfaces, it added greater dimension to the work. In the firing process, the metallic powder fused with the clay, leaving it with the pearlescent shimmer.

Strips of left-over blue and cream clay were added to form shapes hinting at clothing and to give some directional movement to the work. As I worked in segments, finally combining the various parts of the relief in a pleasing manner was the most enjoyable part of the process.

An important consideration when creating reliefs is that the various components forming the work must protrude from the surface at credibly varying depths. When satisfied with the outcome, I fired it in the oven to become firm and permanent.

I hope this picture trail of my Christmas art project helped you understand my process as a relief sculptor in polymer clay.

Have fun creating your own or commission me to create a relief for you!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page