This site provides tutorials, patterns, recipes and support for grownups looking for an affordable way to create their own custom-made masks, holiday decorations, and home decor.
Yes, grownups – why should kids have all the fun? 🙂
Why paper mache?
I’ve been making art, in one form or another, for as long as I can remember. I sold pen and ink portraits of animals at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, I sold my paper mache baby animal dolls at the Portland Saturday Market, and I showed my work in many major art fairs on the West Coast.
Then I got a ‘real’ job, as many of us eventually do – sigh – but I finally quit my last one in 2005.
Then I started a small business in affiliate marketing, back when that was fairly easy, and it gave me lots of free time to start working on my art again. I tried a number of different things, but I had a hard time finding one that really appealed to me.
Sculpting is what I really wanted to do, and I love sculpting in clay, but I can’t afford a kiln.
I tried making plaster of Paris copies of my clay sculptures, like this little plaque of the Cat and the Fiddle, but the molds were expensive and the castings were really heavy.
Besides, it seemed silly to make a mold for just one copy of a sculpture. I didn’t want to sell my work – I just wanted to have fun.
Then I decided to try paper mache. And why not? It worked when I was a kid. 🙂
This little dragon was my very first project, back in 2008, and I made him the same way I used paper mache in grade school.
I think he’s really cute, and my grandson still has him – but it was a lot less fun than I thought it would be.
The biggest problem was that the dragon’s nose kept slumping to the table when I was adding the paper mache, and I had to prop him up with a toilet paper roll while he dried. Not too classy…
And I had to start over on the head a couple of times, because it wasn’t the right size.
So I started using cardboard patterns and building my sculptures around them – and it worked!
That’s why I now recommend using a cardboard pattern inside your animal sculptures.
The pattern supports the sculpture and makes it stronger, and it sets the silhouette, or outline, of the animal. With a pattern, you know you’re getting the legs as long as they’re supposed to be and the head is the right size. It saves hours of trial and error.
Now, because of this website and my YouTube channel, thousands of artists use patterns for their sculptures, and it makes sculpting with paper mache so much easier! This post shows you how to make your own flat cardboard patterns for any animal you want to make.
There are hundreds of posts on this site, and many of them use those patterns that you can make yourself.
I also show you how I often experiment, changing things around, using different methods and recipes, sometimes starting over entirely – because that’s how real sculptures are made. I don’t always know exactly how I’m going to make something, but it usually ends up OK at the end. Isn’t that how art usually works? 🙂
And I kept looking for easier ways to sculpt with paper mache…
I’m actually best-known for my paper mache clay recipe. It makes paper mache sculpting much less messy, and the final sculpture is lightweight and strong. You can also get some great textures and details that are really difficult to achieve with paper strips and paste.
I combined the pattern idea with the PM clay recipe in my first book: Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.
Since beginning the site, I’ve now written five books about sculpting with inexpensive materials. Several of them are often listed at the top of Amazon’s sculpture category, and they’ve received many five star reviews.
But could paper mache sculpting be even easier?
After creating hundreds of posts and videos, and meeting many creative readers of this blog and my YouTube channel, I discovered that many people need an even easier, faster way to make masks and sculptures.
Sometimes it’s because they feel intimidated by the sculpting process, but it’s usually just because they don’t have time to start entirely from scratch.
That’s when I started making 3D templates for masks and sculptures that make all the shapes for you.
And I’ll tell you a little secret – at my young age of 73 I think I’ve finally found what I want to do when I grow up!
Creating each pattern from an original clay sculpture is really fun for me, and I love to see all the different ways people use them – often in ways that I never would have thought of myself!
The idea of taking a few sheets of recycled cereal box and turning them into a sculpture that’s so lifelike, it seems to be looking back at you – that feels like magic to me. 🙂
When designing the patterns I try to make it easy for anyone over the age of 13 to create a lifelike animal sculpture, even if they’ve never sculpted anything before. After putting all the pieces together (which does take some patience) you can add your own creative touches and bring your sculpture to life. Each one becomes a one-of-a-kind sculpture or mask that their creator can be proud of. And that makes me proud, too. 🙂
Whether you start from scratch or use one of my patterns, one of the most common things you’ll hear is:
“I didn’t know you could make something like that with paper mache!”