Book Page – Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay

Thank you for your interest in my new paper mache book Make Animal Sculptures With Paper Mache Clay.

If you have any questions about any of the projects or techniques in the book, this is the place to ask. I try very hard to answer every question on my blog, and my other readers are generous with their time and creative ideas. This is a blog where we all have fun learning together.

I also hope you’ll show us your finished projects in the comment section below.

Paper Mache Clay FAQ.

Q. Can I use Elmer’s School glue for my paper mache clay instead of Elmer’s Glue-All?

A. No – one of my readers already tried that, and it didn’t work. Rona Simon tells us that the school glue makes the clay an odd texture – like tuna fish.

Q. Do I have to use Linseed Oil in the clay? Will some other oil work just as well?

A. The boiled linseed oil will affect the texture slightly, but the clay still works just fine without it. Linseed oil is a drying oil, unlike most other types of oil. If you don’t want to use boiled linseed oil, or you can’t find it at your local hardware store, just leave it out.

Q. Do I need powdered joint compound or the kind that’s already mixed?

A. Buy the kind that’s already mixed. It usually comes in a plastic tub, and it will last for months if you keep the lid on tight. One gallon costs about $6 at my local hardware store, and that’s enough for many quarts of paper mache clay.

Q. What is “joint compound” called in my country?

A. Readers have sent in the following product names from different countries. If you can add to this list, please let us know:

  • Drywall joint compound in the United States (guys in the construction industry call it mud)
  • Drywall filler in Canada
  • Joint filler in the UK
  • Fugenmasse in Germany*
  • Joint finish in Australia

Note: Ann, from Germany, gives us a different name for joint compound in that country, and some additional info. She said in her comment that

… I just wanted to let you know that joint compound in Germany is called Fugenspachtel. People from Germany should go to a so called Baumarkt and ask for Rigips (this is the major brand in Germany). Ingredients: VARIO Fugenspachtel is a high plastic-improved gypsum-based filler as per DIN EN 13963 / Typ B4. (just one of them). One will have to make a decision between about 20 different types of Fugenspachtel.

Q. Joint compound is not sold in my country. Can I use powdered gypsum or calcium carbonate, instead?

A. Several readers have tried making their clay by mixing finely ground gypsum with a bit of water to make a paste, and then using it in place of joint compound in the clay recipe. Tani say it works. However, when I tried it, the gypsum wasn’t ground finely enough and my clay ended up lumpy. I suppose that means that you will need to experiment with locally available products, and see what happens (be sure to tell us how your clay turned out). Or, it might be easier to use a commercial or “instant” paper mache product from the art store, instead. The commercial products don’t work exactly like the paper mache clay, but they may be close enough – many people use products like PaperClay with excellent results.

Q. Is the paper mache clay “archival?”

A. The paper mache clay has not been tested in a laboratory, so it can’t be called “archival.” The recipe was created to replace traditional paper mache made with strips of old paper and a paste made from flour and water. Since papers are made with a variety of chemicals during the manufacturing process, traditional paper mache methods aren’t really archival, either.( However, paper mache items made over 100 years ago often show up on eBay). If you’re a professional artist, I recommend that you do some tests of your own to make sure the finished sculptures will meet your standards. Without expensive laboratory testing, I cannot make any guarantees.

Q. Why does my clay feel so sticky?

A. I recommend that you use a knife to apply and model the clay, because the glue and flour will make it feel slightly sticky. If your clay feels too sticky, you can leave out the flour the next time you make a batch.  The flour acts as a filler and thickens the clay, but the clay will work just fine without it. You can make adjustments in the amounts of other ingredients if the clay feels too wet without the flour.

Q. Is the clay a good art material for preschoolers?

A. I don’t think so. The clay is not edible, and spreading it over a form will be too difficult for very young kids. I suggest that you use paper clay, instead. Be sure to read the section on safety in the book, (on page 14), and read all the warning labels on the products you buy for the clay. Anyone over 8 years old should be able to use the clay safely, with adult supervision.

Q. The label on the joint compound says it isn’t safe to breathe. Should I be concerned?

A. You should never sand anything made from joint compound (or anything else, for that matter) without a face mask. Sanding creates extremely fine powder that can get into your lungs, and that is not a good thing. You can make your sculptures without sanding, just by being very careful to apply your clay smoothly. To make it even smoother, dip your knife into water and rub the flat part of the knife over the clay after it’s been spread on your form. Or, you can place a piece of plastic wrap over the clay and smooth the clay through the wrap (this makes sure that your clay doesn’t end up being too wet). To smooth the home-made gesso without sanding, use a damp brush or sponge after the gesso has dried. If you do sand, use a face mask. They’re cheap.

Q. Can I use newspaper or other recycled paper instead of toilet paper to make my clay?

A. Jennifer sent in photos of her art projects using pulp made from old newspapers to make her clay, and her projects were a great success. She used the newspaper because she wanted a rougher texture. Obviously, you will not be able to get the smooth, highly detailed look that you see in the projects in my book without using toilet paper. So – the answer is “yes” you can use other kinds of paper, but the resulting clay will have a different texture. If you’re making a very large sculpture, the newspaper would be much less expensive, and the texture might be exactly what you need. Experiment – and be sure to let us know how your experiments turn out so we can all learn together!

Remember – if you don’t see your question in the list above, please ask. Your comments are always helpful to other readers. And be sure you show off the sculptures you make, especially if you use the instructions from the book. The comments section below will allow you to upload a photo of your sculptures, and we would all love to see them.

73 thoughts on “Book Page – Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay”

  1. Jonni, I just received my copy of : Make animal sculptures with paper mache clay, from Amazon this week. I love it, and already have learned a few new things. I just wanted to say Thank you.

    • Hi Marilyn – I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. Be sure to post a photo or two to show us how your sculptures come out. I’d love to see them.

  2. linseed oil …….. I hope I have got past the hurdel of the 20 different namings of joint compound (the manufactures just love to add all kinds of synthetic wonder compounds without making it clear), but I have stumbled; when confronted with several different linseed oil choices, I thought, “No my dad uses boiled linseed for his furniture, this is not for polishing furniture, I am supposed to buy the Raw Linseed oil”. However, I read in some other sections that boiled linseed oil was the correct choice.
    Given that the recipe works without the oil, I am not too worried, and might try a batch with the Raw oil and look for differences. But, the 3 main types of linseed oil on offer at my hardware store were, boiled, raw, and fast drying. As well as several brands having addatives that do other “good” things like “anti-mold”.
    Wondering if you have any thoughts on the different oils, and if some should be avoided it would be good to know.

    • Adam, it sounds like your hardware store is better stocked than the one down the street from me. My only choice is boiled linseed oil. However, you could also use linseed oil from the art store (is it raw?) or flax seed oil from the natural food store. Bob C. has tried using olive oil, and he says it works. I’ve substituted glycerine, and that worked too. The oil does seem to give the clay a better “feel” when you’re spreading it on an armature, but I originally added it to the recipe because the Victorians used linseed oil with their paper mache products to harden them. But you really don’t need it, and if you’re sensitive to chemicals or if you’re working with very young artists, I recommend leaving it out.

      If you do any experiments, please let us know how they turn out.

  3. Hi, Jonni –

    My husband covered a balloon armature with paper mache strips, then a layer of your clay. But now he’s decided he wants to add another strip layer – using sheet music, to fit his project theme. Should he seal the clay before adding the strips?

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise!

    • If the sheet music is pasted to the clay, there’s a possibility that the linseed oil might eventually cause the final layer of paper to yellow slightly. I haven’t seen that happen, but it seems to be possible. Sealing the clay first would probably be a good idea.

  4. Hi Jonni
    Love your book. I do have a question. I am busy with a gazelle and want to use rubber line for the dewlap. The clay is dry and I had to leave the back of the head open for now, so that I can tie the line on the inside of the neck. I want to know if I should apply the gesso, paint and varnish and then dril holes for the line or should I do it now before the last steps and just go inbetween the line? If I do all the steps now will it affect the back that I still have to close?

    • Hi Corrie. I’m glad you love the book. I’ve never done a project like the one you describe, so I’m not sure how I’d proceed. However, it might be difficult to get a completely invisible seam after you close up the head if you finish the front first. I think I’d wait and do the final gesso and paint after it was all put back together.

      Please let us see it when it’s done. It sounds like a really interesting project.

  5. Hi Jonni,
    I recently discovered that “joint compound” is called “enduit pour joints de plaques de platre” in France.
    I used a product called “enduit universel” in the past because I did not know the right translation but I think it’s a little different… So I will try the good product soon 😉

  6. Hi again,

    I am still unclear on clay thickness and size versus drying times…..do you have to use an oven to dry the clay out.

    If I do make a frieze, I expect the thickness could range from 1/2in to 3-4inches, I will start on a small frieze first say 10×8 inches….depends on what you answer above will then consider how big an area I can go?

    Colin

    • If you put on layers thicker than 1/4 inch it will be difficult to get the clay dry. It will tend to harden on the outside before the moisture has left the inside, and you’ll end up with mold. If possible, build up your shapes and thicknesses with the wire or paper, and then add the clay. Or add the clay in thin layers and allow each layer to dry before the next one is added. You don’t need an oven for drying – it will dry very hard in the air.

      A small experimental frieze is a very good idea. You’ll see how the material works and it’s limitations, and you can go from there.

  7. Hi Jonni- I have been using your paper clay recipe for months now. I have a large sculpture going- 57″ tall- and I used your clay for parts of it. I probably would have used it for all of it if I’d known of it. On my blog I have a post comparing the three types of paper medium I have experience with- pre-made paper mache, paper clay recipe, and creative paper clay. They all have their benefits and drawbacks. One thing I will share is that I have been very successful at making double batches and keeping them in my refridgerator for weeks if not months. I love how hard your clay dries up- similar to a cast you might have on a broken limb. It weighs a bit more than standard paper mache but over all I like how it works up into different shapes and holds that form.

  8. What do you recommend sealing the finished project with once the paper mâché clay has dried? We are thinking of using it to harden a ‘body double’ dress form that we made out of brown packaging tape.

    • I like matte acrylic varnish. It will protect the paper mache, but it won’t make it stronger. For that, you’d need more layers of paper mache.

  9. hi, i’m working on finding a cheap way of making movie props for some projects my friends are putting together. i’m curious as to the strength of the clay when it dries, what we need is something that can take and give a pretty good beating because i’m aiming to make weapons and pieces of armor out of this stuff. also how well does the clay seem to bond between the old dry layer and the new wet layer?

    • The clay layers bond very tightly, and once it’s dry it’s very strong. It can be broken if you really work at it, but you have to work pretty hard. I suggest that you make a few pieces as an experiment, and see if they’re strong enough to use for your project. That way, you’ll know for sure before investing a lot of time and money.

      • that was the intention, but i needed to make sure they would hold up for at least the day we shoot the movie (we broke a sword last time), and i already have a plan for designing most of the props without using a frame of any kind. thank you for the information i will surely show the end results on here

  10. i made dis paper mache clay wit flour ,joint compound linseed oil,toilet paper.fevicol, on the procees of drying i dunno why but it has started stinkin en der s deposits of fungus on it??what should i do??

    • Hi Khushi. It does sound like your project has been invaded by mold. At this point, I don’t know of any way to save it. The next time you make some clay, try adding some clove oil, household bleach (just a little) or salt. This should slow down the mold long enough if you use a thin layer of clay and let it dry as quickly as possible. Once the clay is dry through and sealed, it should not mold.

      • i did add lotta salt ,sorry i forgot to mention dat..!!i did it twice..!!first time i made d vases en stuff immediately after making the dough..!!once evrythin dried it started stinking..the second time i could not use d dough for three-four days cuz i was held up wit somethin,so i jus packed it carefully wit plastic en kept it.!!when i checked it again it started stinking..!!en not onli me all ma friends have faced dis..!!

        • This is strange – I’ve never had that happen. I wonder if it’s because you don’t have access to the same brand of glue I use. There must be something different in the clay, probably caused by different formulas used by manufacturers in different countries. It’s possible that you’ll need to develop a new formula by experimenting with products that are available locally, and just keep working at it until you find something that works. Or, you could do a search online for “paper pulp” and “papier mache” and use the traditional formulas that don’t have any commercial products in them. Or just go back to using paper strips and paste.

          Sorry I couldn’t help much. If you tell us what country you live in I can put this up on the blog and see if anyone else near you has the same problems, and if they found a solution that works.

        • A very humid climate will make a huge difference in drying. When I lived in Florida, clothes would not dry on an outdoor line very well at all. If you used a bath towel, it would smell of mildew if you tried to use it again.

  11. Hi Jonni,
    Greetings from NewZealand.
    I have just come on line to research paper mache technique, and your site came to the front. Very, very impressive.
    Recently, my oldest daughter gave birth to her 3rd child, and decided that would be the last one, and to have a belly cast done as a momento. This was done by her younger sister, who flew in for a few days break from teachers college up in Auckland. A plaster mold was made…all be it a little rough..and a paper mache casting from the mold. My younger daughter had to return to Auckland but the work in process had to be left behind for me to finish off. The information she was given for the paper mache mix was was to finely break up egg catons, soak in hot water and blend to a fine pulp, sqeeze out as much moisture as poss and add wallpaper glue. I have (since then) found this mixture to clump up, with the resulting cast being quite rough and full of intersticies, requiring a huge amount of finishing.
    But, thats not the worst thing.
    The shrinkage of the paper mache distoterded the whole shape of the abdomen beyond reasonable making good. The breasts came out well, My younger daghter said she had cast these quite a bit thicker. It is my suspicion that inconsistant thickness might be a significant factor??
    So, Ive decided to re-do the whole thing while the mold is still in tact.

    I was delighted to come across your clay recipe, I believe, that will go a long way to help with the first issue. As far as the problem of shrinkage……any remedies from anyone who has experienced this and overcome it would be much appriciated.
    I also do a little painting, oiIs, acrylic and pastel, so no shortage of recources on hand.
    Regards

    Kerry Stent

    • Hi Kerry. The paper mache clay should work nicely, if you allow it to dry slowly. There will be a small amount of shrinkage, but it should be even so the shapes won’t be distorted. Allow it to dry in the mold, and give it plenty of time. It might also help to put the plaster mold over a heat vent, so the warmed plaster will draw in some of the water from the clay, allowing it to dry more easily.

      The egg carton idea is used by a lot of people, but whenever I’ve tried it, the pulp took forever to dry, and it is quite lumpy. I think you’ll like the paper mache clay better.

      • Hi Jonni,
        Just to let you know, the redone casting turned out well. The clay gave a much smoother finish requiring minimal touching up and also kept its shape which I am really pleased with, and very little shrinkage.
        One thing to watch out for, that may be of interest to others doing this sort of thing, I had greased the mold with petrolium jelly as a releasing agent, and the areas I felt could give problems in extracting the casting from the mold due to complex shape, I greased much more liberally. What happened, it would appear, is the excess patrolium jelly merged into the surface of the clay causing a couple of patches not to set properly so needed scraping back. Not a big deal to fix thanks to good old finishing compound.
        Generally a good result.

        regards

        Kerry

        • I’m glad it worked, Kerry. Good advice on the petroleum jelly – I’ve always wondered if it would cause any problems with painting the surface, if it transferred from the mold to the paper mache. Did you have a problem with that? And I do hope you weren’t in the path of the NZ earthquake!

          • I am keen to try this, Kerry and Jonni, and am also in New Zealand. However, I’m not sure that I can find Elmer’s Glue-All. Can you advise what you used, Kerry, or do you have other suggestions for glue, Jonni?

            • You can use any PVA glue. I don’t know what brands are available in NZ, but I’m sure you’ll find one at the hardware store.

  12. Just got the book from Amazon and LOVE it. The roll of toliet paper I used was about 4 cups. Since it was already wet I didn’t want to waste it so I had to adjust the recipe. I wasn’t sure if I could do this with success. I guess you can double or triple the recipe as needed? That is what I did. It seems to be working. It does take a bit longer to dry than I thought it would but I am learning through experience. Am wondering if fine sawdust could ever be used as a filler instead of flour. I’ll have to experiment with that one. Anyway, thank you for such a great book.
    Peggy

    • Hi Peggy. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. Be sure to show us your projects when you get them done.

      I like the idea of using fine sawdust in place of the flour. That’s what they used to make “composition” dolls, back in the day. If you have some around, and want to experiment with a small batch, I hope you’ll let us know how it turns out.

      Enjoy!

    • I don’t know. You can leave out the linseed oil, and the clay will still work. I’m not sure what would happen if you add shellac instead. If you try it, please let us know how it turned out.

  13. I just posted a message about my experience with your paper mache clay i made from your recipe. I mentioned using a convection oven next time, and I didn’t say this, but I thought I would add that Iwill be using it on my patio- not sure of what is in joint compound to breathe in fumes while baking, but I will let you know how it turns out

    • Good idea, Carmen. Thanks for the longer suggestions, as well. I don’t bake mine over 150 F inside the house – I think it’s the plastic in the glue that causes the odor. I don’t know if it’s bad for you or not, but it doesn’t smell that great. Actually, it smells pretty much the same as baking Sculpey clay.

  14. Hi Jonni,
    I follow your site almost daily. Just wanted to let you know that your book showed up on Amazon today as a pre-order. Hopefully I will have my copy soon. You are have been a inspiration to me.
    Thanks for sharing all your knowledge.
    Debbie

    • Thanks, Debbie. It will still be several weeks before Amazon.com gets all the information listed online. I just now see that they have the Search-inside-the-book feature turned on, which is great. I hope they’ll offer a discount once they have everything in their system, but that probably won’t happen until the end of the month. It’s so hard to wait, now that I’ve done the hard part! 🙂

    • Hi Ginny. The book should be available at amazon.com by the end of next week. I put this page together in advance – I hope I didn’t confuse anyone. I will definitely be making a major announcement the minute the book is available.

      I did receive the proof copy from the printer yesterday, and it was so exciting! I’ve been looking at all the projects, and the photos and text in the computer file for months, but it just doesn’t compare to seeing a real live book. I’m really happy with the way it turned out. Now we just have to wait for amazon.com to list it. It won’t be long…

    • YAHOO! It’s HERE! The ups man just dropped it off from Amazon! Yeow! This is so way cool! I hope you sell a gazillion copies! You should! Everything is laid out nicely, with easy-to-follow directions! Wowzer! congrats!

      • Wow, Ginny. Thanks. I think you’re the very first person to receive their copy – that probably means there’s quite a few showing up in mailboxes today. How exciting. My baby has arrived at last!

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