My first experience with sculpting was when I was eight. My aunt had me over for the weekend and she brought out her Fimo, a man-made clay that you bake int he oven to harden. The stuff is annoying and difficult to work with, requiring about twenty solid minutes of rolling it around in your hands before it's soft enough.
I've often said the thing about someone who can draw is, they see all those shapes that make up what they want to draw and they can go straight from the diagram in their head to the thing on paper. I sculpt the same way. I just see the proportions and go with it, understanding the shapes that make a wolf or elephant or pig.
I have since moved on from Fimo to Sculpey, which is cheaper and softer. It's fun to work with and less messy than actual clay, being similar to Plasticine.
I work with clay as well, however. I paint the finished work with acrylic or glaze. *arm pump* Here's to my mum having a kiln.