Alpaca, Part 2 – and Your Paper Mache Clay Questions Answered

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Kneesaa the Alpaca gets her paper mache clay wool!

If you missed the first video about the alpaca portrait, click here.

To go straight to the questions about paper mache clay, use the links below:

Why does paper mache clay crack sometimes?

The first question I got this week was about a some paper mache clay that was put over the outside of a ceramic bowl and when it dried it cracked, especially right around the edges. It probably started cracking at the edges because that’s the part that would naturally start drying first, and because the paper mache clay was shrinking as it dried, and the bowl doesn’t shrink at all.

Any water based material will shrink as it dries when the water is evaporates. Paper mache clay doesn’t shrink very much, but it’s enough to crack if it’s put over something really hard – like a ceramic bowl or a glass bottle.

How long do you have to work before it dries out in the bowl?

I I have never had a problem with it drying out in the bowl. This time it it seemed to dry out just a little bit faster than usual. I was using the batch I made for a recent video about using Wurth brand joint compound with Gorilla Wood Glue, and I think the Gorilla Wood glue it was drying a little faster than Elmer’s does. After two or three hours I noticed that there were a couple of spots on the top of the bowl of paper mache clay that was turning a different color, and the pieces were kind of stiff. But normally, when I’m using the original paper mache clay recipe, it’ll last for at least four or five hours in the bowl – especially if you throw a piece of plastic over it while you’re working.

How long does it take to dry before you can paint it?

It really depends on how thick it is. You can tell if it isn’t completely dry, because when you push on it, it gives a little, even if it feels dry on the outside. It should be absolutely rock solid, and if it’s not, it isn’t dry enough to paint. If you put it in front of a fan it will dry faster, but it will usually take a couple of days, depending on the humidity in the room, the temperature, and how thickly it was applied to the armature.

Why can’t you use DAP or Wurth with Elmer’s Glue-All to make paper mache clay?

I think it’s because of boron. If you mix Elmer’s Glue with Borax, you can make Flubber for kids, and that’s kind of what happens when you try to use DAP or Wurth joint compound with Elmers glue.

But we now know that those brands will work if you use Gorilla Wood glue instead of Elmer’s glue. You can see a video about DAP here, and Wurth here.

We also have a a video out that shows you how to make your own glue, and it works with the DAP and Wurth brands of joint compound for paper mache clay.

How heavy is paper mache clay?

I weighed the Grizzly bear mask, which is made with one layer of cereal box cardboard and a layer of paper mache clay. It only weighs 244 grams, so it’s really light. It is definitely wearable, so if you’re worried about it being too heavy to actually use for a mask, it’s not. But it will depend on how thick you apply it. If you really gob it on heavily, like I did on the Alpaca, it would probably weigh the mask down a little bit too much.

Do you have to use toilet paper in paper mache clay?

No, You can use any kind of paper you want to, as long as you soak it long enough so that it the fibers will fall apart. There are some kinds of paper that will never fall apart because they’ve got a thick coating on it, like the really slick colored paper in nice magazines. You can’t use that paper for any kind of paper mache. But recycled newspaper, copy paper, and even egg cartoons will work.

Why does paper mache clay came out too wet sometimes?

That usually happens because there was just too much water left with the toilet paper after the water was squeezed out.

If you end up with just a little bit more water than you needed when you mix up your paper mache clay, just add a little bit more flour than the recipe calls for. But if that happens to you a lot, use the gram measurement recipe instead. That recipe shows you exactly how much the toilet paper should weigh after you squeeze all the water out, and that makes a huge difference in making sure that it’s always the same every single time you make it.

Can you use plaster instead of flour in the paper mache clay recipe?

We do have a a recipe using the plaster instead of the joint compound, but I have never actually tried both the joint compound and plaster.

Some people have suggested using talc instead of flour, and you can also use powdered marble or calcium carbonate, if it’s if it’s powdered up finely enough. The only purpose of the flour is to soak up the extra water in the mix.

How do you clean the utensils?

I just wash them out in the sink. But if you use the recipe that uses plaster of Paris instead of drywall joint compound, you have to rinse it outside you. You can’t put any plaster in your plumbing, but the normal, ordinary paper mache clay can be washed in the sink. Just , dump the extra pm clay that you have that was left over in the garbage, and then wash your utensils and your bowl in the sink.

Do you have to use paper in paper mache clay?

Someone recently told me that someone told her that if you leave the paper out of the paper mache clay, it will be smoother. She tried it, and it cracked. You really have to use the paper, and I’m not sure why anyone would say that you don’t need it.

If you just use glue and drywall joint compound, that’s not paper mache clay.

However, that mixture does work as DIY gesso. Just paint it on in a really thin layer, and it won’t usually crack, although if you put it on too thickly it will.

Can you use paper mache clay in a mold?

I have tried it and it didn’t work. The paper fibers caused air to get trapped underneath the paper mache clay and it just didn’t make a good casting. Also, if you use a thin layer in the mold, so it will be thin enough to dry, it will pull away from the sides of the mold and the shape will be distorted.

I have been told that you can use the air dry clay recipe in small silicone molds that are made for candy.

You also don’t want to put paper mache clay in a plaster mold, because it’ll stick to the plaster and you’d never get it out.

We do have a guest post on using paper strips and paste in a plaster mold, and I made a video about using paper strips and paste in silicone molds.

If you want to use a pourable material in a plaster mold, Li-Qua-Che works well, and it looks like they finally decided to sell it in smaller containers, so we can try it out without buying the whole gallon.

How do you make it paper mache clay waterproof?

You don’t really. You can put a plastic material or rubber material over it, but you can’t make the paper mache clay itself waterproof because all of the ingredients in it absorb water. It’s kind of like trying to make a a printed copy of the newspaper waterproof. How do you do that? You have to encase it entirely in something that is waterproof, because the the paper itself never will be.

Most of the things that you put over paper mache clay to try to to keep it from getting wet, like marine varnish, will not work permanently. The paper mache clay will still get a little bit soft if you put it out for in the rain for Halloween decorations. But you can usually bring the sculpture inside of the house and let it dry out, and it will get solid again.

However, we do have a very popular guest post by Linda Bunnell. She made a mushroom that she put outside in northern Florida, and the last time I talked to her about it, it had been outside in all that rain for over 2 years and it was still doing fine. Read her post here.

A few years ago, Warren Eggleton told us about a version of paper mache clay that he made with Portland cement. I did some experiments with his recipe last year. My little toad stayed outside for a full winter and half of a summer – and it’s still doing just fine. You can see the recipe for paper cement clay here.

However, there are other materials that have been tested and used for much longer than a year and a half. Eileen Gallagher wrote a very nice guest post that shows us how she made some outdoor sculptures with the product called Pal Tiya. It costs more money, unfortunately, but if you’re going to make something that you’re spending a whole lot of time on and you really want it to be a family heirloom, or if you want to sell it, I definitely recommend that you check out Eileen’s guest post and then go look at the Pal Tiya website.

Next up…

The alpaca will get painted, and my ram headdress mask pattern is almost done. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t done that already, so you don’t miss any new posts. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Alpaca, Part 2 – and Your Paper Mache Clay Questions Answered”

  1. Jonni, this alpaca is an absolute triumph! It doesn’t even need to be painted! You can really tell how taken you were with this gal when you went to the farm. Those are often the best sculptures because of the artist’s connection with the subject.
    You did apply the clay thickly but as you say, you just need it to dry longer. Another way that I can tell if a piece is dry is by color. When drying, the clay takes on a yellowish hue and as it gets even drier, it turns white again. Also, not dry clay often feels colder to the touch. When completely dry it is room temp.
    Thanks for the shout out about the PalTiya tutorial. You know, that little rabbit is still holding strong in the garden and it has been how many years? I always tell people who buy my PalTiya sculptures to give it a spray of clear varnish every 2 years to protect the paint.( Do as I say, not as I do.) I haven’t done that and it is still very vibrant.
    Thanks for the video.

    • Great tips on how to tell if the pm clay is dry enough – and it’s so important to not paint it if there’s any moisture left! Thanks for your comment about the alpaca, too. I fell in love with her on the farm, and would have brought her home with me, if I could!

  2. Your alpaca is absolutely adorable! Can’t wait to see her painted. I’ve been thinking of making a Julbocken (Yule Goat) for Christmas for a few years. Your alpaca is so cute I just may have to try a goat.


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