Wolf, Man – Cast Paper Mache with Activa Li-Qua-Che

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This video shows a wall sculpture being made with Activa Li-Qua-Che, a liquid paper mache product that can be cast in plaster molds. It’s a two-part wall sculpture of a guy wearing a hand-carved wolf hat. I still haven’t painted him yet, or even finished up the edges to make them nice and smooth. In fact, as you can see he’s still sitting on top of the furnace vent, so the paper mache clay can dry out completely before I finish him. But I can tell that the product still works as well as it always has, and I thought I’d let you see how I made this piece.

I poured the Li-Qua-Che back out of the molds rather quickly, so there was only a very thin skin left next to the plaster molds. I wanted to use as little product as I could, to cut down on cost. Then I let the pieces dry after they came out of the molds, and lined the inside with paper mache clay. The home-made clay is a lot less expensive, and I think it’s probably stronger, too, although I haven’t tested it to be sure.

Since the liquid paper mache product doesn’t stick to plaster molds, I worried that the paper mache clay might not stick to the Li-Qua-Che, but it did. I also worried that the casting might get distorted as the paper mache shrank just a little as it was drying, but that didn’t happen, either.

Now I just have to finish him, and put a hanger on the back. I don’t quite know how I’ll do that, but, naturally, I’ll keep you posted. :)

By the way, you can find the Christmas ornament tutorial here.

I got the wolf-hatted man painted:

Wolf-Man Painted, Side View
Wolf-Man Wall Sculpture Painted, Side View
Wolf-Man, Painted
Wolf-Man Wall Sculpture, Painted

Here’s a link to the book in the photo. The recipes really do help.

38 thoughts on “Wolf, Man – Cast Paper Mache with Activa Li-Qua-Che”

  1. David,
    If you have an alternative to Liquache, it would be helpful to us if you would share your recipe. Perhaps you can sell your formula on Etsy for those of us who can’t afford Li-Qua-Che.
    Susan Cox

    • Susan, I don’t know if David is watching this post for comments. You might try to contact him through his Facebook page. There’s a link to it in his comment. and I agree – I’d love to see a DIY version of the product. I’ve tried to come up with one, but have never been able to get something to work the same way. (You have a beautiful website, by the way. :) )

  2. Hi Jonni,
    first I want to thank you for your website I just starting to use.

    I made a plaster mold out of a sculpted head in clay. It’s in two parts.
    I’d like to use your paper clay in it but if I use it directly I bet it will stay stuck inside the mold.
    I thought about casting the Activa Li-Qua-Che in it as you don’t seem to need any release agent with it. Am I right ? But unfortunatly it seems it doesn’t exist in France and can’t be shipped.
    David Christiansen said above in the comment he made a home made formula but doesn’t give his formula.
    I also read many advises about using vaseline on the plaster mold before casting the paper mache but I don’t trust them that much.
    Would you have any recommandation on how to use paper clay with a plaster mold and how to release it from the mold without getting it stuck inside ?
    I added images I got my inspiration from. You seem on one them the plaster mold and the result.

    • oops sorry for the mis-spellings and other mistakes I make when I write in english. They’re a consequence of my frenchness mostly.
      I forgot the second picture as well and here it is

      • It look like those are being made with paper pulp, in the traditional manner. Are you able to contact the folks who made them to see how they did it? Or are these yours?

        • No it’s not mine. I guess so. It looks like it’s jut paper pulp made from newspapers as the material I see inside the mold on the picture is grey just like the paper pulp I get mixing water and newspapers bits. what I don’t get is why the resulted head the man is holding is white on it’s outiside instead of grey. It’s could be made of simple paper pulp on the inside and something else for the first layer ?
          I feel a bit unconfortable asking the artist how she made it as it’s the work she sells. Isn’t it a bit awkward.

          • It may simply be painted white. And yes, if she makes the item for sale, she will be more than reluctant to help you make copies of her own work. She probably wouldn’t even answer your email. But if you can convince her that your design is nothing at all like hers, she might give you some tips.

    • Hi François. It’s been a long time sine I used paper mache in a plaster mold, and I’ve never tried it with the paper mache clay. However, I do think it can be done. I wouldn’t trust the Vaseline by itself because plaster is so porous, but if you seal the plaster first with shellac or wax, there should be no problem getting the paper mache out of the mold. I would love to see David’s recipe for Li Qua Che alternative, but I have tried many times to come up with a recipe and none of them have worked. Everything I’ve tried sticks solid to the plaster. The one thing I have not tried, and which might work, is a mixture of paper pulp and liquid casting latex, the kind masks are made out of. The latex is used in plaster molds like clay slip, but the result may not be stiff enough.

      Adam Shaw wrote a guest post for us showing us how he makes masks using plaster molds. You might want to take a look at it, since he knows a lot more about it than I do. He may not be watching his post for comments now, but I believe he has a Facebook page.

      • Thanks for the answer. I already tried liquid wax inside my plaster mold but once it’s dry it becomes invisible and I feel no difference when I touch it. It’s seems like it’s totally drunk by the plaster so I didn’t dare go further on. Shellac seems a good idea I am gonna try that and maybe use the liquid wax too once the shellac is dry on top of it.
        Do you think your paper mache clay reciepe would work as there is glue inside or should I use paper pulp instead. I like much better your paper clay it’s much smoother

        • The smoother version of the paper mache clay would work better in a mold, because it has less paper. The high paper content of the original version creates voids in the surface of a casting. However, I’m not sure how strong the air dry clay will be with no armature to back it up. You’ll want to do some experiments. I have made some large hollow items with the air dry clay, but I always use a backing of plaster cloth. I don’t know if that’s needed or not.

          Both glue and drywall joint compound are made to be sticky, so you will need to experiment to find a release that works. Paper pulp will also stick fast to just about anything, especially if it’s porous. One thing to remember is that any oily release could make the final item difficult to paint. That’s one of the reasons why I use a positive mold for my masks. However, if you need one that has undercuts, and that goes all the way over the head, you wouldn’t be able to get a positive mold out of your dried paper mache.

  3. I worked on a formula that is similar to Li-Qua-Che that is a $3 a gallon to produce.I have had very good luck with it.

  4. I worked on a formula like that is working very well in plaster mold. This scuplture is a piece I did for one of my art shows called ( Spock’s Bed Side Night Light )

  5. Hello!

    I found your site while researching paper pulp molding.

    You know those clay molds they use to mold doll heads and such – the two piece molds? How do you think the Li-Qua-Che would work with these?

    The project I’m working on does need to be sturdy but capable of breaking apart. It sounds like the Li-Qua-Che might be what is needed. I wonder if it might make the molded item a little stronger if, after you let the first layer dry, you add a second layer.


    • Hi Larry. If the molds are made out of plaster of Paris, and they haven’t been sealed with shellac, they’ll work just fine. That’s exactly what Li-Qua-Che is for. If you mean the actual mold itself is made out of clay, then I don’t know if it would work. Maybe.

      I’m not sure about the two-layer idea. The dried Li-Qua-Che is actually pretty strong, so you might not need to do that anyway. Give it a test, and see what you think.

      I really love the stuff, myself, and I wish I could think up more projects to use it for.

      • Well dang….looks like I bought the wrong thing.

        I clicked on the Li-Qua-Che link, at the beginning of the article, while at the craft store and it kept going to ‘Activa Products ACT1000 CelluClay Instant Paper Mache Clay, 5-Pound, Gray’ so that’s what I got. Guess that’s not the right stuff.

        As to the mold – no, I’ll be using a plaster mold and make the items out of the paper mache stuff.

        • Darn – I don’t know why the link didn’t work. They must have moved the pages around after I posted that article. You can return things to amazon.com – they’re really good about giving refunds. I corrected the link.

      • Hey – I got to thinking….. the stuff I purchased is the ‘Activa Celluclay Instant Paper Mache’; have you ever used this in a more liquefied state?

        I wonder what would happen if you added just a bit more water and used an immersion blender, like cooks do to blend soups in a pot?

        Do you think it would even stick to a clay mold?

        What I’m working on is a WWI commemoration project and it’s really hard to explain but here it goes.

        Several years back an artist created some pressed paper (mold formed) hand grenades. Inside these hand grenades was a mixture of potting soil and flower seeds. Instead of ‘death’ these grenades brought ‘life’.

        Eventually a company bought the idea and sell them as ‘garden bombs’. This new version is made of biodegradable clay.

        Now that the 100th anniversary of WWI has started there are a lot of events being planned around the world. One of the most popular events are the living history and reenactment events.

        The group I’m working with are wanting to make plaster molds of WWI grenades and cast them in a biodegradable paper product. These reproduction WWI grenades would be filled with potting soil and poppy seeds. So basically, after a reenactment event the poppy seeds will remain and, hopefully grow, as a reminder.

        We can not use clay for safety reasons and figure the original paper concept would work better for us. That being said these items would need to be able to withstand the force of throwing but break when hitting the ground.

        Also, there are some who have working grenade launchers from WWI that have been adapted to fire dummy rounds. We would like to use this process to create the same thing for them. There are some who are also talking about a closing ceremony for these events where the launchers would use these poppy seed filled rounds for a 21 gun salute.

        So…this is why I need to figure out which product would work the best.

        I’m willing to try using the stuff I did buy, using the immersion mixer, if you think it might work in a plaster mold.

        Whew…that was a lot!

        Please let me know what you would recommend. If it would be easier to email me directly feel free to. Here is my address: correus @ yahoo dot com

        • Hi Larry. I don’t know for sure, but I’d be willing to bet that the paper mache mix would stick to your clay molds. Are the clay molds fired so they could be sealed with varnish or shelac and wax? If so, the paper mache should work just fine, as long as there aren’t any undercuts. One thing you might want to do is make a quick test first to see if the dampened paper mache mix hardens within a few minutes, which it will do if it contains plaster of Paris. Plaster won’t necessarily cause any harm to the soil or plants (it’s mostly calcium, I think) but I’m not a chemist so I don’t know for sure.

          There are formulas for paper-based products used in India for making paper mache Ganesh idols. This video gives excellent step-by-step instructions, using recycled newspaper, a small amount of natural clay, and arrowroot powder. The idols are made using fiberglass or plaster of Paris molds, with a release made from mild soap and water. If they can use plaster molds, your clay molds should work, too. And I’m sure earth worms would love this stuff. The paper is soaked for a long time, so I assume they’re letting it slightly ferment to make it softer. Since the pieces are removed from the molds while they’re still damp, you get many more impressions from your molds – no long wait times. (It looks like an excellent technique – I may need to try it someday!)

  6. Dear Jonni,

    I just wanted to sat THANK YOU for the wonderful ideas in ”Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache” :) I’m a rookie, but I sure am enjoying the learning process. Your book certainly makes things easier for someone like me. Keep up the great work!

    Big hugs from Sweden :)
    /Monica Carvalho

  7. Jonni, It is a long cold winter here in Michigan, so glad I found you. Is it necessary to seal a painted armature with a varnish before putting on a glaze?

  8. I have been making soft sculpture dolls for years. Every time I tried to sculpt one from clay, it came out looking like an alien. Then I found your website and tried making a head using cardboard, newspaper and masking tape. I couldn’t believe it…the finished product actually looked like a child. I went on to make three more heads. Then I tried making a set of arms and legs using the same technique. It worked!!!

    Next, I made a bear face using plaster wrap. He came out real cute too.

    I’m loving your recipes and techniques. Thanks so much for sharing.

    I plan to post these dolls on my website … a site I am still developing.

  9. I wanted thank you for your web site and videos they have been a big help in make our “purple cow”. I hope to have it done in a few more week. I have been taking pictures from the start and would love to share them with you.

  10. I am so glad that you’ve jumped right back in to Li-Qua-Che again. I also am happy that you showed us the tip on using the pm clay on the back to make it go a little further and giving it more stability. It is a tad expensive especially when compared to ceramic slip, BUT since you don’t need a kiln I guess it comes out even.
    Your sculpture is great! The facial lines and features show so much character. It reminds me of a European trapper.
    (The new plugin is also a relief.)

  11. Wonderful work as usual Jonni- will you be putting any varnish on the wolfman? Maybe this product doesn’t need to be sealed? Is it possible that this stuff may be waterproof?

    • Hi Eileen. Yes, I added a coat of matte varnish – this product is quite porous, but I suppose it might be possible to waterproof it. I don’t think it would really be a good product to use for something that would be displayed outside, though.

  12. This capcha thing here is confusing. I post something and when I go to check it, it is not there, so I think it did not go, so I re post and the first one is there. So, sorry if I have two comments that are the same.

    • Hi Christine. I tested the new captcha plugin just now and I didn’t get the same result you did – but I’d be upset id we get fewer comments. The comments are what makes this blog fun for me. The previous plugin was so hard to read, and I found it really annoying. If you have any more problems with this new one, please let me know and I’ll try to find another one that works better.

  13. This is a real work of art and needs to be in an art gallery. thank you for putting that book beside it, that will help me a lot. We need to start a gallery of our own somewhere for paper mache and mixed media for the many talented artists that have been on this site. The inspiration this has given many people is phenomenal.


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