How Lezlei Young Made Camilla, a Giraffe for Vacation Bible School

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A few weeks ago our friend Lezlei Young posted a photo of Camilla, her very large giraffe, on the Daily Sculptors page. To put it mildly, we were all impressed. That’s why I was so excited when she agreed to show us exactly how it was made. Thank you, Lezlei!

©2019 Lezlei Young

How I created Camilla the Giraffe

Thank you Jonni for giving me an opportunity to share Camilla the giraffe’s story!  I am a 65-year-old mixed media artist living in the Dallas area.  Camilla the giraffe is the largest art project I have ever done!  Camilla was made as part of the decorations for my church Vacation Bible School.  The theme was “In the Wild” this year.

Here is how I created Camilla the giraffe!

Step 1:  I purchased and downloaded the Ultimate Paper Mache giraffe pattern from Jonni’s website.

I printed the pattern directly onto cardstock paper. I cut out everything and glued designated pieces onto corrugated cardboard according to the instructions. The cardstock paper worked great for the other pieces and allowed me to easily shape and glue the pieces together!  So easy to put together!  Loved the results!

Putting the giraffe pattern together.

Step 2:  I downloaded the paper mache recipes that were provided with my purchase and decided to try the “Boiled Paper Mache” recipe.  I loved it!  It required less flour, easy to prepare and dried hard, smooth and transparent. I prepared my newspaper strips and covered the assembled head with three layers of paper mache.  Jonni’s tips on using the smaller pieces of newspaper to get in the smaller areas worked great!

Step 3:  I have a great brother! I called him, and he came over and built the giraffe body “skeleton” from pieces of scrap wood from my hardware store (free!) and a couple of purchased 1X2 wood pieces.

How Lezlei Young Made Camilla, a Giraffe for Vacation Bible School

Step 4:  I used a large round balloon to fill out the giraffe stomach – really gave the belly a great shape.

I cut the outline of the giraffe’s back from cardboard and glued to the wood.  This helped me to keep the shape I wanted for the back as I added the crumpled-up paper to fill out the body.

I also cut out cardboard shapes that I taped above the front legs to help to achieve the shape I wanted for the top of the legs.

I used paper towel rolls to “round out” the edges of the wooden legs.

I used pool noodles to fill out the neck of my giraffe.

I created a tail by wrapping newspaper around a piece of scrap wire that I could bend to help shape the tail.

I used foil to give her hoofs the desired shape.

Padding the armature for the giraffe sculpture.

Step 5:  Once I was finished filling out the body, I covered the entire body, legs and tail with masking tape.  I added extra crumbled paper to give Camilla some “knees”.

Adding pool noodles to the giraffe neck.

Step 6:  I then covered the body and legs with 3 layers of paper mache.

How Lezlei Young Made Camilla, a Giraffe for Vacation Bible School

Step 7:  I decided to paint the head of the giraffe BEFORE I attached it to the body just to make it easier for me to reach the head.  Camilla is about 7 feet tall.

I then attached the head to the body securing it with masking tape and paper mache using Tyvek for the first layer to strengthen and then 2 layers of newspaper paper mache.

Step 8:  Both the head and the body were painted first with white gesso followed by a coat of titan buff.  The giraffe markings were hand painted with burnt sienna and yellow ochre that I mixed as I painted.  I add some darker “shadows” in the giraffe markings by added black to the burnt sienna yellow ochre mix.

How Lezlei Young Made Camilla, a Giraffe for Vacation Bible School
How Lezlei Young Made Camilla, a Giraffe for Vacation Bible School

Step 9: Finishing.  I gave Camilla’s eyes a coat of clear finger nail polish.  I cut and glued brown wool roving to create Camilla’s mane and to add hair to the end of her tail and the inside of her ears

Painting Camilla, the Giraffe
The finished paper mache giraffe.
Back view of the large paper mache giraffe.

Step 10:  Another call to my brother to take Camilla the giraffe to the church!

Camilla took about 8 to 10 hours of “hands on” time to complete.

Transporting the giraffe to Vacation Bible School.

Thank you so much Jonni! Can’t wait to try one of your other patterns!

Lezlei Young

60 thoughts on “How Lezlei Young Made Camilla, a Giraffe for Vacation Bible School”

  1. You are a very talented artist. I was very excited to see the
    process making your giraffe. It turned out so good I bet the children loved it. You have given me the courage to make horse for my son and daughter in-law.
    Thank You

  2. So elegant….just like in real life!!!! I hope you still have her, and when you look at her…..you just smile, I know I would! Janice in northern Minnesota, near the Canadian border

  3. HI 🙂

    I love your Giraffe, I am making my own and keep referring back top yours for guidance. I will admit, yours looks better than mine ! Haha

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. I too made a giraffe in my studio in Andalusia.. started from a roll of cane in the rubbish. Used polystyrene packaging for chest and some chicken wire framework. Many layers of paper mache and paired a random patchy surface

  5. Excellent job, work of art! Given me hope for my creation. I’ve realised paper mache is a long process, you must let the layers dry completely!

  6. Lezlei,

    I am so proud of you. You are a blessing and an inspiration. Great work! May God continue to bless and keep you. I love you sis!!!

  7. I am so proud of my sister. Lezlie you are a blessing and an inspiration. Keep allowing God’s light to shine through you and your work. I love you!!!


  8. Wonderful work. I create props for vbs too. Last year’s circus animals ended up in the dumpster after the two vbs programs. Not upset since 1500 kids and their families enjoyed them while they were there. Storage is always a problem. I do hope you have a home for this lovely creation after vbs, perhaps a hospital.

    Thank you for sharing your process. Definitely a labor of love

  9. Beautifully done! This would look awesome in the corner of a jungle themed room. Congrats and thanks for tutorial.

  10. Omg! It’s fantastic! Your giraffe looks sooooo real! I loved it! Congrats Lezlei, you did a beautiful giraffe. Camila is beautiful! Thanks for share with us, it is so inspiring. Keep doing it. Thanks!

  11. Great Job, Lezlie! I love these gentle giants and you did such a wonderful job with this. I’ve been hesitant to try this but now you’ve given me a bit more courage to believe that I can do it too. Again, a wonderful job!


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