Paper Mache Clay

Several years ago I developed a new recipe for a sculptural material I call “paper mache clay.” This material is so easy to use and so easy to make that I now use it exclusively for all my paper mache sculptures. The recipe has now gone “viral” and is being used by artists all over the world.

It might be a bit more accurate to call this material “home-made air-dried cellulose-reinforced polymer clay,” but that’s way too hard to say (or type!), so for now, let’s just call it paper mache clay.

Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache ClayThe first video below shows how to make the paper mache clay, and the second video answers some common questions that I’ve received from readers since I first developed this recipe. Below the videos you’ll find the recipe written out, and a few comments about how it’s used. (This recipe is the basis for my book “Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.”)

 

I usually make mine fairly thin so it can be spread over an armature like frosting, by using less flour than the recipe calls for – but you can also make it thicker, with more flour, when you want more control over the modeling process. The clay dries extremely hard when applied in a very thin layer (1/8 to 1/4″ thick), and it seems to dry much faster than traditional paper mache pulp. (And it only takes about 5 minutes to make).

Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture
Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture

As you can see above, the clay can be modeled into fairly fine details. Using the clay for modeling feels much more intuitive than creating sculptures with paper strips and paste, and once the clay is dry it is a pleasure to paint.

The ingredients are inexpensive, and can be found at your local grocery store and hardware store. You will need:

  • Cheap toilet paper (measure the wet paper pulp, and use 1 1/4 cups – some rolls contain more paper than needed)
  • 1 cup Joint compound from the hardware store (get premixed “regular,” that comes in a plastic tub, not the dry powder form.) (Not sure what Joint compound is, or what it’s called in your country? click here.)
  • 3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue-all (PVA glue)
  • 1/2 cup White Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Linseed Oil or Mineral Oil (Linseed oil contains chemicals, so mineral oil is a better choice if you’re working with kids, or if you like to get your hands in the clay)

See the video below for details on making your clay. And if you try this recipe, please let us all know what you think of it–and also please share a photo of your finished work. We’d love to see how it comes out. (Can’t see the video? See the instructions printed below).

[Edit 2/12/2011 -  If you find that your clay seems "rubbery" instead of smooth and creamy, you may need to use a different brand of joint compound. They all make their products using different formulas. Most of them work, but if you find one that doesn't, please let us know. ]

Making Your Paper Mache Clay

Tools:

You’ll also need a large bowl, (use one with high sides so you don’t splatter clay on your cupboards), an electric mixer, a measuring cup and a tablespoon measure. To keep t he finished clay from drying out, you’ll need an air-tight container. The recipe makes approximately 1 quart of paper mache clay.

Note about Toilet Paper:

Unfortunately, the people who make toilet paper don’t expect us to turn their product into great works of art, so they see no reason to include the kind of information that would make things a lot easier for us.

I use a brand called “Angel Soft,” in the “regular” 2-ply rolls. I buy it at my local Wal-Mart. Each roll contains approximately 1 1/4 cup of paper, which I measured by wetting the paper, squeezing out the water, and then firmly squishing it into a measuring cup.

Since brands differ so much, the first time you make this recipe you should take a few minutes to find out how much paper is in the first roll. Then adjust the recipe if your brand don’t contain about 1 1/4 cup of paper. Fortunately, this is not a chemistry experiment or rocket science – if your mixture contains a little more paper than mine, or a little less, your sculptures will still be stunning.

Step 1. Fill a high-sided bowl with warm water. Remove the toilet paper from the roll and throw it into the water. Push down on the paper to make sure all of it gets wet.

Step 2. Then pick up the paper and squeeze out as much water as you can. Pour the water out of the bowl and put your paper mass back in.

Step 3. You will want to break the paper into chunks about 1″ across. This will allow your mixer to move around the pieces and break them apart.

Step 4. Add all the ingredients to the bowl and mix, using an electric mixer. The mixer will pull the fibers of the toilet paper apart and turn it into pulp. Continue to mix for at least 3 minutes to make sure all the paper has been mixed in with the other ingredients. If you still see some lumps, use a fork or your fingers (with the mixer turned off!) to break them apart, and then mix some more.

Your paper mache clay is now ready to use. It will look a bit like cookie dough – but don’t eat it!

If you don’t plan to use your clay right away, place it in an airtight container to keep it from drying out. The clay should stay usable for 5 days or more, if you keep it covered. The recipe makes about 1 quart.

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3,439 Responses

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  1. Debbie Vandeventer
    Debbie Vandeventer at |

    Hi Jonni!
    Thanks!! I’ll give it a try!! I have two 30″ vases and three smaller vases in the works all at the same time!! For a first-timer… I probably bit off more than I could chew… but I am having SO much fun!! :)

    I tried using the joint compound alone, to fill in some gaps… but I agree with you… it’s too soft. I am so glad that I read the post about using gesso!! I will be giving that a try.

    I’m still struggling with symmetry. I came up with an idea for making the vases using foam board. Although I think it’s an awesome idea and it is working beautifully… I’m working on trying to keep the roundness of the vases symmetrical. It’s a learning curve, I’m sure!!

    Thanks again for your help!!
    Debbie

    Reply
    1. Sebastian
      Sebastian at |

      I gave this a try last night for the horns of my critter and it worked really well in my opinion;
      I used a paint brush to first paint on the joint compound, waited for two hours (it wasn’t a very thick layer) and then I put gesso on it and left it for around three hours. It’s pretty firm, and im sure it will firm up with more layers of gesso. I don’t if this will work for you, but it did me so I thought i’d share =)
      You can still sand down the gesso and joint compound, but my piece in nature is allowed to be slightly more fragile because it’s decorative, whereas with your vases you might chose to simply layer up the gesso.
      Also, I find the lack of symmetry makes things more interesting ;) but that’s just my opinion.

      Reply
      1. Debbie Vandeventer
        Debbie Vandeventer at |

        Hi Sabastian!
        Thank you for your suggestion!! Do you buy the already made gesso or do you make your own? Have you posted any of your projects? I would love to see them!!

        I really need to learn how to let myself have things be less “perfect”… with flaws and all. I’m one of those people who needs symmetry and I waste a lot of time trying to make everything perfect. It’s pretty odd because I love antiques and old pottery. How imperfect can you get??!!! LOL!!

        Do you use a layer of joint compound and gesso on all of your projects? Should it be used under the clay layer? Do you put it all over or do you just use it to smooth out the piece?

        I really appreciate your suggestions and advice. I’m also going to try to be less perfect and let things be less symmetrical!! :)

        Reply
        1. Nikki
          Nikki at |

          Hi Debbie,
          Nikki here. (the cement sculptor) Just read your comments about trying to let go of the perfection, etc. I, too struggled with that when I first started, and still do from time to time depending on the project. But I kept getting discouraged, and when I finally did give in, and just get into the sculpting and creating, things really started flowing, and I was amazed at all that came out! Worst case scenario is that you might not like what you come up with, but you will have learned a lot in the process about technique, what works, didn’t, and you might just surprise yourself with what actually emerges. Something new and amazing! Ya never know! Have fun with your sculpting and laugh. I originally started taking photos of each step of my work because I wanted to see where I was going wrong. That’s how I had so many photos of how I built armatures, and the stages of the sculptures. Going back and looking at these photos really was helpful, too, but not because of any errors. Just because I could actually see the character emerge. Kind of like what stone sculptors say about the rock speaking to them. Not sure if this helps of not.

          Reply
          1. Debbie Vandeventer
            Debbie Vandeventer at |

            Hi Nikki!
            I am trying REALLY hard to let go of my issue with perfectionism!! I agree… I need to give in and just get into creating the project without worrying about every little imperfection!! It’s hard!! LOL!!

            I’m one of those organized, methodical people. Since I really want to lose this attitude and let my projects “just happen”… I believe that it will happen sooner… rather than later.

            I am having SO much fun but sometimes my desire for perfectionism gets in the way… and the fun… turns into stress!! Not good!!

            Thank you for your suggestions. I will try harder to let go!! :)

            Debbie

  2. Jen
    Jen at |

    Hi! Thank you for your lovely recipe, it’s working quite nicely. I’m having a problem getting it really really smooth though. I’m not sure if it’s the clay or I’m not smoothing it enough when the clay is dry, but I get these odd holes. Oddly enough, some parts are fine!

    Pic: http://img585.imageshack.us/i/cimg7759.jpg/

    What’s the best way to fill these bumps? Do I need to put another layer of clay over it? Or would gesso work?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Sebastian
    Sebastian at |

    Hi Jonni! I’ve just mixed up a lovely batch of this great stuff, and began apply it to my armature, I have a few questions though;
    Because of the shape of my critter, I am unable to cover the entire thing in one go, is it ok to do the clay layer in two parts?
    How long should one wait for a thin layer of the clay to be completely dry?
    Whats the best way to do little paper ears? (like the ones you did on your dragon on the youtube tutorial) Im not sure how to apply the clay to such a small, flimsy area, some tips would be awesome =)

    Answers are greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with us, I’m just loving it!

    Reply
  4. PRAGYA AGARWAL
    PRAGYA AGARWAL at |

    GREAT TO LEARN ABLOUT THE CLAY LOOKS EASY CAN YOU SUGGEST AN ALTERNATE FOR THE JOINT COMPOUND AND LINSEED OIL FOR INDIA THE COUNTRY OF MY RESIDENCE

    Reply
  5. Carol
    Carol at |

    I tried the paper mache clay recipe with my middle school students. They complained about the smell of the linseed oil. I must admit it was pretty strong. Could I leave it out? Or substitute something else? Thanks

    Reply
  6. Pamela
    Pamela at |

    I’m loving the clay recipe! So much easier to use than the traditional paste. I am working on a sculpture that will be covered in ABC gum. :) Do you think I will need to put a coating over the clay to protect it from the wetness of the gum when it is applied? Comments? Tips? Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Carol
    Carol at |

    Hi Jonni, I am looking for a inexpensive medium that my middle school art students can us to create maquette for a larger sculpture project. Can I use paperclay to create these small sculptures, about 5 or 6 inches high without using an armature?

    Reply
  8. Nikki
    Nikki at |

    Hullo.

    Iv been looking at your site for donkeys years and im just wondering if there are anymore simpler recipies for the clay?

    I would love to try this at school (im makeing a something to do with fantasy art) since no one else has done anything like it, i think it could help me get more marks towards my grade. The only problem is that i have very limited resorces to make the clay. I dont have acces to elmers glue or wood glue and i was wondering if i could do this without the glue?
    thanks!

    Reply
  9. Nikki
    Nikki at |

    Well, I did it! My first ever video on YouTube! And the first one I created so it’s pretty basic, but hopefully it will still be useful to others. Here is the URL.
    Jonni, please feel free to preview it before posting this on your blog. If you don’t think it will be of help, you won’t hurt my feelings if you decide not to post it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6gJW_BKujg

    Looks like it’s not active, so I’ll try to send it to you via email.

    Reply
  10. Jozephine
    Jozephine at |

    I’m a trained Milliner currently working in the area of alternative and recycled materials/fabrics. I started a few years back on searching for alternatives to the hatblocks used, as they’re very expensive! On your website you have mentioned that when dried, the clay is quite strong, would it be suitable to use as ‘hatblock’?

    Reply
  11. Nikki
    Nikki at |

    Hi Jonni, (and anyone else out there with an answer for this!)
    I just finished creating a video/slideshow showing some of the armature techniques that I found successful with my cement sculpture. The thought is that these same ideas should work with paper mache, as well.

    First time ever using Windows Movie Maker, so it’s not so creative, just the basics. I’m sure that I could work forever tweaking it, but I’m sure that most people won’t really care. My question is how do I post it? I have an account on YouTube that I can post the link to, if I am able to upload it. (first time for that, as well!) Rather than just doing really short ones, I decided to put it all on one, so it’s about 9 minutes long, broken up into 5 parts. Any ideas? I know there are other sites, just not sure what ones are best.

    Reply
  12. Emma Jaye
    Emma Jaye at |

    Hi, Jonni, I have been using a recipe for several years like this one except for the linseed oil. I made up a batch and it feels nice. I would like to know though, if the linseed oil would be volatile even though its mixed into other mediums. I need to oven dry a mask on low (195 degrees) overnight.

    Reply
  13. Static vesus Dynamic Media « More Art 24/7

    [...] Next year, I’m going with plaster strips for third, although I found a great recipe for papier mache “clay” (I would need a giant mixer, though for two hundred plus students). The puppet unit is new, and I [...]

  14. Juliana
    Juliana at |

    Hello Jonni,

    I’m about to try your recipe and would like to know if the linseed oil has any special property or it can be substituted by ordinary cooking oil.

    Thank you,
    Juliana

    Reply
  15. Janelle
    Janelle at |

    Jonni,

    Thank you for being such a valuable resource. I am having fun “playing” with the clay. Is there a way to speed up the drying process?

    I’ll do my best to post pictures of some of my projects soon.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  16. deborah
    deborah at |

    Jonni, thanks for the info. on the hooves. Glad I’m not the only one who struggles with them being too big.

    Tubes – you can get the long sturdy tubes from upholstery shops – those that sell fabric and also those that upholster chairs ect.

    Reply
  17. Justin
    Justin at |

    Hi Jonni,

    First off thanks for such a fantastic resource. The information is abundant and so helpful.

    A quick question on pinatas. I wrote recently and asked you about using your PM clay recipe – and wondered if it would be hard enough for a long-lasting pinata. You assured me that it would.

    As I think about ‘advanced’ and ‘creative’ designs for a pinata, I am wondering about an idea and would like your thoughts / input / advice on how to excute.

    Do you think that I could create a sculpture – any kind of scultpure – then cut it in half to remove the armature – then reassemble it as hollow- ? It could take my pinatas to new places!!! :) I guess I may lose some of the structural integrity and strength – but if I make the seam and then build the whole sculpture up to disguise the seam – do you think it would work? Also, is there a certain treatment of the armature that I should consider to make it easier to remove? Cover it in foil or some other medium?

    I really appreciate your help. I am excited about the possibilities —

    Best,
    Justin

    Reply
  18. Nikki
    Nikki at |

    Again, this is something that really helped me and even ‘tho I worked with cement, I think it will work for the PM Clay, as well. I often made my armature out of styrofoam. I got it in the insulation dept of Home Depot. It comes in a variety of thicknesses; is easy to cut; is easy to shape with a file; and it’s lightweight. You can join pieces together for thickness or to add another dimension. I made a huge mountain, which I think is in one of the photos I uploaded earlier, it also has mountain lions on it. The armature for everything is from styrofoam. I also made a tiny newborn foal using the styrofoam as an armature. I think that I have some photos that I took of the works in progress, as well as the final sculptures. I will look for them and try to post them, Jonni, if you think this might be useful to you and others. Let me know.

    Reply
  19. deborah
    deborah at |

    but, I am having trouble with the hooves. My hooves came out large and unreal looking. any tips?

    Reply
  20. deborah
    deborah at |

    Jonni, I just received your animal paper mache book and it really helped me with my horse. I love the book – it is just what I have been searching for. finding good books on paper mache , until now, has been impossible! Tomorrow I will make the paper mache clay and cover her. I am making this for a friend who lost her mare two months ago to a tendon injury. I will take a picture and hope to get it on here and will let you know how she likes it.
    by the way, my armature is made of wire stuffed with paper, but the aluminum foil was very helpful. I hope to make another horse and will try out your cardboard armature.

    Reply
  21. Nikki
    Nikki at |

    Glad I decided to let you all know about the tubes! I have a couple of photos of my columns, but not quite sure how to post them now.

    Reply
  22. Rebecca
    Rebecca at |

    Hi!
    I have been recruited to create a paper dress for a paper fashion show. I have almost no experience in clothing construction (I am in graphic design), but am considering making the top part of the dress (the bustier) out of paper mache. Is this a good idea? If it cracked and split during the show, it would be a little inconvenient for the person wearing the piece (me :S), so it needs to be pretty strong. Is this a possibility, or a bad idea? Any suggestions for the type of paper mache or clay? Any and all advice and suggestions are welcome!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Rebecca
      Rebecca at |

      Sorry… forgot one bit of information. The dress is supposed to be 80% paper. Thanks, again! :)

      Reply
      1. Xan Blackburn
        Xan Blackburn at |

        What if you did the bustier part in at least two pieces, say back + one front 1/2 + the other front 1/2, hinged together by something more flexible (non-mache paper?) That way, you’d have the effect, with some flex, and it might be easier to construct, too.
        You could even do some pm ornaments on the skirt area (or wherever). What a fun idea! Hope we get to see what you come up with.

        Reply
  23. Xan Blackburn
    Xan Blackburn at |

    Brilliant suggestion to use the tube forms! I can see them as being great for building life-size animals! Elephant legs, and even bodies!

    So many great ideas here! Love the synergy!

    Reply
    1. Holly Britton
      Holly Britton at |

      I used a large cardboard tube to create the armature for the Nutcracker mask I made this year. (See the photo posted on Nov. 28,2010) They work great!

      Reply
  24. Nikki
    Nikki at |

    It was never a problem. I would either apply the mixture (sand and white portland cement) either with a trowel, knife, or my hands; press it into place in small sections. The mixture wasn’t wet enough to make anything soggy, ‘tho the cardboard tubes are pretty sturdy. Also, just as you do with the PM Clay, I did thin layers at a time, which allowed it to dry quickly. Since I live in the desert area of Arizona, I sometimes needed to put a wet towel over it to keep it from drying too fast! That would cause cracking. But if it did crack, I simply would go back to that area and fill it in with the cement. In this case, I would think that you could use the PM Clay in the same way. Finding these forms was such a huge help to me.
    I meant to add in the first post, that I think you could use braces, both small ones, “l-shaped” and larged shelf brackets for more strength. I used the “l-shaped” ones often when joining sections.
    I think that if you experienced some slipping, you could put on some paper mache strips to roughen the surface a bit. But I don’t see it as a problem. Also possibly laying it flat on a surface and working horizontally across, or bottom up, etc.

    Reply
  25. Nikki
    Nikki at |

    Hi everyone,
    I’ve been reading everyone’s great comments to help each other. This is so wonderful!
    Haven’t seen this mentioned before, so thought I’d throw it in now in case it’s helpful. If you need an armature for something that is tubular, you can find cardboard tubes in a variety of circumferences at building supply stores or cement supply sources. I have used them very successfully as an armature for my cement sculptures and just put the cement layer on the outside, much like the way I’ve seen described for the paper mache strips, or the PM Clay. The tubes can be cut to the size needed. and also you can add shapes on to the sides with screws, supports, etc. I also put on a wooden base and top for some of mine with a round piece of wood and then sculpted over that as I needed it to be strong enough to hold another sculpture on top of it. They are now over 10 years old, and doing just fine. The forms we have locally are “Quik Tubes” building forms. I find them in the cement section of Home Depot. They are extremely strong, and by using them the finished figure would already be hollow. I’m thinking that you could probably create an amazing variety of shapes. Hope this helps. The tubes are created for builders to pour the cement mixtures into and create columns of solid concrete, thus the variety of sizes.

    Reply
    1. Debbie Vandeventer
      Debbie Vandeventer at |

      Hi Nikki…
      THANK YOU for your suggestion about where to buy cardboard tubes, “Quik Tubes”!! I never would have thought to look in the cement section at Home Depot!! I was going to go and just walk around the store looking for “inspiration”… but I haven’t had a chance to do that yet.

      I can use one big tube in the center and then build it up with paper towel and toilet paper tubes to create a rough shape. At that point, I can use newspaper and masking tape to fine tune the shape. What do you think?

      I would love to see pictures of the projects you’ve done. Will you post them here?

      Thanks, Nikki!! :)

      Reply
      1. Debbie Vandeventer
        Debbie Vandeventer at |

        I found the Quikrete cement tubes at Lowe’s and Home Depot!! They have multiple sizes…. but I’ll probably get the 8″ x 48″.

        THANK YOU, NIKKI!! :)

        Reply
        1. Chris
          Chris at |

          In case anyone is looking for big round tubes, I just got a few when my mother hand her floors done, vinyl floors ,(and sometimes carpet) comes on big cardboard rolls, if you ask at flooring places, you maybe able to find some, cheap skate me is always on the look out for free useful stuff :))

          Reply
  26. Debbie Vandeventer
    Debbie Vandeventer at |

    This is probably a really stupid question… but is the Paper Mache Clay recipe used in lieu of the Paper Mache Paste recipe? I was under the impression that you use the strips of paper and the paste recipe for the first few coats… and then you use the clap recipe as a “top coat”.

    As I ready through some of these posts… it sounds like people are using the clay recipe instead of the paste recipe. Am I reading this wrong? Will a thin layer of just the clay be enough?

    I am SO confused right now!! Help!! LOL!!

    Reply
    1. Bob C.
      Bob C. at |

      Hi Debbie, The nomenclature can be a bit confusing indeed.

      Torn paper strips and GLUE can and are used in layers to make PM shapes. The glue used commonly is white PVA glue and I often use Elmer’s Glue-All brand.

      Torn paper strips and PASTE can and are used in layers to make PM shapes. The PASTE I use has regular general purpose white flour, PVA glue and Liquid Starch with some water mixed in as well. There are many, many variations of paste used.

      Paper Mache Clay (generally) is made of mushed up paper ( toilet paper or newspaper or “other”) that is then mixed with the above mentioned GLUE or PASTE and Drywall Compound (I also add acrylic paint) of course there are many, many variations of that as well.

      I often use “paper mache clay” on top of a few layers of torn paper strips and PASTE for my creations depending on the goal and location. For example no flour used for my yard art to keep hungry critters from snacking on my efforts.

      The combination of paper and paste (or glue) makes a surprisingly strong “composite” material because paper is made of fibers that binds with the Glue or PASTE and that applies to both the strip and clay mache types.

      Remember at the top of this very post (topic) is Jonni’s now famous recipe of her “paper mache clay” with another nicely produced How To video about it.

      Reply
      1. Debbie Vandeventer
        Debbie Vandeventer at |

        Hi Bob…
        Thank you for the clarification. This is my first attempt and I am extremely frustrated right now!! I want to make a 36″ floor vase and I haven’t had much luck so far. I started by using the garbage bag method, filling it with crumbled newspapers. I even made a cardboard base and used twine to help with the shape. Long story short… and after mutilating 5 garbage bags and using a whole roll of 2″ masking tape… I gave up!!

        I actually posted a message to Jonni earlier asking for help!! I’m just not sure what to use to shape the armature. I saw the plant stand that you made… and the floor vase that I want to make is similar in size.

        I am on my way out to Lowe’s to walk up and down the aisles in hopes of finding things to use!! Where did you get the 4″ cardboard tube? Was it expensive? If I use a tube like that… what would I use to build up the vase shape around it? Maybe I should have started with a 3″ lizard!! LOL!!

        Thank you for any advice you can offer!! :)

        Reply
        1. Xan Blackburn
          Xan Blackburn at |

          Hi Debbie. I’ve been lurking on this discussion, and an idea occurred to me that might work for you. Jonni uses flat forms to give the general silhouette of her final form. What if you used that idea for your vase? Like, cut out of cardboard a vase shape, make another just like it and notch them together so they cross. You could then put that inside a plastic bag (or wrap in plastic wrap?) to make it easier to remove later. You could make your vase have flat sides, or fill it out between the vanes of cardboard. You could add a smooth twist to the cardboard, which would give the final vase a neat spiral effect! Just brain-storming here… Good luck! :)

          Reply
          1. Debbie Vandeventer
            Debbie Vandeventer at |

            Hi Xan…
            Thank you so much for the great idea!! I was ready to put the bag and papers in the fireplace and call it a day!! The vase definitely needs support… like your cardboard suggestion!! I’ll give it a shot and keep you posted!!

            Thank you!!

        2. Jay
          Jay at |

          Hi Debbie, I was reading your posts and wondering how you were going to make that round vase with a gargage bag and tape. Here’s a suggestion using Jonni’s paper clay. Use a VERY large salad bowl to make the bottom half. I would use some plastic wrap stretched over the outside of the bowl for easy release.(I don’t know if it will stick to the bowl, maybe not.)Let dry. Then use the bowl to make the top half leaving an opening for a cardbord tube to be inserted for the neck.. When dry, put the two parts together with a strips of paper and pm glue or clay all around. Let dry. Put some paper clay in the bottom of the bowl to anchor the tube and push it all the way down. Be sure to anchor it to the bottom for stability. You might later want to put some pebbles or sand in there to stabilize the vase and it would be easier to get in or out. Use paper clay to fill in the spaces around the neck and build it up like the vase in the picture. Keep turning the vase at eye level as you are working on it to make sure the neck stays straight. You might find an inexpensive large plastic bowl at a used merchandise store. If that’s not big enough for the vase you want, try a plastic beach ball. However the bowl does have a flat bottom and would be easier to get the two sections alike. If you can’t find a cardbord tube, get some poster board. Find a bottle the size you want the tube to be and roll the poster board around and tape it.
          To get the texture like the vase in the picture, I would wrap string or cord around it. The easy way to do that is to make a thin water/glue(or flour/water) mixture in a coffee can. Feed as much string as you think you need in to the mixture making sure not to tangle it so it will pull out easily. Make an X in the plastic can cover and insert the string. This will pull most of the mixture out of the string as it goes through.
          Put the vase on a lazy susan and turn it as you glue on the string, starting at the bottom edge and wind upwards. If you want the string underneath, it’s easier to make the swirl on a paper plate. When dry, trim off the paper plate and glue it on to the bottom of the vase. Ready to paint and antique like the picture.
          I hope this helps you debbie. I haven’t done this for a long time. I just discovered this web site really like it. Thanks to Jonni, I have learned a lot. Love the new paper clay recipie.
          Happy New Year,
          Jay

          Reply
          1. Debbie Vandeventer
            Debbie Vandeventer at |

            Hi Jay…
            Yes… I was wondering MYSELF how I was going to make a vase with a garbage bag and tape!! Needless to say… I didn’t!! LOL!!

            Thank you for your salad bowl idea!! I love it!! So… when are you going to come over to show me how to do it? LOL!! I will give it a try and let you know how it goes!!

            I stumbled across this site last week and I am so thankful that I did!! You guys are awesome!!

            Thanks again, Jay!! :)

        3. Bob C.
          Bob C. at |

          Hi Debbie, Starting off small is how I began. I made an egg shape 6″ long x ~3.5″ thick (not exactly a 3″ lizard but close to it) and used it to test materials and techniques. I was able to get a feel for just making the PM clay and paste, test what it was like to dry it in an oven vs a fan, compare textures of the PM paper strip and paste method vs PM Clay and see how paint looked on both etc. I still use that now but it has very little original surface area remaining to be used. This may set you back a few days from your main floor vase objective but the information and technique I learned starting this way gave me a major advantage in time, materials and confidence.

          Making a large PM Spherical shape is a real challenge, (at least for me) as does getting a smooth nicely curved PM surface. I made a life size skull using the plastic bag and tape technique and it was a real learning experience because “sculpting” with a thin plastic bag filled with crumpled newspaper was a foreign concept. Another way people have made this shape is with a large (in your case) balloon or an inexpensive child’s beach ball as an armature. I have no experience with this kind of armature …yet!

          I made a frog using two techniques: crumpled paper with masking tape and a frog shaped armature made by using narrow strips of cereal box cardboard hot glued to each other and to carefully designed cardboard frog like shapes.

          The crumpled paper with masking tape went quickly and is more “free flowing’ while the hot glue cardboard strip approach is much more precise and takes longer. You can see an example of each on my web page called “ Frog Paper Mache”. I think Xan’s nice idea is a combination of both and could work well.

          I learn much about these techniques from Scott A. Stoll seen here:
          Pumpkins
          http://www.stolloween.com/?page_id=67

          Pumpkins V 2.0
          http://www.stolloween.com/?page_id=4017

          Looks like Scott has a new video showing the hot glue and cardboard strip approach too.
          http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1392745619169

          Reply
          1. Debbie Vandeventer
            Debbie Vandeventer at |

            Hi Bob…
            The last thing I wanted to hear was… “start out small.” LOL!! I know that you’re right… I just didn’t want to hear it!! I am usually a very methodical and organized person… but I honestly wanted to just jump into this project with both feel and no parachute!! LOL!!

            I love Scott’s site too!! He does an amazing job!!

            Don’t go too far… I may need your help, as I attempt this project once again!!

            Thanks, Bob!!

          2. Debbie Vandeventer
            Debbie Vandeventer at |

            Hi Bob…
            I can’t find your website!! What is it?

            Thanks!! :)
            Debbie

          3. Bob C.
            Bob C. at |

            Hi Debbie, Everyone who posts here with their name in blue has listed a web page ( nice dog painting Xan!) and a left click should take you there but just in case my paper mache activity starts here: http://www.bobblob.20m.com/photo3.html

            I forgot to mention the source of my tube, sorry. It is a “found” item in my garage when I bought the house. After poking around online a bit it appears a rug was wrapped around it so that may be another way to get them but Nikki’s suggestions looks great!

  27. Bob C.
    Bob C. at |

    Hi Debbie,

    I would like to 2nd Jonni’s words about definitely making a large vase. Your question had perfect timing because I was about to post my similar project here.

    I just made my wife a 20“ tall working plant stand for Christmas that can easily hold a waterlogged plant and have attached a picture of it and the bits I used to make it.

    It is made of parts from three 1 gallon milk jugs, a 4“ diameter cardboard tube that has a 1/4“ thick wall (very strong), masking tape, hot glue, paper and paste strips and a variation of Jonni’s PM Clay. It is finished with Jonni’s recipe of home made tinted gesso. Oh, also lots and lots and lots of sanding! Whew!

    The decorations you see are photographs I took of various pot and plant holders she has around the house that have the theme she likes. I wanted to make “3D” decorations and paint them too but I ran out of time. The photos were cut out and carefully glued to the gesso and then the entire plant holder was give 3 coats of Krylon’s “Moisture-resistant, UV-Resistant, Clear Acrylic Coating”. I successfully used MinWax Spar Urethane on outdoor PM Toadstools it but it would have yellowed the subtle blue “porcelain” finish so I used the Krylon spray.

    I hope you will post pictures of your protect.

    paper mache plant stand

    Reply
    1. Debbie Vandeventer
      Debbie Vandeventer at |

      Hi Bob!
      Your plant stand looks awesome!! You did a GREAT job!! Is this your first project? If not, what else have you made? Do you have pictures?

      This is my first attempt and I could hardly sleep last night because I was SO excited to get my supplies and get started!! I feel overwhelmed because I have so many ideas and I want to make so many things!! LOL!!

      I would love to see more pictures of your projects. I would like to make a cow, like the elephant that Jonni made. My friend collects cows and I would love to make one for her collection. Maybe not as big as Jonni’s elephant… that thing weighs 30 lbs!! LOL!! But it is amazing and I hope to be that creative… and good… one day!!

      Again… GREAT plant stand!!

      Reply
      1. Bob C.
        Bob C. at |

        Hi Debbie, thanks for your kind remarks. This is not my 1st project but I’m still a relative newbie to PM and the plant stand was the biggest piece I’ve made thus far. It was a departure from my other efforts and I must say all that sanding to get it smooth and bump free did get a bit “old” but I did learned lessons about armature prep etc.

        As Jonni mentioned my web page has more pictures and info and is my attempt to “give back” a little to the PM community. It is a very old site and I’m considering an update but as you said, so many ideas and so little time. I plan on putting the plant stand project there…..real soon! Sigh!

        You mentioned Jonni’s elephant, truly an amazing big work of art, not to mention a well produced, edited, narrated and filmed project all on its on. Wow! I watched it several times! Just another inspiring example of Jonni’s talent and skills.

        I wish you well on you new adventure, be bold, experiment a lot, try new stuff and share the joy!

        Reply
  28. Debbie Vandeventer
    Debbie Vandeventer at |

    I am going to try and make a tall floor vase, approximately 36″ tall. They are so expensive to buy… and I thought that I could make one by using paper mache and then using joint compound for the outer layer.

    I thought about using chicken wire to mold the shape before covering with paper mache. Do you have another suggestion for making a mold that large? What would you suggest using for the base?

    Would you suggest using a typical paper mache recipe or your paper mache clay recipe for the outer layer? My goal is to sand it smooth and use paint for the outer layer to create an “old world” look.

    I really appreciate any suggestions that you have to offer. Your work is beautiful and I am looking forward to trying your clay recipe! If not for this project… for another project down the road!

    Thank you!!
    Debbie

    Reply
  29. deboray
    deboray at |

    I am working on a paper mache horse.
    I just made my wire armature. I will crumble paper and put it onto the armature with masking tape.
    Will I then apply the clay recipe with a knife to the armature ? (no layers of traditional paper mache)?

    Reply
  30. Mike
    Mike at |

    Three questions:
    Is it carveable when set or is it much like a hard plaster or clay? I understand it is pliable before drying.
    The linseed oil; is there a particular reason for that type of oil? In wood working I have found that linseed oil never quite dries as a finish. Is that part of the magic? Could a less toxic oil be used like walnut oil?
    Can you freeze the clay for long term storage?
    I am not a sculptor but I have a creative side and I love this idea, thanks

    Reply
  31. Claude Aimée Villeneuve
    Claude Aimée Villeneuve at |

    Thank you for the recipe! Someone from my hand papermaking discussion group just posted a link to your website and I must say, your recipe looks intriguing and I’ll try it out soon. One question: do you know if recycled paper passed through the blender would do the same as the toilet paper? If I use the same amount of recycled pulp, wouldn’t it do the trick?

    Reply
  32. Anne Maree Clarke
    Anne Maree Clarke at |

    Hi Jonni! Thanks for the recipe for the clay – it was so fun to make! I don’t think that I have done anything with paper mache’ for around 35 years so this was a treat to have a go at! Also, I have never thought that I had the skills to be able to do anything in clay and sculpting but I am wanting to have a try.Just a couple of questions that I hope you can answer. I think in your video you said that to make the clay thicker to add more flour? Would that then make in like air drying clay? Also is it possible to make the clay ‘stick’ to fabric? I have been making cloth dolls and thought that to make a body (pancake style doll) and to then cover with the paper mache clay. Not the complete doll, but just the head and down to the shoulders? Might sound a bit strage, but I guess you may understand how ideas can dance around your head! Love to know what you think!

    Reply
  33. Cassandra
    Cassandra at |

    hi,
    I am making mask for a center piece and was wondering how long would this product take to dry before i start making them because i have several to make. another question is it durable or is the finale product like plaster very easy to break once it dries. Thanks :-))

    Reply
  34. Amanda
    Amanda at |

    Jonni,

    For my school project in drama we are to make a mask from scratch. I’m making a chinese dragon mask and I’ve made the base of it with Model Magic so that its ok on my face for long periods of time. I’m planning on covering that with paper mache so that it is stronger and I can build up my face and snout. I’m then going to put another layer of Model Magic on top to create scales, and so I can paint it. I was wondering if this clay would stick well to Model Magic (it’s the old formula by Crayola) and if it cracks at all? I’ve heard people having a problem with drywall compound like stuff cracking and breaking when dropped. Do you think I should use this clay for my mask, in combination with normal paper mache? And will it crack at all?

    And the other thing is how heavy is it when it dries? I need my mask to be light, and I know normal paper mache is fairly light, but how is this in comparison?

    - Thanks, Amanda.

    Reply
  35. Jaya
    Jaya at |

    Hello Jonni,
    I m Jaya from India,all your tutorials on this website are really amazing,and the clay recipe is fantastic,i ‘ll surely make a try. I made a Jharoka using readymade clay available in market,i think it is papermache clay,but not sure about it,i ‘llpost the picture of clay,let me know is that papermache clay,let me know how to post the pictures of clay and Jharoka in your website.
    Jonni,please help me with the ingredients,what is joint compound?Is it available in India?Tell me other names of joint cmpnd so that i can try here,nd let me know for what purpose it is used outside.
    what is elmers glue? Instead of it may i use fevicol or bulbond?
    What is white flour?Some of my friends tried with maida,cornflour,ceramicpowder,chalkpowder,but they are eaten by bugs.
    please rectify my doubts,Jonni plzzzzzzzzz help me so that i can make perfect nd wonderful sculptures with your clay recipe.
    THANKS in advance.
    Rgds…
    JAYA.

    Reply
  36. Anna
    Anna at |

    Hi Jonni,

    I love the looks of your recipe! I was wondering if it could be thinned enough to be “piped” through the corner of a zip lock bag, for raised elements? Would the base material have to dry first? And for my own experiments, would you recommend adding more glue to make it softer, or leave the paper wetter? Thank you!

    Reply
  37. Brenda
    Brenda at |

    Hello, I was going to try this to make my son a Roman Helment for a history project. Can it be put on a ballon like the strips or will I need a different base? Do you have any sujestions?
    Thank you

    Reply
  38. Justin
    Justin at |

    Pinatas!

    Jonni,

    I have been making pinatas for 15 years for my large extended family. The issue when I started was the pinatas never lasted long enough! So after much looking around, I have been making my pinatas out of plaster cloth. It comes in rolls and you dip it in water and place it on your form – just like paper mache. It is ROCK HARD when it is done – and lasts for many, many whacks.

    The problem is that it gets very dusty when it gets close to breaking, to the point that plaster dust fills the air and covers the floor and candy. The dust gets the kids clothes dirty and last night – got on the DJ’s sound equipment (which he was not happy about!)

    I have never used any other medium for my pinatas – but I would like to try one – if it can be made HARD ENOUGH. The plaster cloth is just soo dusty. Is the PM clay hard? Do you have a particular recipe to make a HARD finished product? Thanks so much for your help –

    Justin

    Reply
  39. Michael
    Michael at |

    Getting ready to give it a shot, as for the joint compound – is it the pre-mixed variety or powdered in a bag?

    thanks,
    mk

    Reply
  40. Julie
    Julie at |

    Is it possable to just use the PMC recipes without the TP? I find I must of not broke up the TP good enough. It came out lumpy and it dose stick to the fingers bad. How can a person get a more smoother surface with out too much work.I use the pro sculpt clay and am not used to getting my hans so stuck with plaster and glue. Is there a better way? Could you use it without the paper and add more flour? Help!!

    Reply
  41. Penny
    Penny at |

    Just wondering how you apply the clay to the sculpture?
    Fingers? Spatula?

    I am new to your web site, but love it so far.
    I’m awaiting your book to arrive from Amazon.

    Reply
  42. Rachel
    Rachel at |

    I adore this idea and recipe. I wanted to know if you have dried a wood dough yet?

    “If your kids like playing with dough like Play-Doh or molding clay, they will love making sculptures with homemade wood dough.  Homemade wood dough dries to a wood finish and can be sanded down smooth with sandpaper. 

    You can also paint or stain wood dough sculptures.  To paint them, you can use any of the homemade paint recipes I have at the bottom of this article.  To stain them, you can make a stain by adding 6 drops of food coloring to 1 tablespoon of water.

    What you will need to make wood dough:
    1 cup of clean sawdust (you can get it at the craft store)
    1/2 cup flour
    1 tablespoon liquid starch (it’s in the laundry section)
    1 cup of water

    Step 1:  Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until a stiff dough is formed.  If the mixture is too dry, you can add a bit more water.  If it is too sticky, you can add a bit more flour.

    Step 2:  Create your sculptures.

    Step 3:  Let your sculptures dry for 3 days.

    Step 4:  Sand and paint or stain your sculptures, if desired.

    Tips:  You can make wooden beads with wood dough. Just be sure you make a hole in the beads with a toothpick before they dry.”

    Reply
  43. mavis bear
    mavis bear at |

    hi, i ‘ve a lot of paper mache work, made my own pulp till the ready made came on the market. i always put a few drops of clove oil in the mix to keep the bugs away. smells good to!
    i am trying your mix today, i didn’t want to buy a huge bag of joint compoud so am trying white unsanded grout. we’ll see!! thanks, mavis

    Reply
  44. Caryn Coleman
    Caryn Coleman at |

    I love this recipe, and your whole website! Thank you Jonni!

    I am about to make up a batch and realized that I left my joint compound at the studio. Can I use spackle instead?

    Caryn

    Reply
  45. Molly
    Molly at |

    I was wondering if wood glue would work instead of Elmers glue-all. I have wood glue at my disposal and I dont want to go buy other glue if I dont have too.

    Reply
    1. Mike
      Mike at |

      Beside the color the main differences are that the wood glue dries faster and is a little more water resistant. Also white glue is cheaper.
      If it what you have use it.

      Reply
  46. Jeff
    Jeff at |

    Just thought I would share. I used your site to make a Halloween costume for my son this year. Thank you very much for the inspiration!

    http://www.coolest-homemade-costumes.com/coolest-homemade-toothless-the-dragon-halloween-costume-idea-4.html

    Reply
  47. carol
    carol at |

    I am new at this so excuse my ignorance. I want to make a urn for my great-grandson’s ashes. I thought about using the bottom of a soda bottle as the base for the strips pf paper mache . then gluing a strip of ribbon on the top for a seal. I wanted to used styroform for the lid base, putting the strips on that . Does anyone know if this will work or have any suggestions I would appreciate them. Thanks! Carol

    Reply
  48. Betsy
    Betsy at |

    Hi there,

    Is it okay to use a food processor instead of a hand mixer? Would it be safe to use the same food processor for food and well as paper clay, or should I buy a hand mixer just for the paper clay?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  49. Diana
    Diana at |

    Hi, I have chemical sensitivities…can I use plaster (or another mixyure) in place of the joint compound? Thanks!

    Reply
  50. Holly
    Holly at |

    Drum roll please! (hehe…just kidding) Presenting The Nutcracker!
    Nutcracker mask

    This was actually Plan B, because head #1 seemed that it would be a bit cumbersome for the dancer. I attached the mask to the hat and drilled the eye holes after fitting it to the dancer. I’m fairly pleased with the outcome.

    I’m relieved to have it finished on time! I’ll be watching it on stage this coming Friday. It’s a three week run; let’s hope the mask holds up!

    Jonni, thanks for holding my hand as I tried this new medium and to all the contributers to this blog for their creativity and knowledge. I can’t wait for my next project!
    Blessings.

    Reply
    1. Bob C.
      Bob C. at |

      Excellent Holly and finished it on schedule too! Well done, thanks for showing us!.

      Reply
      1. Holly Britton
        Holly Britton at |

        So, I thought I’d report that after 3 weeks of dancing, the Nutcracker mask held up beautifully and received rave reviews. Thanks again and again. Merry Christmas!

        Reply
        1. Bob C.
          Bob C. at |

          Awesome Holly and congratulations!
          Thanks for the update too!

          Merry Christmas to you and yours!

          Reply

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