I used this fast and easy DIY Instant Paper Mache recipe to make the cougar and hippo wall hangings that often appear behind me in my videos.
The result, as you’ll see in the video, is strong and lightweight, and it captures details in a silicone mold completely. The cast sculptures look exactly like the clay originals.
This stuff is strong – and I proved it yesterday when I sent my hippo crashing to the floor. It survived without cracking, chipping, or shattering. It’s pretty amazing, when you consider how easy and cheap it is.
The original idea came from a book called The Barefoot Architect, which has tons of ideas for inexpensive building methods. One of the building methods I found in the book is called “plasto.” It’s very thin concrete reinforced with mesh onion bags. Using this method, you can build a 3-cubic-meter silo or a water reservoir that holds a thousand liters of water with just one bag of cement.
I didn’t need either a silo or a water reservoir, but I used the basic idea of sandwiching a cheap form of reinforcement (cheesecloth) inside two layers of a fast-setting material (plaster of Paris mixed with paper). The result is this DIY Instant Paper Mache. It’s similar to the Activa CelluClay product, which seems to be a mixture of ground paper fibers and plaster, but when you add the cheesecloth reinforcing, like you see in the video, this recipe can be used in very thin sheets and still be very strong. I don’t know if you could do that with the CelluClay or not.
This paper mache recipe does require a mold – at least I think it does. However, I shouldn’t say you can’t use it without a mold. Maybe it would work, if you work faster than I do. If you try it, let us know what happens.
The silicone molds:
I used Smooth-On’s Rebound 25 to make brush-on silicone molds of the clay sculpts of my wolf, cougar and hippo. For some reason I decided that I didn’t like the wolf, so I threw away both the original and the mold. Now I’m kicking myself for doing that. I think I didn’t like the human-looking scowl, because I also remade the cougar to have a more benign expression. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. Sigh…
Anyway, the clay was sealed, (I used Smooth-On’s SuperSeal) then the silicone was mixed together in equal parts and brushed over the original clay model. I let it dry for about an hour, and then added another coat. I believe it requires three or four coats to get the silicone thick enough. Then you make a stiff “mother mold” with plaster cloth – and when that hardens you can remove your original sculpture and use the mold to make a copy of the original with your Instant Paper Mache.
DIY Instant Paper Mache Recipe:
For the “face” layer, I used the following formula:
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 cup Plaster of Paris
- 1/4 cup damp paper pulp
- And I used a dash of Linseed oil, but I would skip that and use a teaspoon of vinegar instead, to slow down the setting of the plaster
For the second layer of instant paper mache, which goes on top of the cheesecloth:
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 cup Plaster of Paris
- 1/2 cup damp paper pulp
- You can add a small amount of vinegar to this layer, too, if you need a little more time to work. You’ll still have to hurry!
You mix the plaster like you normally would. Leave it in the water for a few minutes to allow the plaster particles to absorb water. Then mix it, and add the paper. I mixed the paper in by hand to make sure the fibers didn’t stick together.
I mixed up a batch big enough to cover the inside of one mold about 1/8″ thick. I tapped it into all the spaces with a chip brush, and then immediately laid a piece of cheesecloth over the wet plaster and paper. A new batch of instant paper mache was mixed up quickly and spread over the cheesecloth, to make sure both layers of plaster would meld seamlessly together. I smoothed the plaster and paper mixture with a piece of old burlap, to make sure everything was pressed firmly together. Then I let it harden and dry for about an hour before removing it from the mold.
When you remove the plaster cloth outer shell and peel off the silicone mold, your casting will show every detail of the original clay sculpt.
I used cellulose insulation for the paper. I soaked it in hot water for about an hour, and then squished out as much water as I could. The paper in the insulation has been ground into tiny fibers, so it was easy to mix it in with the plaster. You could do the same thing with newspaper if you take the time to make sure the fibers are all separated and broken down before you mix it in with the plaster.
If you try this recipe for DIY Instant Paper Mache, I hope you’ll let us see how it turns out, and let us know what you think.