Clay Sculpture: Cows and More Cows


I have a soft spot for cows.

Always have. Maybe it’s an ancestral thing - my maternal great-grandfather was a dairy farmer in Iowa 100 years ago. I never met him, but the love for cows lives on in me. Can you relate?


I’ve been lucky to hang out with cows in the field. My former career as a video journalist took me to many farms over the years, but dairy farms were my favorite. My first love was Holstein cows. Their splatters of black over white made each one unique. Then I met the Jersey cow - so sweet and very curious! What wasn’t to love? A few years ago I met a group of Dutch-belted cows. They were wary of my presence, but I loved that band of white through their middle. So distinctive.


When I started my Spirit Animal series, it wasn’t long before I was compelled to make a cow. And Rosie was the first. I met the original Rosie at a dairy farm in Monmouth, Oregon. She was super friendly, smart, and loved the camera too. She made quite an impression on me and began my love of Jersey cows.


I wanted to do Rosie justice, but in a way that wasn’t quite literal. As with the others of the Spirit Animal series, I wanted to show her inner essence by decorating her exterior with different symbols that represent who she is as a Jersey cow and also as Rosie.


What I came up with was a series of ancient marks and shapes that symbolized fertility, harmony, joy and life itself.


Shortly after making Rosie, I took a mold making class. What was something I wanted to create many of? Cows! So I went about making an initial mold for future cow sculptures. My first go at it was to create Sadie.


This time I went about decorating her a little differently. I added different combinations of Mason stains to a white porcelain clay body and thoroughly mixed them together until it was one cohesive color. My color palette included Deep Crimson, Sunshine yellow, Mango, Copen blue and shades of gray.

After rolling out a slab of white porcelain, I placed different shapes of colored clay on top then rolled the two together creating a colorful flat slab of clay. I gently pressed this inside the mold I created, let it dry a bit, then pulled the plaster mold away from the shaped porcelain.

The results were Sadie the cow.

What’s next? I recently discovered the Scottish Highland cow - and oh my. I am in love all over again!! Their color, their face, those eyes (ever hiding behind strands of red locks), sweeping horns, their stocky bodies. I can’t wait to turn this beautiful animal into a clay sculpture and see what evolves.