I started this project to test a modification to the paper mache clay recipe that was suggested by Ginny in a comment on our paper mache clay page. Her idea of substituting glycerin for the linseed oil in the recipe started a lot of activity in the comments section, so I just had to do some experiments and see if it would work.
I just received my (larger than requested) order of baby chicks, so I’ve got chickens on the brain. That explains my choice of subject matter. I also wanted to create a bird that stands on two feet, since the balance issue has always been slightly intimidating to me. As it turned out, it really wasn’t as hard as I always thought it would be.
I started out by bending some wire into a “U” shape, then adding all four toes. If I did this again, I would not double the wire on the back toes this way – it did make it easy to tape the feet together, but it made the back toe too heavy, as you can see in the photo above.
The wire was completely covered with masking tape to prevent rust from migrating through the wet clay and ruining the final finish on the bird. If I make another bird I’ll look for some tape that stretches a bit better than masking tape, so the wire legs and toes will be smoother. I’m considering the tape used for bandages, but that’s for another experiment…
I also padded the thigh area at this point. Since I had some aluminum foil on my work table I decided to use it for padding instead of the usual crumpled paper. Of course, the paper would have worked just fine.
I started padding the body, building up the separate parts as I worked. The lower tummy was first, fitted inside the wire that connects the two padded thighs. Then I added the chest and neck, and then filled out some more on the back and added the head and wings. Since I was using aluminum foil, it was easy to pinch a bit on the front of the head to make a beak. All of the foil was completely covered with masking tape. When the body was filled out I bent the legs to make sure the bird would stand up without support.
Now I made up a batch of paper mache clay. Instead of the linseed oil in the recipe I used about two tablespoons of glycerin. (I found the glycerin at Rite Aid, next to the hydrogen peroxide. It’s also used in soap-making, and as a laxative suppository. I think I bought the last bottle in town). The clay worked nicely, and I was able to apply it in a very thin layer over the masking tape. Since we’re having very warm weather this week the clay dried very fast.
To make the clay seem more “fuzzy” than smooth, I first spread the thin layer of clay on the baby chick, then dabbed it with the end of a stiff stencil brush. You can see in the photo that it made tiny bumps all over the chick.
I used the edge of a knife to make tiny feathers on the tip of the chick’s wings. I took a ball-point pen apart and used the end of the ink tube to make the eyes perfectly round. I used extra clay to form the cheeks and beak the way I wanted them. The photo above shows the chick after the clay dried, just before I painted her.
The photo above is another view of the finished chick. You can clearly see in this photo that the back toe is too thick, as I mentioned earlier. Next time, I’ll do that part differently. Other than that, I think she came out quite well. The body shape and the legs make her a more challenging project than the paper mache bluebirds, but it would be fun to make up a few chicks for Easter decorations.
Naturally, I couldn’t stop myself from setting the “fake” chick in the brooder, just to see what the real chicks would think of her. I don’t think they were fooled: