First I created an armature and then padded the head area using balled up newspaper covered in tape, then I covered the newspaper with clay about 1/2" thick. Then I wadded up more newspaper to form the shape of the shoulders and upper chest and covered that in clay. Next I began blocking in the forms.
The clay that I am using is a water-based clay with a very high grog and sand content called "Slab and Sculpture" that I purchased from Mile High Ceramics (now closed) in Denver. This bag of clay had been stored for quiet some time and had gotten very hard. I poured a cup or two of water into the bag, sealed it inside another bag and rotated the bag every day for two weeks. This allowed the water to soak through the clay evenly and become usable again. I may not have quite enough to finish the entire bust, so if necessary, I'll use a similar clay for the clothing.
The clay is very strong and heavy with low shrinkage rate but the very rough nature of the clay takes a bit of getting used to. Don't think you can used water and make a slick and shiny surface, you really can't. You can burnish it, to make the surface smooth if that is what you desire, but a clay with this texture begs to have the texture used, not hidden.
This sculpture is life-sized and will be a bust with some shoulders showing. I'll continue to post the progress and in the mean time, feel free to leave comments guessing who the person is - people will be guessing on my Facebook Page also. I'll post the name at a later date....