Paper Mache Holiday Projects

Paper Mache Halloween Pumpkins and a Centaur –

Paper Mache Pumpkins

Yesterday I received an email from a reader that I just had to share with you. When you see the photos of Laurie Baker’s incredible paper mache centaur and Halloween pumpkins below, you’ll know why. I’m very happy that Lauri gave me permission to share her email with you. She has some tips for you, in addition to her photos of recent projects.

Something that amazes me is that she started  sculpting with paper mache as a way to help her stop smoking – and it worked!

And now, here’s Laurie’s email:

Hi there, gosh, I just saw the YouTube video of the paper mache elephant, that was spectacular!!!! I love how you made the pre-paper pattern!!

I subscribed to your website here, I just started doing paper mache a few months ago when I wanted to quit smoking after 33yrs, so far I’ve been a paper maching fool lol!!!

Saw some ideas about shop paper towels and thought I’d share my idea of baby wipes. I buy generic, they’re like 2.00 for 88 or so, you can use them wet if you don’t want to tear them or pull them out of the container, let air dry then they tear to have smaller pieces. These are fantastic in my opinion, they dry fast and hard and you don’t need as many layers of paper then. Sometimes I use a layer of brown grocery bags either before or on top of the baby wipes, they cover little tiny edges that are sticking up sometimes when the paper dries. Well just an idea I wanted to share with you….

Here’s a few pics…a life size centaur that I painted with stone like spray paint so it looks just like a stone statue and pumpkins that we put lights in. The baby wipes are GREAT for hair, beards, tails, and also for the gnarly wood-looking pumpkin stems. I do use glue in my flour water mixture tho….not sure if it would work the same for just flour and water.

Lauries Life-Sized Paper Mache Centaur

I have 9 pumpkins now ( the biggest is aprox 30″ not including the stem )  4 zombies, a giant frog, a gnome, life size werewolf/man, creepy huge arms with scary hands, and a life sized man I haven’t decided what to do with him yet.

Lauries Paper Mache Pumpkins

Trying the lights in the pumpkins now using twinkle Christmas lights makes them appear to be flickering candle..here’s 4 lit:

Lighted Paper Mache Pumpkins

Lighted Paper Mache Pumpkins

And yes :-) :-) I haven’t smoked at all for 5 almost 6 months wahoooo :-)Laurie Baker

Of course, I have no idea how Laurie made the centaur or the pumpkins, but I hope she’ll check in once in a while so she can answer your questions. And thanks, Laurie – I’m so glad you shared your work with us!

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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

44 Comments

  • I am in Love with Laurie Baker’s pumpkins! I must have some! Can you please tell me where or if I can buy some of theses? Does she have a website or store or???
    Please let me know! Thank you so much! :)

    • Laurie hasn’t given us a website address, so I don’t think she’s online. And I can’t give out my readers’ email addresses without their permission. Maybe she’s watching this post, and will let us know if she has any to sell. They are fabulous, aren’t they?

  • Really like your pumpkins, they remind me of the pressed paper vintage type. I have an old tree , like a spooky hollow tree made out of pressed paper. I may try and make something spooky for next year. Thanks for sharing your awesome stuff!!!

  • That’s where I got the inspiration for my pumpkins stolloween.com He makes some awesome Halloween stuff. made 2 of them this year and a witches cauldron out of paper mache

  • I just caught this weblog and the sculptures of Laurie Baker’s pumpkins and Zombies!! I adore her free-flowing style, and the fact that her Papier Mache pumpkins appear to move, rather than just stand still! I am interested in revisiting papier mache and paper pulp endeavors. I am an artist and have three young boys and I am only now getting to a place where I can carve out some creative time. I have gone to sites and looked on Pinterest for inspiration, and these sculptures, and Jonni’s blog have really inspired me, indeed!
    Thank you so much,
    Sincerely,
    Vickie

  • stumbled upon these, and i am soooooo liking everything you guys do, great work- i am gonna give the pumpkins a try i think. Thanks so much for the how tos ? cant wait to get started!

  • This is great! I know it’s two years after the original post but I can’t wait to get started on these with friends for our Halloween party. Thanks!

  • I made one of these last week, but I put bubble wrap inside the garbage bag…you need way less because it has bulk & can still be compressed with the jute rope to make the ridges because it has give…with this technique I did not have to build up the ridges with the paper mache clay mixture…I just pulled really tight each time I went around & wrapped the rope around the tied garbage bag top before going around again…leave a tail when starting so you can tie it off when finished wrapping…I did not put tape over the jute rope after wrapping because I wanted deep ridges to work into. I also mache’d with a layer of muslin fabric (scraps I had around, ripped into strips so they aren’t blunt edges) to give it a thick durable layer….that way I’d need to do less paper layers for it to be strong.

    • Great ideas! Thanks for telling us – your pumpkins should be very strong, with the reinforcing cloth. And I like the idea of using the bubble wrap to stuff the bags.

  • OKAY Laurie – like everyone else I really dig your pumpkins (ha), and will have to try my hand at one or two. HALLOWEEN time is near, and I love Halloween. My take on a quick read of your instructions is that you take a grocery or similar brown bag – fill it with newspaper lightly so you can rope off your pumpkin ridges with heavy yarn, pulling tightly. Correct – so far? Then you do two rounds of paper mache with elmer’s, flour and salt. When that is dry, you take your baby wipes (what brand – by the way?) and drape then over the cut out features and make a stem with those also – and wahlah a really cool pumpkin! Fill me in on what I missed – please. Thanks.

  • ahw, thank you :-)Lesley
    right now I’m doing a life size free standing witch that will look totally like knarly creepy wood……..I’m only using baby wipes this time, no cloth, no newspaper, brown paper bag or printing paper strips, ONLY baby wipes (on top of crinkled newspaper and those foam swimming pool noodles) I’ll try and take pics as I go.
    today is my 6 month anniversary of no smoking, feels great!!!

    • CONGRATULATIONS, LAURIE!! I hope you will post lots of pictures of your life-size, free-standing witch as you progress. I am intrigued with the use of baby wipes and I am going to try them!! I can’t wait to see the finished product!! :)

  • What an amazing amount of wonderful work you have done in a short while. You wouldn’t have had time to scratch yourself let alone smoke. Good on you and thanks for being so generous with your instructions. Hope your smoking addiction has vanished forever so we can see much more of your great work and you can live a long and healthy life.
    Lesley

  • Laurie/Jonni:
    It works! I cut open the top of the pumpkin this morning, and the paper and bag came right out. (I had spent the past two weeks trying to get this right and ended up throwing the pumpkins out.) Later today I will put on the third coat of paper mache.

    • southern quebec! Bet you were happy :-)
      lol, I almost felt like I was helping someone deliver a baby I had so much newspaper and sometimes other fillers like plastic milk jugs and plastic bags all taped together etc…pulling all that out was sometimes a big chore, it just kept coming and coming, then pulling the trash bag out.
      I wanted to try and cut the hole on the top of the pumpkin, instead of the bottom…I’ll have to try it!!
      oh….I do all my coats of paper mache and let dry before I do any cutting and taking the insides out.

  • Awesome artwork and very handy hints, can’t wait to try this out for halloween. Will get started tomorrow :)

  • Valentina, stolloweens way with the trash bags and tape is exactly how I started mine, tho not as uniformed or elaborate faces either, just the basic trash bag,string,tape and crumpled newspaper. I agree the pictures help SO much, sorry I didn’t take pictures.

  • Amazing stuff Laurie and I’m so impressed you have tackled such physically large projects too!

    Jonni, like Laurie, I too was inspired by your elephant movie and also like Laurie I’m just a beginner to Paper Mache. I did post a comment on your page called “Elephant Sculpture – The Movie” mentioning my efforts to weather proof my Toadstool yard art and you were kind enough to reference my efforts.

    I have started several more projects including a skull and a hand. I always found hands difficult to draw so I wanted the challenge of making a hand. Both ongoing efforts are listed at my site.

    I have used Scott Stoll’s tutorials extensively and thought I saw his influence in Laurie’s amazing pumpkins. I have spent time reading his site and discovered the page that lists his paper mache paste and paper mache clay recipes and wanted to share them here as you requested Jonni.

    The recipes listed below can be seen at the URL listed. Much of the text on that page is in an orange font but the recipes are in a yellow font.

    From Scott Stoll’s web site ( http://www.stolloween.com/?page_id=209 )
    “My paste recipe is six cups of flour + one cup of liquid starch + one cup of white glue. Using a mixer blend these ingredient with enough warm tap water until you have the consistency of a very thin pancake batter.”
    AND
    “My clay ( Scott Stoll’s) is made by putting approximately six cups of paste into a large bowl, next add approximately one cup of drywall joint compound to the paste. Mix the paste and joint compound together thoroughly with a hand mixer. Now start mixing cellulose fiber insulation into the paste/compound solution, keep adding insulation until the mixture is a firm and workable consistency.”

    I used a different paste in my yard art because I heard insects and small animals can have an appetite for the flour and water based paste. Basically it is the 2 parts glue to 1 part water recipe with a slight variation. I wanted to use acrylic paint for ½ the volume of water. So in effect

    4 Parts PVA ( Elmer’s Glue)
    1 Part water
    1 part Acrylic paint (for added water resistance when dry)

    It worked well for me making my Toadstools.

    My current projects are not meant to be outdoors so I used a variation of Scott’s recipe and liked that too.

    Bob C

    • Thanks, Bob. I see I needed to be a bit more careful while reading Scott’s site. It’s interesting that he also uses joint compound in his creations – I’ll have to try his recipes. I use a combination of joint compound, cellulose insulation and a bit of water to help me form faces and other details on my sculptures, and it does dry very hard. I used it to create the feather details on the cat angels, and around the eyes and cheeks of my elephant. Since my formulation has no flour paste, it dries quickly and seems to be reasonably strong. When I need to leave it unprotected by an additional layer of paper and paste I add some glue to the mix.

      • Hi Jonni, Your use of joint compound was the 1st place I saw it and then reading about it on Scott’s site too prompted me to try it. It makes for a much smoother and finer textured clay than my white glue, acrylic paint and water paste recipe.

        In both cases I used my own mix of newspaper pulp. Which consists of newspaper run through an inexpensive document shredder that produces strips of 1/4” wide pieces of paper about 12” long. They were then hand cut to about 1/2” to 1/4” lengths. Two large hand fulls of this “confetti” were then placed in a bowl, covered with hot water (near or at boiling), two tablespoons of salt mixed in and allowed to soak overnight ( at least 3-4 hours)

        The next day the shredded paper was mashed with a hand held mixer/blender using short bursts. The shredded paper/water mixture turned to a gray mush pulp quickly. I then placed this mix in a covered container which has been stored for weeks in the refrigerator with no mold evident. It was this pulp I used on both versions of my PM clay.

        I have taken a photo of the two versions with side lighting to show the texture difference.

        The left side is my “Egg” shape used for various tests and recipes that has my original PVA pulp recipe and the right side is of the skull using the recipe that contains joint compound. Of course the paste used with the pulp on the skull also contained flour as well as the joint compound in the clay recipe. Still the difference is striking.

        Not using flour or joint compound before I noticed the the additional drying time but oven drying at 200º F, as you suggested, or using fans blowing over the work, as read elsewhere helped speed the drying considerably.[img]http://i320.photobucket.com/albums/nn348/EagleSoar123/PasteCompare.jpg[/img]

        • Bob, thanks for showing these photos. It really helps to see the difference in formulas. I spend days experimenting with things like this, but often forget to take photos, or even write down notes. Good work!

        • Thanks Bob for this info, I get the rough result like the left one too with newspaper, I will try the joint compound mixture and hopefully get a smooth finish. thanks again.
          Lesley

    • Interesting site. They use a lot of pulped papier mache clay, which they make themselves but they don’t say how. (I think I like Laurie’s way of doing it a bit better, but the photos do help).

      • He does give the instructions … I just failed to give the link to the home page.

        http://www.stolloween.com/

        The instructions are there under the heading The Basics. There is quite a bit of instruction on that page, but the paper pulp recipe is there. You just have to be careful and not to over look it.

    • Laurie checked in with the instructions. See her comments above. And if anyone makes a pumpkin or two using her directions, be sure to post a photo here so we can all see how it they turned out.

  • I definitely want to know how you made the pumpkins, Laurie. They’re hollow, so you must have formed the paper mache over something that you then removed. Want to give us some hints?

    Will those skeletons and pumpkins, you’ll must have the creepiest house on the block this Halloween. Do you sell your creations?

    • Hi there,here’s a list of things you need for the whole project.
      trash bag
      string, rope or strong yarn
      masking tape, I like the thin kind
      2 brown paper grocery bags torn into strips
      printing paper, torn into strips
      crumpled newspaper
      2 orange,1 black,1 yellow,1 white,1 brown 2oz bottles of acrylic paint (usually .99 each)
      a few different size cheap paintbrushes
      a box of disposable baby wipes (aprox 2.00)
      cheap can yellow spray paint
      some kind of lights for inside, I use chasing/flickering/twinkle clear Christmas lights, they make it look like a flickering candle.
      flour
      just about any kind of glue, wood, elmers, craft glue
      polyurothane spray, deck sealer, marine spray, something to seal it with. I use satin.
      I get a trash bag, depending on the size you want to make, fill with crumpled newspaper, but not packed tight, tape off the top, and also the 2 bottom corners just pull up a little and put a piece of tape there as well so it’s a little rounded. Then get string, I use very strong yarn, you can use any strong string or rope take it around the bag from bottom to top like you are making the bag in half, put some tape on the top where the strong meets, you can also tie it, do this several times until you get the amount of ridges you want, pull the string tight each time. when you’re finished with that, take masking tape and go over all the string with the tape, this just reinforces it, which is important. Then I use printing paper for my first layer, take a stack of 10 pieces or so at a time and rip (don’t cut with scissors) I just rip them into 5-6 thick strips. The paper mache mixture I use is water, flour and in each batch a 4oz bottle of elmers, and also a tsp or so of salt (suppose to inhibit mold). I don’t know the measurements of flour and water, I just make it so it’s like pancake batter dip each piece of paper in there using 2 fingers to pull through to get excess off then lay it all over the pumpkin. Maybe another layer after that’s dried. After that I use strips of torn paper grocery bags in the same paper mache mixture, covering the whole thing. I usually only make enough mixture that I can use that day. When the pumpkin is completely covered again, I rub a bunch of the mixture all over it, be prepared to get real messy, really I slop it all over the pumpkin. It dries fairly quick, like the next day it will be dry and very hard. using a matt knife or box cutter, very carefully cut a hole big enough for you to be able to stick your arm into, cutting through the trash bag etc…pull out all the newspaper, the trash bag along with the string should come right out as well.
      draw or paint on a face you like, then I use the matt knife to cut that out too.
      I use folded up pieces of cardboard to make the cut out pieces look thick,using masking tape which doesn’t hold things down so good, but that’s ok because you will be using baby wipes in the mixture to do that. There’s 2 different kinds of baby wipes I’ve found, the kind that’s easy to tear when wet are the kind I like best even tho I take them out of the tub they come in and let them dry, tear them to the size I want, dip them in the mixture then wherever there is either a piece not down all the way of paper bag, maybe just a little air bubble corner place,and around the cut out places of the face, I put the baby wipe pieces all around there. You can also build up the teeth or anywhere you want with the baby wipes. To make extra raised places around the face, I crumple newspaper the the size, put it where I want and take a baby wipe with the mixture on it and cover the newspaper with the baby wipe. Now you can work on your stem.
      I’ve used toilet paper cardboard rolls, rolled up newspaper, whatever you can find that’s light weight and you can shape to whatever size you want using tape. tape down the stem you’ve made to wherever you want your stem placed. Then take whole baby wipes with mache on them and drape them over the stem, they are very easy to manipulate and I have ridges all over so it looks like a real knarly woody stem. After everything is completely dry and hard, you’ll notice the baby wipes are especially hard, when dry. Now’s time to paint.
      I paint the whole stem first using black to cover the stem completely, making sure to get into every nook and cranny.Let dry ( dries fast!). Then I mix some brown and white to get the shade I want and without pressing down I go at an angle to just brush the raised points on the stem, you can do this fast, there’s no perfect way to do it, just brush it over the black parts and do not get into the nooks and crannies, really only go over this once.
      I put all my paint for the pumpkin on a plate, squirt out some orange, another blop of orange, some yellow and some brown
      with your biggest brush start in a ridge and use brown then dip brush into orange,then yellow so that the shading get lighter as you go around the raised parts of the pumpkin, you’ll need to dip your brush many times into water, there’s no real set way to paint just do it where you think it looks like you want it, really I slop it on, looks kinda rustic and creepy to me ;-). dry and spray with sealer, spray paint the inside yellow (I just stuffed plastic bags in the eye etc holes) let dry and you can put Christmas lights or whatever kind of light you want, wouldn’t recommend anything that gets hot.

        • It’s very easy, the steps aren’t really as long as it seems when I wrote it out lol!!wish I would have taken pics as I went, really I’m not such a patient person, these don’t take as long as it might seem.

  • Laurie just sent another photo, and she sez:

    “here’s a picture of my zombies and 9 pumpkins I sprayed today with polyeurothane, then sat on the steps to dry, I had to take advantage of the nice weather (N.E Ohio). So they are finally finished. I hope people want to know how the pumpkins were done, it’s so easy ANYONE can do it.
    I want to start on a life size Santa, but have many other holiday paintings to do for others so……..but I hope so because I have come to LOVE doing paper mache, there are so many things I want to make, your elephant is very inspiring.”
    paper mache pumpkins

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