After 2 weeks of very hard work I have finished the clay sculpture part of my Barton’s Chair Commission for Tonbridge School’s new science building – the Barton Centre. In the final sculpture, six copies of the man and 12 of the baby come together into the hexagonal ring structure of cyclohexane.

The work celebrates the achievement of Derek Barton an alumni of Tonbridge who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on the chair and boat isomers of Cyclohexane. The work combines the scientific accuracy of a molecular structure with a human call for connection and cooperation. In the world of the great novelist and Old Tonbridgian, E. M. Forster: ‘Only Connect’.

Cyclohexane sculpture
Small bronze sculpture of Cyclohexane the inspiration for Barton’s Chair.


First the creation of the armatures

The photos show the creation of a tetrahedral armature. This three-sided pyramid allowed me to turn my sculpture in different orientations. This allowed me to see if it was working well from all viewpoints. It also ensured that the precise geometry of the molecule was maintained at all times. I then had to play with the human anatomy to create a pair of believable dynamic figures in clay that highlight the movement and energy of the connections. The man represents the carbon atoms, the baby is the much smaller hydrogen atoms.

Cutting and welding the tretrahedral armature

The first stage was the welding the tetrahedral armature

Photo of Briony attaching a human shaped aluminium armature to the steel tetrahedral armarture

Combining the geometric tetrahedral armature made of steel, with a human aluminium armature. A bit like combining the two sides of my practice – the science and the humanities.

Preparing the armatures for the clay

Adding expanding foam
Adding expanding foam to bulk out the armanture. This means less clay will be needed thus keeping the weight down.


finished armature
The finished combined armature. This was toward the end of the first week.

Starting work on the clay

My sculpture tools

My sculpture tools laid out with the armature for the extra baby’s arm to hold the man’s right hand.

It is interesting to note that there will have 2 babies per man in the final sculpture. However I have only sculpted one baby holding the man’s left hand. This baby will then be repeated holding the man’s other hand. To make this work seamlessly, I also sculpted a second version of the baby’s right hand and arm holding the man’s right hand.

Photographs of the finished clay

Finished clay angle 1
Shots of the final clay – the baby and man are looking into each other’s eyes to represent the bond between the hydrogen and the carbon.

Finished clay angle 2

Finished clay angle 3

Briony working on the clay

Final shot of me working on the man’s left hand from Saturday.

So after 13 days hard work in the studio, the finished clay sculpture is handed over to the fabricators. They now commence the next stage of its creation: moulding and casting.

More information about this commission is available on the Tonbridge School website.

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