Guest Post from Paper Mache Artist in Botswana

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We have a real treat today – and a great challenge, too. First, let me tell you how this all came about:

I’ve recently been in contact with Janaina Matarazzo, who started the Recycled Paper project 3 years ago. The project participants are young artists from Moreomaoto, in Botswana. Their beautiful paper mache items are sold at a shop at Meno A Kwena Tented Camp & Safaris, which works as a Trust to support conservation and community projects.

This morning Janaina “introduced” me (by email) to Kabo, one of the talented artists in this group. You can see him and a paper mache elephant head he’s making below.

Here is what Kabo wrote for us:

I’m Kabo Chingapane, who like to do few things about art, but well interested to know everything about Art. I have started my Art in primary level and It was got approved in secondary. So far I do have few skills about doing art, so the main that I like to know is sculpturing, I want to know the steps, when you are doing sculpture and end up putting paper mache on It. And also I want to know uses when you apply paper mache, even to make texture on the animal. But I’m so interested off on doing wall heads of wild animals.
Kabo Chingapane, Paper Mache Artist from Botswana
Kabo Chingapane, Paper Mache Artist from Botswana

And, for a bit more background information, Janaina wrote this:

We from Meno A Kwena Tented Camp & Safaris Botswana, have a sustainable tourism concept and we do care a lot about wildlife conservation and do benefits the local people from tourism, so they also appreciate what they have and help us to protect and secure the future of nature and wildlife. Kabo is from the community near by camp called Moreomaoto and work for us at the Arts Studio. We encourage artist from the community to develop their skills as an artist. We do create new projects at the community considering the lifestyle they have there, no electricity, is far from town, they are basically rural areas. So arts is a great way to work with. Kabo in particular is a truly artist so I’m always really happy to encourage him to develop his arts skills for perhaps one day have better chances and opportunities in life, doing something great.

I agree that Kabo is truly an artist – his elephant head shows that he has a great understanding of the proportions and forms of this great beast. I can also relate to his desire to find new ways to create details and textures, which is difficult when working with paper strips and paste.

I sent my two books about paper mache to Janaina, and I hope that the ideas for creating armatures will be helpful to Kabo as he creates more animal wall sculptures. Unfortunately, much of the information in the books about finishing, texturing and adding details will be difficult for him and his fellow artists to implement because they don’t have the same access to materials that we do.

I know it’s possible to create lifelike details with paper strips and glue, but I’m certainly not an expert because I rely on paper mache clay for details and textures. That’s why I suggested that Kabo might get some better advice if he were to write a post for this blog – this way, he can hear suggestions from you, the many talented paper mache artists who visit this site. If you have any suggestions for Kabo that you think he could use for his paper mache animals, I know he would be very happy to hear them.

Just as a side note, I have wanted to visit Botswana for years. Now that I’ve met Janaina and Kabo, and learned about their community art program and the Safari Camp, I want to go even more. I think it is so wonderful that the Internet allows us to get to know people from so many parts of the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all afford to go visit them in person?

40 thoughts on “Guest Post from Paper Mache Artist in Botswana”

  1. news from Botswana, Arts For Conservation : )
    we are now selling online. i’ve been asking clients, tourists, who visit camp how much they believe we could sell the paper mache animals head and they said between USD100 and USD200, so we decided to charge USD150. any comments about the price? all the curios, arts, sales goes towards our wildlife conservation projects, which include the arts projects, the payment of the guys who works, the supplies, etc. the giraffe was sold and is going to Australia, I already posted. the Arts Studio are busy producing other animals, i will post soon.

      • They’re lovely! Thanks for letting us see how the giraffe and zebra turned out. Your website is really nice, too – excellent work. Are your artists getting a lot of good feedback from visitors to the shop?

      • This is great work guys! I wish you all luck with your project and hope it brings you a succesful business and brings much needed money and publicity into your conservation projects! Well done-I can’t wait to see more photo’s!

    • Pricing is such a hard problem – but if you’re getting good feedback from customers, and you’ve already sold one, I’d say you found a good starting place. Shipping is so expensive, though – are you making sure that your customers pay the full cost of shipping?

      • yes clients pay shipping separate. the cost to post the giraffe head for example was USD75, arrive in 15 working days, and is a secure posting, the normal and cheap post could be half price but Im afraid sometimes does not work. the plan is for tourist from camp to order and buy from there, we just have to post them. to Europe the posting is a little bit cheaper, but America and Australia are more and less the same price as this one. Im waiting the artists to finish perhaps another 5 animals then I will promote the sales in camp and also through my website. at the moment we are working out how many the artists can produce and the price we can sell. If we succeed in sales then I will increase their wages and or give them bonus or percentage from the sales, to encourage them.

      • What a great photo – and the animal heads are lovely. I’m so glad you’re keeping up updated on Kabo and Wafi’s artwork. It’s such fun to make “virtual” friends with artists who live on the other side of the world.

  2. I present to you the elephant head paper mache! We tried a technique using pages from old books to cover the elephant, than just painted few details and varnish It. I have to say that I do like the first version of the elephant head, Im not sure If the guys managed to varnish properly, the colour is too yellow. Suggestions are more than welcome! They are getting there. The giraffe is just beautiful and I already sold It for USD50. The sales goes towards conservation projects and also to support Kabo from the firsts photos, Wafi and others from the same community, who enjoy arts. Will keep you all update from the next ones : )

    • Janaina, the elephant photo didn’t come through. The file size may have been too large. We want to see it, so please give it another try!

      • don’t understand the internet here, i did try downloading yesterday many times but was not going… now worked but twice!

        • Heh – I don’t understand the internet here, either! I think the problem is the plugin I use that allows images in comments. It doesn’t work as well as I would like, but there’s no other program available to replace it. (I removed the extra image 🙂 )

          • Thanks Jonni! Now we do have the elephant there : )
            Soon the community where Kabo and others live will have access to internet. We, from the Conservation Safaris Project, are going to teach them how to use It and how to set up a blog and star promoting their own art online. That will be just wonderful! And hopefully Kabo and others will be able to post their own comments here!

      • I love this elephant! The artist must be very proud of it. Please tell Kabo that I think his elephant is quite beautiful, and I hope he makes many more.

  3. Dear all,
    We managed to finish a giraffe and I would like to share with you! The elephant is almost done.
    I hope you like It : )

  4. Hi Jonni,

    Thanks for a great web site-I have just finished my first paper mache sculpture after watching a few of your tutorials and I am hooked-the possibilities are endless!

    I have posted a few photos of a White Rhino sculpture I have just completed on Youtube-have a look at the link below if you have time,-your comments (good or bad) would be most welcome,
    thanks again for a great site!
    Bwana Foster

  5. I somehow missed Monica’s comment until now. According to Google Translate, she said:

    Reading the note, I thought of letting a datum for texture. You can use sand or plasticola homemade white paste, the mixture gives some roughness when applied to the surface. You can add color before applying.
    I hope that will serve the council.

    I think plasticola is a type of glue, so she is saying that texture could be added, I think, applying sand that has been mixed with glue or home-made paste. This would be interesting on a variety of different projects.

  6. Tell him about “wood clay”. It was used originally to make sawdust dolls, a much cheaper version of the procelean dolls. It’s really simply and it should have ingredients he could get right there with no problem.

    The basic recipe is:

    Sawdust Clay Recipe
    This makes for a very hard product similar to pressed boards. It’s moldable, castable and takes about 4 days to dry completely or more depending on thickness.

    2 cups sawdust
    1 cup flour
    2 T bleach (optional to reduce chances of mold or insect)

    Mix sawdust and flour together and bleach if using. Work in water until the mixture is stiff but workable. If it’s crumbly, add a little more flour and water. On a newspaper covered table, knead it until it is elastic and workable.

    Shape as desired just like working with clay alone or over an armature. After it’s dried it acts a lot like wood. it can be cut, carved, sanded, painted whatever.

    An acrylic finish will help protect the paint job.

    This will help him put in the texture he’s looking for while being able to access the materials with ease.

    • Thanks, Sara. This sounds interesting – I have always wondered what ingredients were used for composition dolls. Is it as strong as paper mache?

    • Hi Sara,
      Your idea and suggestion sounds great! We can get all recipes here and Im looking forward to start working on It soon : ) Will keep you all up date. Thank you so much!

  7. Thank you Janaina for sharing Kabo’s elephant head. It is beautiful! Also, thank you for being involved with the “Recycled Paper project” to benefit your wildlife. That is such a great cause! I don’t have advice for you, but I am sending good luck wishes to you all.

  8. Jonni once again thank you so much for supporting wildlife conservation projects here in Botswana! I will show Kabo next week on my computer the post and let him to make his comments. The fact that we find few arts supplies options at Maun, town near the Safari Camp, make the art even more challenging, which is great because we have to be even more creative, but at the same time, if you really want some kind of quality can be a little bit tricky. Its difficult to shape the animals head, or small sculptures. We’ve been using wire first, than masking tape and lot’s of paper, than newspaper mix with water and wood/white glue. The elephant wall head from this post is exactly like that. But is quite beautiful already! Hopefully after all comments we will be able to do a great job, and share with you the results!

  9. Excellent work, Kabo! Even if it won’t be exactly the same as JonniClay, maybe just soaking the newspaper (or other available paper) long enough that it becomes mush, then mixing the mush with flour, will make a useable clay for surfacing the sculpture. I’m sure you’d have to help the paper break down with stirring or mashing.

    Jonni, I’m sitting here with the book you sent me about doll-making, studying joint possibilities for my current project (http://xans-art.blogspot.com/2012/05/petey-that-watery-phase.html). (Thanks again for that!) Your chimp hand is a typically clever take on the challenge.
    What do you think about the idea of painting your rusty wire with something (rustoleum?) to keep it from eventually becoming affected by moisture (in the clay, and later in the atmosphere)? You’d get some cracking probably when you posed it, but it still might protect your sculpture in the long run.

    • I think the foil and paper, plus the tape, will protect the piece from rust. The clay will go on above all that, so it should be OK. (I’ll keep my fingers crossed, since it’s too late now to follow your advice. :))

      I believe that some of the artists in the group make jewelry with paper pulp. I’m assuming that they mix it with white glue. Perhaps Kabo could experiment with a little bit of the pulp with his elephant sculpture, particularly around the eyes. If it includes glue, it should stick well and dry hard. Good idea, Xan.

      I do hope we get to see the elephant after he’s all done.

  10. Hola!!
    Leyendo la nota , pense en dejarle un dato para realizar textura. Puede usar arena con engrudo casero o plasticola blanca, la mezcla da cierta rugosidad al aplicarlo sobre la superficie. Se le puede agregar color antes de aplicarlo.
    Espero que le sirva el consejo.


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