My paper mache elephant project got sidetracked temporarily by an Elizabeth George novel, and I’m now working at my computer because a yellow-jacket got a bit too interested in the paste. (I’ve already been stung twice this week, so I get a little nervous around the little beasts). But all in all, I think the project is coming along nicely.
[edit – I made a video about this whole process. You can see the YouTube video about How to Make a Paper Mache Elephant here.]
I purchased some roll ends of paper from our local newspaper office, which allowed me to work quickly while building the bulk of the elephant from crumpled paper. I use a lot of force to compact the wads of paper so they will be a solid support for the paper mache. Then I try to cover as much of the paper as I can with the 2″ wide masking tape.
I made the tail from a piece of insulated three-wire electrical tape. I didn’t get a good photo of the wire before it was covered by paper, but you can see it below in the first photo if you look closely:
About half of the wire is taped to the elephant’s “spine.” If there was a next time I’d plan ahead and add a block of 1 x 2 lumber at the top of the elephant’s press-board armature so there would be a firm place to attach the tail. A few small nails would hold it firmly in place. Since I didn’t do that, it might be possible for a small child or a rowdy adult to pull the tail from the sculpture, if they really worked at it. Of course, we’ll assume that nobody would want to do such a thing.
I decided that it would be too easy to break the trunk if I got clumsy or if the sculpture collided with a ball-chasing 90 lb golden retriever, which is entirely possible considering my ball-throwing aim. So I used some expanded aluminum stuff that I bought years ago for another project. I believe the purpose of the product is to keep leaves out of gutters – but it bends very nicely, and seemed perfect for the elephant.
I held the top part of the material to the head with two nails pressed into the paper, and wrapped twine around it to form it tightly around the trunk. Then a layer of paper and paste was put on over the aluminum. Several more layers will be added to make the “skin” very hard and tough. The lower end of the trunk ended up being thicker than I intended, but I think the extra strength is worth it.
In a few days I should have all the details like eyes and toes finished, and it should be ready to paint. Stay tuned.