Lifelike Horses Made with Wire and Paper Mache Clay

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How to sculpt a horse with paper mache clay..

Our friend Maud Berglund, from Sweden, creates beautiful horse sculptures with wire, wire mesh, paper mache clay and bronze paint. She’s only been sculpting since last summer, and says she’s “still learning.” I think we can say that she’s a fast learner. 🙂

Maud uses traditional methods for sculpting her horses, with no patterns. You can see more of her work, both completed and in-progress, on her Instagram account.

All images on this post © Maud Berglund

Step 1: The wire armature.

Creating the horse armature with wire.

Maud starts by twisting armature wire into the the shapes of the body, legs and head. The wire is twisted together to make it stronger. If you don’t have an art store nearby, you can find aluminum wire in different thicknesses on amazon.com.

Most of us don’t have Maud’s knowledge of horse anatomy, so I tried to find some books that would help us out. For a look at the traditional methods of sculpting horses and other large animals, this is a great reference book for sculptors, and for anatomy you can’t beat this one. Both books have been on my book shelf for years.

Another great resource is a good book about drawing horses – it shows you the proportions and muscle groups without getting too detailed. A Google image search also helps you see horses from many angles.

And if you don’t have a real horse out in your front yard, a small plastic horse can be a huge help when learning the shapes – our local farm supply store has quite a large collection of them, and they’re surprisingly realistic.

Step 2: The first layer of paper mache clay.

For larger shapes, Maud uses wire mesh. The aluminum mesh available in art stores works well. In the first photo below, you can see the wire mesh peeking out under the paper mache clay that’s been applied over it. Maud tells me that she can apply very thick layers of the paper mache clay to the mesh. The mesh allows air to circulate on both the inside and outside of the sculpture, so the PM clay will dry all the way through.

Ppaer mache clay applied over wire mesh on horse head sculpture

For smaller sculptures, like the foal shown in the photo above, she covers the twisted wire armature with masking tape, and applies paper mache clay directly to the tape. The first layer of paper mache clay is shown below.

Wire horse armature covered with paper mache clay.

Step 3: The detail layer.

After the first layer is dry, Maud adds the details and fills in the forms. Now we can see the muscles, hip bones, and facial features. She’s also added the short mane.

Adding details to the paper mache foal.

Step 4: Attaching the foal to a wooden base and adding hooves.

With a small drill and glue, the hind leg wires are attached to the wooden base. The wire inside the foal will keep the sculpture balanced. The hooves are finished, and any last details added.

Attaching the paper mache foal to a base.

Step 5: Finishing the sculpture with bronze coating.

Maud finished her foal with Magic Metallics bronze.

Foal sculpture finished with Magic Metallics bronze.

More of Maud’s horses:

Horse in bronze by Maud Berglund

Horse head with bronze coating by Maud Berglund

If you try Maud’s method of sculpting a horse with paper mache clay, I hope you’ll share a photo so we can see how it comes out. And be sure to follow Maud on her Instagram account so you can see all of her latest work.

Thanks, Maud!

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Note – there’s also a pattern and instructions for making small horses in my book Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.

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how to sculpt a horse with paper mache clay

34 thoughts on “Lifelike Horses Made with Wire and Paper Mache Clay”

  1. Gorgeous horse sculptures, Maud! Incredibly realistic, great detail, and I love the finish you chose. I’m a huge fan of metallic paints.

    I’m starting work on a larger sun after recently trying out one that’s only about 12 inches across. I want to turn the larger one into a hanging wall sculpture that lights up from behind using a strip of warm white LEDs. Still figuring it out. Your horse sculptures confirmed for me that I really don’t need to pad out the entire shape using paper or foil. I’m going to try your chicken wire method, for sure!

  2. Hello Maud,

    Your sculptures are really beautiful. It seems like you are an artist!
    I will begin my first sculpture on septembre, with the book « animal sculptures from Jonni. So I hope I will be able to do an animal who will not be a monster!

    You have a lot of talent!
    P.S. I saved some of your photos to my computer. Is that ok with you? If not, I will erase them. Thanks!


  4. Hi Maud, you’re doing good ~ I’m trying to figure out how to get paper matcha clay to work in my silicon moulds without being a sticky mess, I’ve tried all the release agents and I’ve tried different paper matcha /clay mixes ~ still no luck!

    • LIsa. I recently decided to try this as well. I used a fluffy, cheap, make up brush to dust the inside of the mold with cornstarch. My little flowers came put beautifully

      • That’s an awesome idea, Neva – you’re the only person besides my cousin who I’ve come across with your name! Are you Russian, by any chance?

        I’ve been using a brush to coat my moulds – rigid plastic soap making moulds – with oil to help release my clay, but I’m going to try your corn starch method to see if it works any better.

        Thanks very much for sharing your idea!


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