Today we have a real treat. Michele Morel recently made a giraffe and showed us some of the progress photos in comments she left on our Daily Sculptors’ page. When I asked her to write up a post so we could see the entire process all in one place, she graciously agreed. Thanks, Michele!
If you love giraffes but you don’t have a house big enough for a life-sized sculpture, click here for a faster, easier giraffe project.
©2014 Michele Morel
How I made my giraffe which was meant to be outside!
Hello everybody, I’m Michele. I’m not a sculptor neither an artist. But I attended a paper mache course in 2003 which I enjoyed very much.
I dreamed of doing some more since then but when I found Jonni’s website, her book and the daily sculptor page, I decided to jump back into it. I didn’t know into what! I just had the idea of a giraffe, in my front yard, that would look at the cars passing by and may be slow down the traffic!
So my journey has been a trial and error story.
The start in January…
I printed a photo with a grid done in Photoshop and cut some acoustic panel that I already had and reproduce some parts of the pattern. I wanted to recycle as much as possible of the material. The acoustic panel that I had wasn’t large enough so I hot glued pieces together to make the body. I didn’t have enough to make the legs. It would have been a lot easier to start with a bigger piece of panel and design all the legs with that at first, but I didn’t know then…
For the head, I used some chicken wire and a spray foam used for insulation that I had. I won’t use that type of spray foam any more, too hard to work with. I reinforced the neck with a metal bar to make it strong enough to support the weight of the head. 4 metal poles did the legs, inserted into 4 pieces of wood to fix them to the body. Then I asked help on the Jonni’s daily sculptor page to find out how I could possibly make the giraffe stand on his own, specially on three legs!
The challenge of standing
I wanted to put her outside so the stand needed to be temporarily fixed and easily moved to bring her outside. I used some big screws inside wood so I could insert that on the bottom of each leg. That way, each leg could be easily removed when needed.
The wood pieces I used as the stand were not square so they needed to be in a special alignment for the giraffe to stand and keep her balance. But it worked so I was quite proud!
February, the filling begins!
I used a lot of plastic bottle, box, newspaper, etc to make the body shape. I didn’t know at that time that this step was very important to make a good body shape. I thought I could fix every default after. So by now, I won’t use square box because there is a risk that the final product will stay square!
In March, paper strips.
I covered the whole giraffe with paper and I had to do many layers to shape her well as my filling wasn’t precisely done and too square! Took me a while to get her the shape I wanted and still, a part of the neck has not the curve shape I was trying to do…!
Adding paper mache paste.
I’ve learned this paste recipe in 2003 and enjoy his simplicity and texture.
To do the paste, I simply put a cellulose insulation that is made of recycled paper fibers with the usual flour and water mix. This product is sold in big bags for cheap.
I bought this bag in 2003 and haven’t been though half of it yet: http://www.benolec.com/en/cellulose-beno-therm/
This fiber give a texture which I like but that isn’t suitable for everything. In fact, for the head, I finished it with Jonni’s paper mache paste to get a smoother surface and more precise details.
During those steps, I did a lot of touch up, either with aluminum fool, or other paper layers on top of it to get a better shape, make her a belly, knees, muscles, etc
By April I did a neck surgery as I wasn’t happy with the neck. I discovered too late that giraffe have a very slim neck!
For the mane, I use the hair of a fire brush that I had and for the lashes too. And once finished, I painted it with 2 coats of Jonni’s gesso. I also experiment with concrete on her foot.
By May, I painted her and applied 4 layers of Varnish Marine, Epiphanes, which was supposed to be the best for an outside use.
By the 4 layers, she had turned yellow but still nice. So I put her outside with temporary stand.
As I had read a lot about different experiment on outside paper mache, I protected her with a waterproof triangle shade sail. But after 2 days, we had a really big heavy rain and one of her leg, which wasn’t fully under the sail, got really wet and started to soften. I did an emergency repair with foil on the feet and put her back on her stand. I thought I had solved the problem…
But another big rain came and her leg continued to soften some more. So I quit and took her inside for good. I’m presently making a second repair of that same leg. I won’t put her outside unless I decide to recoat her with a few more marine varnish layer. I’m searching to see if an epoxy layer would make her safe but it is an really expensive path and hard to apply.
So that has been my journey with this idea. Now, I’m looking either to find her a home inside or another option to make her safe outside!.