Art Terminology: The Language of Sculpture

Enjoy our glossary of art terminology related to sculpture.


Sculpture is a visual art that consists of creating three dimensional forms from a variety of materials. Here at Richard Erdman Studios, Richard’s preferred materials are white Carrara marble, and bronze, but throughout his 40 year career Richard has also carved limited sculptures in Brazilian Blue granite, Pakistan onyx, and travertine.

Methods of Creating Sculpture

The four major methods of creating sculpture are: carving, casting, modeling, and assembling.


Carving is a process in which material is stripped or cut from a mass of material.

Richard Erdman modern sculpture workshop process

Chips of marble are cut away to reveal Spira in our Carrara, IT studio


Casting is a process in which a molten material, usually metal, is poured into a mold and allowed to cool and harden. A cast is a form made by this process. This method allows artists to create multiple versions of the exact same sculpture called editions.


Modeling is when malleable materials, clay for example, are molded and added to create a form, sometimes over an armature of stronger material. An armature is a metal framework on which one would add clay.


Assembling is when multiple materials are assembled and joined together to create a form. Learn more about assemblage here.

Casting, modeling, and assembling are all additive methods of sculpting, as opposed to carving which is subtractive. Richard’s primary methods for completed sculptures are carving and casting, but his original models, made from metal wire armatures, poly clay, and plaster are constructed with the modeling method.

Sculpture Support Systems

A base is a large mass that supports a sculpture from below. Most of Richard’s sculptures include a base made in a similar material, chosen to accentuate the sculpture. Bases are not interchangeable and are created specifically for each sculpture.

A plinth is a flat, planar support which separates the sculpture from its environment. A plinth is different from a base, and is associated with the site as opposed to the sculpture.

Rotating Pin System
A rotating pin system is a method of supporting a sculpture with its base using a system of metal pins and flat base plates where the sculpture meets the base. It allows for a significant amount of weight to be supported while also allowing the sculpture to rotate on the base for easy repositioning. Generally, this is the primary support mechanism for a Richard Erdman sculpture on a base, but there are some exceptions for sculptures with multiple touch points.

Sampling of Sculpture in Marble and Bronze

Marble Sculpture

Bronze Sculpture