23 Responses

  1. Dunja
    Dunja at |

    oh, cant find the picture! :(

    Hi Jonni, visit your site again and again. Greetings!
    You make the sculpture-head like the head oh the puppet.
    But you cut the ears, not the nose. Great idea for big head. Nice head.
    Smile and wave to you Dunja

    1. Dunja
      Dunja at |

      Hi Jonni, thank you! smile… i see….
      I dont understand the words, i need the pictures. ;))

  2. Howard Gardener
    Howard Gardener at |

    Hi Jonni,

    I’ve yet to try the new recipe but I do know that it takes a very short time before the paper clay becomes hard enough to manipulate safely. You may remember that I was making some large digestive biscuits (about 30mm thick). In order to ‘break’ them, I only had to leave them in the mold for 36 hours. By that time, they were firm but still easy to cut in two. I hope that this information might be useful. The second biscuit sculpture (which isn’t so gory!) is nearly finished and I’ll post it here as soon as it’s done. If you’re interested in looking at the progression and the final result, follow the flickr link above.

    Thanks for such a wonderful site. It’s great to see what everybody is up to!

  3. Mathieu
    Mathieu at |

    Thanks Jonni and Xan.

    I just love the shop talk here, and appreciate all the info. Although I cannot test it now, it will inspire my future experiments.

  4. Mathieu
    Mathieu at |

    Hi Jonni.
    I’ve been reading your posts with much interest on PAper Mache Art, and just yesterday have been looking at your online blog. What fun!

    I’m too busy with other projects not involving paper mache to try more these days, but I can give you my two cents on this specific approach, as it’s become a speciality of mine over the years.

    I make masks, helmet masks, puppets and even props with the clay armatures.
    Although for armatures I mostly use oil-based clays (plasticene, plastalina), waterbased ones are used for larger sculpts, or when I’m in a hurry, as this stuff is fast to shape and even faster to smooth.

    I also occasionally use newspaper shapes and tape (masking for general shaping, clear packaging tape for the strength and final coat of protection) for bigger armatures of objects that will be made hollow. I’m currently working on three giant puppet heads in this method (for the core, clay will be sculpted on top). The necks are large plastic tubes, to save time and have precise fittings. Sorry I can’t show them, it’s for a show, and they probably want exclusivity.

    When your sculpt is to your (and your customer’s) liking, take reference photos, and then modify the sculpt to exagerrate some areas that would otherwise make you lose details.
    For example, the cracks and crevices are made deeper and wider, the nose is made thinner with nostrils carved more open. All the sharp edges are made much sharper. Basically, you remove enough clay to allow for(or compensate for) the thickness of the paper you plan on putting there. Paper smooths out everything, so plan ahead for that. Also, as you add more paper, you can pinch it when it’s semi dry, to enhance certain edges. Don’t overdo it, a pinch that is too obvious is a common Mistake. To me, it’s the paper mache equivalent of overusing the Lens Flare effect in Photoshop. Accompanying the Pinch, rubbing with a tool (sculpting tools, mostly smooth metal spatula is what I prefer) finishes the job. It is much easier for definition and smoothness when we use very small pieces of paper everywhere, but especially in the detailed areas. It may seem like a waste of time, initially (and wear off our patience) but it saves us time later (and we find it actually develops our patience), when doing the surface finishing.

    If a detail is too thin, such as eyelids or decorative textures like scales, I remove them fully, and use the final paper layers to remake those in a much more precise and controlled fashion.
    That’s when the reference photos come in handy: to reassure oneself that we will get the result we sculpted before.

    You can use plastic wrap to seal your wet clay. Sadly, the plastic will be wasted at every use. There may be a biodegradable version out there. I’m still looking.
    The more natural approach is to cover your entire sculpt with wet paper (no glue) and let it dry before adding the strips and paste as usual. I find that it takes a lot of time, and most of the time, it still sticks a lot to the clay form, creating more work later when the paper cast rips as I pry it out. Also, the inside will be much rougher, and the clay will requires a thorough cleaning.
    Or you can seal it with something that won’t affect your paper mache. Wax seems to work well for you, but I wonder about the residue it leaves on the clay.
    I’d scrape it off, but there might be a problem of patience (for me), and forgotten bits (annoying). Another way is to seal with dish soap mixed with rubbing
    alcohol (instead of water, it evaporates much faster). It’s a trick used by pro moldmakers.
    If well done, it can even be used as a safe release between silicones (silicone mold, silicone copy inside of it). Just make sure the dish soap you use has been tested on a sample. before you risk a whole project.
    I’ve tried 50/50%, but some say one third soap, two-thirds alcohol Two coats, each dried fully before the next.
    Another soap that is used for the same purpose is Murphy’s Oil Soap (diluted with water I was told, but I’d try with alcohol) I’ve tried it on dry objects only, but I suspect it might work on wet-ish clay, as long as the surface is not too liquid-tacky.

    Spray adhesive works well, especially acrylic-based sealers.
    But it does leave a residue on the clay.
    I’ve used this on oil-based clay, namely Chavant NSP, and Monster Clay.

    To separate the two (or more) parts,I use the same knife you did in the video, and sometimes a tougher one, when needed.

    I temporarily hold the parts together with a one-inch-wide masking tape (better control).

    I’ve tried using hot glue in small quantities to hold the more complex shapes, and it works. Just use a few dots, or squish a line as short and hidden as possible, or else it will create bumps and lines. The paper strips are the real strength, hot glue is just there as a temporary helper, but it doesn’t matter if it remains in there.

    I mostly use regular strips and paste to hold the parts together, between the tape pieces.
    A few minutes later, it’s firm enough that I can remove the tape and replace it with paste and strip, one piece at a time. When dry, I usually have to carve off the pieces that stick out, and add more paper to fill the cracks and make the two parts seamless.
    It may require three applications of strips on the seam, but it’s invisible when I’m done.
    I only ever add a texture on paper mache strips when it’s fully dry, trimmed, the cut edges are sealed with overlaps of more strips, and dry again. the texture may be paper mache pulp, or other products. but the real strength usually comes from the strips and paste.

    I’ve never tried plaster bandages for the re-assembly, simply because weight is usually an issue to avoid with my work, as I make performance masks and puppets. The exception is for very small puppets, they NEED more weight to move properly. For display pieces I won’t need to ship, I would definitely try plaster bandages, so thanks!

    If you use expandable foam to fill the inside, use a kind that won’t expand too much, and you’ll be fine.
    The neck should be wide enough to let any foam escape if the party gets too wild. I wouldn’t cut and permanently seal until I was sure the reaction has stabilized fully.
    Also, do not let the sculpture upside down while the foam is expanding without supervision. It might expand past the borders and stick to the outside of your sculpt!
    The Smooth-On company makes such foams (Foam-it and Flex Foam-it series), and they are much more reliable (and expand more evenly, and have less bubbles) than hardware store varieties.
    Just make sure to use within a year (or less) of purchase, or the product will spoil.

    A more world-friendly approach to fill the form: balls of paper, as long as it’s very clean, and very dry (I’d avoid newspapers that have been read. Brand new is fine, they even used to serve fries and deliver babies on that stuff !). Then you close the bottom with a custom-cut piece of wood, and merge it with the rest of the sculpture with more strips and paste (cover the wood completely, overlap a lot). That’s one more thing I love about paper mache: it merges with wood like magic! Once fully dried and sealed, it’s one piece.

    I hope this may bring some interesting ideas to try to some. I know these methods have brought me many new contracts that I would not have been able to do before.

    Speaking about water based clay, do you know about Philippe Faraut?
    I consider him my long-distance sculpting teacher. I have his entire DVD collection. Great resource.
    I play it while I sculpt, and it’s almost like having the teacher right here in the room, but I have the power to rewind and repeat him at will, without any harm! I learn sometihing new every time, and my skills seem to grow faster. Sometimes, I just play it in the background. The techniques soak into my mind, and the acoustic guitar music (by William Boutwell) is very nice.

    I wrote an article about the series here: http://creaturistelab.blogspot.com/2010/03/sculpture-dvd-series-philippe-faraut.html

    1. Xan Blackburn
      Xan Blackburn at |

      Mathieu, wow!
      I just spent a very enjoyable break looking at your portfolio. Very inspiring work!
      Thanks for sharing all this with us, even if some of us are mere dabblers!

  5. Teresa
    Teresa at |

    Hi Jonni,

    Congratulations! I’m very glad you posted this video. I was a bit confused with your last blog & video but, this one ended my confusion. As far as the expanding foam goes I have to agree with Terry (from your last blog) that it is going to be light weight and may not give you the weight you want. But as far as it expanding to the point of breaking the paper mache apart along the cut line, just take strips of cloth and tie the peice together till the foam dries. When the foam is expanding it will expand in the direction of least resistance so it shouldn’t break anything apart even without tying it with cloth strips.

    You can always go back to basics and do some experiments with balloons as the armature. That would be the fastest way to experiment with this process.

  6. Benjamin
    Benjamin at |

    Do you plan on making any videos on sculpting? I am having a hard time with sculpting, specifically a head.

  7. Xan Blackburn
    Xan Blackburn at |

    Spray paint! What a simple idea! Messy, and fume-y, but efficient … Guess you could use paint with a brush for the same effect though. Hm!

    Jonni, maybe there’s a way to make your seam into your PM layer, so you don’t have to cut through it. Maybe you could use foil, or wax paper … urk, how can I describe this?? maybe a visual aid:

    Hopefully this helps! If the pleated tape/wax paper (in red) stays above the paper mache skin, all the way around the piece, it should be easy to just pull the two halves (or however many pieces) apart quickly. I think. I’m pretty sure there’s a term for this kind of structure used in casting, right?

  8. bmaskmaker
    bmaskmaker at |


    Congrats! This is wonderful. I use a technique similar to this when copying a form (tho I haven’t done it over clay.) I use an embedded wire vs. cutting it off, because usually I’m trying to save the form underneath as well. Also, I’m just not as good at the cutting off technique.

    And as for your release experiments … I’ve seen folks use spray paint over clay as a quick sealer / release agent. It dries super fast, and forms a thin plastic barrier. I’ve seen this done for making plaster molds … so I’d think it should work with making plaster-based paper mache forms.

    Congrats again. I’m loving the new work … and pot heads! How fun.


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