Paper Mache Holiday Projects

Project for a Blizzard – Santa, Made with Paper Mache Clay

Paper Mache Santa

There’s a blizzard blowing outside my window – my very first official snowstorm in South Dakota. The blowing snow made me think of Santa for some reason, so I decided to make a Santa for my wall.

Santa would probably look nice mounted on the outside of the door, too – but I’m not sure how I could attach him to the door so the wind didn’t blow him into the next county. (Not that I’m complaining – it’s kind of fun watching the storm, for today at least. Tomorrow I might change my mind.)

I started out by stuffing some crumpled paper inside a plastic bag, and then I taped the bag to my worktop.  The shape was somewhat Santa-like, with a wider bottom than top because of the beard.

Plastic bag filled with crumpled paper

Plastic bag filled with crumpled paper

Then I added a thin layer of wet clay from the pottery supply store to the basic form, so I could work out a bit more detail before starting in with the paper mache clay. If I was using the techniques from my mask book I would have done much more work with the clay. However, I had some paper mache clay left over from the dodo, so I decided to use that instead.

Covering form with wet clay

Covering form with wet clay

Creating basic shapes with clay

Creating basic shapes with clay

The wet clay was covered with some plastic wrap to separate it from the paper mache clay that will go on top.

Clay covered with plastic wrap

The paper mache clay then goes on over the plastic wrap. I used a very thin layer, except where I sculpted the eyes.

Covering plastic with paper mache clay

Covering plastic with paper mache clay

To make the eyes, I just made a balls out of some paper mache clay and stuck the balls on Santa’s face. Then I added a thin strip of PM clay for the upper eyelid, and used a knife to create a thin lower lid at the bottom of each eyeball. I was able to make balls with the PM clay because I added 1/4 cup of wet pottery clay to the recipe. If you don’t have any pottery clay, you can still make nice eyes but it isn’t quite as easy.

Balls of paper mache clay added for eyes

Balls of paper mache clay added for eyes

Eyelids added

The last step was to add some texture for the beard.

Adding texture the beard

I’ll probably play with him a bit more, smoothing the cheeks with a damp knife, and give him a playful curl on the tips of his mustache. We’ll see — with the snow blowing as hard as it is right now, it looks like I’ll have plenty of time in the house to mess around. (My poor dog hates plowing through the snow for his bathroom run, but I guess he’ll just need to get used to it.)

PM Clay waiting to dry

PM Clay waiting to dry

I’ll let Santa sit near a heater for a few days, and then I’ll be back to show you how he turns out after he gets a coat of paint.

[Edit: Santa is now done. You can see the second tutorial for this project here.]

 

 

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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

22 Comments

  • I like the santa you did, it looks really good. I got your recipe for Paper Mache Clay from your site, and I made a mask of my own. I believe I missed a step though, because i didn’t put anything over the foam Mannequin head i was using to form it. Will it come off easily or do I am i going to possibly break the Mask when i attempt to remove it?

    • I don’t know if the pm clay will stick to the Styrofoam or not. You may end up chipping the Mannequin head when you remove the mask, especially if you let the mask dry hard. Let us know how it turns out.

      • Luck favored me! I was able to get the mask off of the styrofoam head without doing serious damage to the mask or the head it was stuck on. It was completely dry too, I used a nail file, the thin metal ones that are like a dollar, and with care and patience was able to remove the mask! YAY!

      • Hi Jonni,

        I want to thank you for this tutorial. I am also making a paper mache santa and this helped me quite a bit. Thank you so much, I have learned a whole lot from you. I watch your stuff all the time. I will be happy to show off my reindeer when I complete it. Thanks again, Lisa

  • Jonni I love your art, thanks for sharing your techniques! I just finished my first large paper mache project and I will utilize some of your tips in my future projects.

    My husband built the wood armature then I shaped chicken wire around it and used pre-paste gauze strips. I had a lot of left-over heads ( I make angel head wall-hangings) that came out funny shaped so I used them on this tree. I used acrylic paints as well as antiquing medium, moss from the dollar store and foliage arranged in Styrofoam from the craft store (could have made my own but..)

    In the future I’d like to make outdoor items but am afraid the elements will hurt them, where do I buy the marine poly coating? And is that sufficient for something that will be attached to a building?

    Thanks for sharing, here’s a photo of “ANCESTREE”

    • Your “tree” looks great! You can get marine varnish at any hardware store (it’s also called Spar varnish.) My one experience with marine varnish didn’t work out very well, because the summer sun caused the varnish to crack. They do make some that prevents UV damage, but you’d need to read the label more carefully than I did.

  • Thanks Jonni
    I am quite proud if it….I have to say…Ha!
    No he won’t be going outside….I did hear you say on one of your videos that if it was to go outside that I could use marine varnish to protect him…..so thanks for that advice…..I want to make a mother black bear with her 2 cubs some day so I probably will be using the marine varnish then…….I just wish I had more time to work on these but my dog is alone all day while I’m at work so we spend most of the evenings and days off outside chewing treats…lol…..I’ll be able to start my bear wooden frames outside while he chew’s away!!!….My neighbour has a Shih tzu and wants me to make a paper masher “Kiwi”…..she is having him sheared and saving the fur…..!!!…Not sure what I got myself into this time……lol….here’s a pic of what my donkey looked like febore I painted him……I liked it better that way but the donkey that carried Jesus was grey so this one had to be grey!!!

    • As I mentioned to Diane, my own experiment with marine varnish wasn’t very successful, but other people have great luck with it. I think my next outside experiment will start with deck sealer over the dried paper mache, then I’ll paint, then use a good varnish with UV inhibitor. The Clear Guard lacquer from Sculpt Nouveau seems to come well recommended, and I received a free sample, so that’s what I’ll try.

      And I do have one big question for you – how do you know what color the donkey was?

      • Well I think it was a Sicilian Donkey which is grey with the cross on it’s back!!!….but who knows I wasn’t there…..and nobody I know was either!!…..k…I just “Googled” and saw some grey ones, brown ones and multi-colored ones……lets just say that the one that carried Marie in our nativity walk was grey!!!!…lol

  • Hi Jonni
    I wasn’t too sure where to post this and don’t know if you even remember me but here’s a pic of my first PM project that you wanted to see once it was finished……the lady I made it for is quite delighted with it…..I said I would make her a lifesize Camel next summer for her Nativity Scene…..she almost dropped to her knees…..Ha!!!

    • You’re donkey turned out great, Shirley. Even the fur is realistic. Will it be going outside?

      (I can’t wait to see that camel – what weird and wonderful creatures they are!)

  • Love your stuff! I’ve been a multimedia crafter for ever, have made some piñata with paper mâché , but your clay sounds great to work with, much lighter to work with than clay I use for pottery too! I have to try it soon! Can’t wait to see Santa when you finish him! Stay warm!

  • I am so inspired by your website and all of your creations! My son and I are under the weather today with colds, but still have enough energy to “do something”. I didn’t realize you could use tools to make details (like in Santa’s beard) until I saw this. Your PM clay is amazing!

    We’d been to your site before so we came back to get inspired and as soon as I’m done typing this, we’re off to PM land! My son wanted me to attach a picture of the very first thing we made out of PM a few years ago. Not a lot of detail, but more than just a big circle. As soon as I feel better I will go get the necessary items to make your PM clay. The possibilities will be endless. Thank you for sharing your talent with the rest of us.

  • Awww! i love y our Santa. I can’t wait to see how he finishes up. Good luck in the snow. Wish it would cool off here in Sunny Florida. Muggy, wet and HOT!

  • Wow, this is really GOOD! Loved seeing your process and amazed that from that rough clay foundation comes this wonderful neat face.

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