Kids Try Their Hands at Molding Careers


As Joshua Velasquez twisted and flattened the brick-colored clay in his hands, little did he know he might possess the skills needed to create car models someday.

When he was finished, the 13-year-old Panorama City boy held a small caricature of a man’s head in his hands, evidence of artistic talent sought by automobile design companies.

“This is great, I find it fascinating working with my hands,” he said.

Joshua was among about 25 people at a clay modeling workshop sponsored Wednesday by Toyota at the Mid-Valley Regional Branch Library.


On display was a clay model of a generic car design. Fearing a competitive auto manufacturer would copy the idea, Toyota won’t show a model of a future car, said Carl Felix, model development team coordinator for Calty Design Research Inc. of Newport Beach, owned by Toyota.

With computer technology and handmade tools, clay modelers transform a square block of clay into a detailed prototype of a car. It is then painted and judged against other models to become a possible new automobile design.

Calty has designed the Toyota Previa van, Tacoma truck and a Lexus sports coupe.

At Calty, clay modelers need only a high school diploma and some additional training, which is provided by the company. Salaries start around $25,000, Felix said.

Gustavo Perez, 21, has worked in clay modeling for eight months. He said he enjoys the sculpting and hopes to make it his career.

“It transforms into 3D what designers put on paper,” Perez said.

Wednesday’s program was one of 30 workshops scheduled throughout Los Angeles. The finale, held May 17, will feature displays of classic cars and bicycles, a career seminar and a design competition.