Paper Mache Animals

Ballerina Bunny – Part 1

This is the first video in a series. This little ballerina bunny is based on a mixed media sculpture by Degas, but only very loosely. I thought about using a Bugs Bunny-type body, but then I just sort of started adding paper to the wire armature, and this is how she ended up. Still no head, of course – that’s in the next video.

The bunny was suggested by Francine when I asked readers for ideas for my next video. (This probably isn’t exactly how she expected it to turn out,  but I hope she likes it.)

If you’ve used the paper mache clay before, you might notice that it seems a little stiffer than usual. I did add about 1/4 cup of wet low-fire pottery clay, but I think that’s not what changed the consistency. I didn’t have any all-purpose flour in the house, so I used the bread flour that I had on hand. It has stronger gluten, and I think that made the PM clay a little stiffer than usual. I like it, so no regrets.

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About the author

Jonni Good

I'm a sculptor, author, gardener, and grandma. When I'm not catering to the needs of my obnoxious cat, I make videos, create stuff, and play around with paper mache. I'm also the author of several highly-rated books on paper mache. You'll find them in the sidebar, and on amazon.com

26 Comments

  • Hi Jonni,

    the ballerina bunny is so lovely!
    I have a “basic” question: why do you use paper mache for your sculptures instead of argil? Do you prefer the technique, the material or did you come to the paper mache for a chance and you kept using it?

    Is it a silly question?

    Thank you very much for all your tutorials!

    Chiara

    • I wasn’t familiar with the word argil, so I looked it up and it evidently is the same thing we usually call pottery clay. I enjoy working with paper mache, but I would also love to work in clay, but I can’t afford a kiln. And no, it isn’t a silly question at all.

      • Oh, yes, I realized yesterday night that what you call “clay” is our “argilla”! 😀

        I find “sculpting” with paper and tape really fascinating. The materials are so poor and they are always at home but they can be formed as you want. It is a real discovery for me! Thank you soooo much for sharing your work!!

        I was looking for a different way to create heads for my dolls, not only fabrics. With clay, the heads become too heavy even if they are empty inside. Paper mache seems a good solution :-J

        I will be experimenting a lot in the next time (L0L) and I hope to be able to reach any nice result.

  • I just love this!! Watching you spread the clay over the base I had to wonder would a cake decorating tool such as a fondant smoother make this less labour intensive.. thank you for sharing all your god gifted talents

    • I’ve never seen a fondant smoother (never heard of such a thing) but it’s entirely possible that it might be a useful tool. If you try it, let us know if it works. :)

  • Love the ballerina so far almost as much as your cat. Now what are the ingredients in the new Jonni Clay? I haven’t kept up with the variations and want to try it out.

    • Hi Joanne. I’ve been adding about 1/4 cup of wet pottery clay to the mix. I just happen to have some on hand – and it seems to make the mix smoother. However, it might be smoother just because you have to run the mixer so much longer to get the clay completely mixed into the rest of the ingredients. It does seem to be slightly easier to sand, though. (If you don’t have a pottery supply store nearby, don’t worry about getting any wet clay – the original recipe really works just fine. I just can’t stop myself from playing around with it. 😉 )

  • Jonni I just want to say I think you’re such an inspirational PM artist. Your tutorials are very educational and complete in explaining what you’re doing. I haven’t tackled making any naturalistic critters yet but hope to soon. Mine are mostly monsters and such.
    Not to try and teach the teacher a lesson but I have a little hint I saw in one of Dan Reeders books that may help. You seemed to have trouble tearing the tape and holding the paper as you went. He pre-tears strios of tape and sticks them loosely to nearby desks, tables or whatever. Thanks for all you do with your great work.

    • Heh – I read Dan’s idea, too, and every time I struggle to tear off some tape while holding a piece of paper in place, I think of that. Never before, though, when it would actually help. 😉

  • Hi Jonni – love your newest bunny ballerina video. You know I will have to copy it.

    Have you seen my Facebook page lately? (I’m not sure if I’m connected to you there.)

  • I’m a video behind and haven’t even viewed number one of ballerina bunny, but I don’t have to see it to know that it will be something I must copy.

    WHEN I GROW UP SOMEDAY I WANT TO BE YOU.

    Hey Jonni – have you seen my Facebook lately?

  • Jonni, Having purchased two of you book recently, and watching your videos, I want you to know how pleased and excited I am to have discovered you. As a professional sculptor (for decades) using media other that paper mache, the discovery of a light weight material approach resulting in both strength and good surface texture is what I have been looking for. Although not personally sculpting animals, your video showing the building the rabbit triggered my memory of seeing an uncast wax model of a ballerina by Degas in the Metropolitian Museum in NY over 50 years ago. And then combining that with the humorous rabbit sculptures in fired clay by Wendy Timm in Tucson AZ, (www.wendytimm.com) I am prepared to move forward with my own abstract sculpture using most of the techniques you write about and demonstrate. I’m just waiting now to see how you finish up the ballerina rabbit. One question is: Have you ever mixed very fine wood powder into your ‘clay’ mixtures?
    Gary

    • Hi Gary. I have never tried the wood powder, but some of my other readers have. It would change the texture somewhat, but it would be interesting to try it. I hope you show us what you come up with. By the way, we didn’t get all of your web address – do you have some pieces on your site that we could see?

  • I love your ballerina. She is going to be awesome. I have a question. I love to make pm figurines. I’m not good at it. I’ve gleaned so much from you and your vids, books..etc.but I would really like some type of hands on teaching. I think I need someone to show me what I’m doing wrong. So… can you suggest how I could go about finding someone to help me. I know the Junior College has an art departments but I don’t want all that . I just want to learn Paper Mache. To do it better. This may be a stupid thing to ask but honestly I keep making pm projects and I keep doing the same mistakes over and over. Hope you can assist. thanks

    • Gosh, that’s a difficult question. Is there a paper mache artist who advertises in your town? I know that there’s a group of paper mache artists in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, but I don’t know of a group anywhere else. Maybe a local gallery or the community college teacher could steer you towards someone who’d like the experience of teaching informally.

      Does anyone else have any ideas for Debbie?

      • Sometimes, I find that scultptors that do not use paper mache, but know about shaping can help and maybe start a new alliance. In my neck of the woods, I have not found other paper mache artists, now you have got me thinking and I will do research. My own approach is to try one idea with a project like making a sculptured leg as an example and make changes with different ideas that she has seen so far. I find that experimentation just for the sake of experimentation with just a goal of seeing what happens gives me ideas for the future and hones my skills. Just like the relief on the waste basket led to the more elaborate bowl. It took a lot of tries and I did a lot of rework. Just an idea.

      • Thanks Jonni,
        I’ll check with the college art teachers, maybe they will have some info. Once again, you have been such a great inspiration for me. I love and enjoy your posts. Looking forward to Ballerina Bunny part 2.

  • This is going to be fun. I look forward to the next series of videos to see how she turns out.

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