Easy-to-Make Santa with Paper Mache Whiskers

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Swedish Tomte - Santa

I had so much fun making the whiskers on this little Swedish Tomte.

He looks like a tiny Santa, but he’s really a traditional elf-like character who helps safeguard the house and farm. I found one online the other day, and fell in love with him.

And this little guy was so easy to make! Put a nose on a cone, add a couple of feet (or not – lots of people leave off the feet) and add whiskers.

The whiskers were easy, too. Most people use real fur or wool, but you know me – I had to use paper mache. As you’ll see in the video, I dipped paper towels in a mixture of white glue and water, and then wound the paper around some aluminum foil. After a bit of twisting, the foil grabbed onto the paper so it couldn’t unwind before the glue was dry. The whiskers are attached with hot glue.

This Tomte is a simple little soul, but he had to be built in stages so there would always be a dry area to hold on to. A fan saved me a lot of time.

As I mentioned in the video, I only made up half a batch of paper mache clay, and I didn’t use as much paper as the recipe calls for. I wanted a smooth mixture that would be easy to spread. I don’t know exactly how much paper I used, because I didn’t measure it. Even with a smaller batch, there was still a lot of the pm clay left over. This would be a good project for a sculpting party right before the holidays.

By the way, you may have noticed a few changes to the site lately. I’ve been trying to simplify things a little to clean up the design. I’m also weighing the idea of offering some courses. I’ve been frustrated lately by the constraints of YouTube videos. A course would take longer to put together, obviously, but I could include all the details that would make sure that everyone could successful complete their project. Do you have any thoughts about this idea?

And, as always, if you make a Swedish Tomte, I really want to see how it comes out.

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72 thoughts on “Easy-to-Make Santa with Paper Mache Whiskers”

  1. One more try….not too good with computer skills, lol! Teacup Fairy House settings from a vintage collectible teacup and handmade fairy house, mushrooms and trees using air dry clay. Your little fellow will fit right into this theme. My tea cup fairy houses are available on etsy under: https://www.etsy.com/shop/EverlastingWhimsy

    Reply
    • It worked, Marilyn. And your Teacup Fair House – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. That’s a regular sized cup? Such tiny detail – and what darling pink mushrooms. Very nice. I hope your etsy store is a huge success.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much! Yes, the teacup is regular size, although, I do some tinier ones, also. It is “Apple Blossoms” by Theodore Haviland, Circa: 1940 – 1989, an absolutely beautiful collectible cup and saucer. I love doing them. I have some Christmas themes in the works that your little guy will fit right into the theme. I appreciate you letting me include my link to my new etsy store. I wish you much success in your new ventures.

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  2. I LOVE this little guy and he looks so easy to do…I will definitely try him. Thank you so much for sharing him with us! I make lots of ‘little’ things in the ‘fairytale world so he is going to fit in very nicely with my themes. Again, Thank You so much for sharing.

    Reply
    • I will definitely share him with ya’ll! This is one of my TeaCup Fairy House settings that I sell in my etsy shop. I made the trees and fairy houses and mushrooms from air dry clay. Love doing these kinds of things….as you can tell, your little guy(much smaller in scale, of course) will fit in this scene perfectly! I am so excited that you made this so easy to do. Thanks again! Love your work Jonni! Can’t wait to see what you have planned in the new videos!

      Reply
      • Oops – the file size must have been too large, so the image didn’t come through. I did the same thing myself yesterday, and it didn’t work for me either. Can you reduce the image file size and try again? We really would like to see them. You can give us the link to your etsy shop, too. Links are good. πŸ™‚

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  3. Hi Jonni, I talked with you the other day and showed you my santa ornament and told you I had this Swedish santa a drying and the clay I used was wal mart air dry clay which it went on well and dried in about 3 days but after it dried it CRACKED all over, not sure what happened, if it was the type of clay or if I had to thick or thin which I didn’t think I had either, so gonna have to tear all off the clay and do the paper mache and no clay this time and hope I am able to make this cute little guy, was wondering if you had any suggestions on how to keep any clay from cracking, also Im working on Humpty Dumpty only looks like Im gonna be calling this one Lumpty Dumpty for all the lumps Im seeing lol Im new at this and still cant wait to see how he turns out and if he does Ill post a picture, Thank you and love all your work, keep them coming….

    Reply
    • Hi Norma. I’m sorry your clay is cracking. I haven’t tried the commercial brands of air-dry clay, so I can’t be sure what happened. However, the clay is probably shrinking as it dries, because of the water evaporating, and as it shrinks it breaks apart when placed over a solid armature. I think the home-made paper mache clay that I used cracks less because the paper fibers inside help reinforce it. You can try repairing the cracks by pushing more of your clay into the cracks. The wet clay should stick to the dry clay. I hope this works.

      I look forward to seeing how your Humpty Dumpty and your little Santa turn out.

      Reply
      • Hi Jonni, Ok here is my Swedish Santa after tearing off all the clay that cracked, it turned out better than I thought, I love the little guy he was so much fun to make, I have gotten the ingredients to make my own clay and plan to do it soon, Im still working on the humpty dumpty arms and legs, I had to reinforce his bottom because he was trying to fall over when I sit him up after drying so now he sits good, cant wait to get him finished, Thanks so much for all your videos, I want to do them all especially the dragon but I have a fear that it will be a huge project for me to try but would love to have him in my home.

        Reply
        • What fun – every single one of the little Swedish Santas we’re making are so different, and yet they’re so simple. That makes me really happy for some reason. I love that nose. I do hope we get to see Humpty Dumpty, too.

          Do you mean the really big dragon that I made? I have some ideas for making him a whole lot lighter. I had to get help to get him out the door so the charity folks could take him to the auction. Next time I’ll make one that I can lift all by myself. If you get your new dragon done before I do, I want to see!

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          • I would love to do him, yes the big one, my husband says he thinks I can do it, he has more confidence than I do, if and when I do I will post it no matter the outcome might be a good laugh lol… πŸ™‚

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            • Hi Jonni, ok here he is Humpty Dumpty, I love this guy, I had the little hat already so I made him a cowboy to match, gave him some curls under that hat when he not got it on, I have posted it on facebook and already got a lot of likes, Love making him, Thank you so much for showing me how, Im thinking of making him a little lady for company not sure how to do a dress yet. So sorry for the loss of your kitty, I have a cat very similar to her, Merry Christmas Jonni….:)

            • Awww – He made me giggle – what a fun interpretation! You did a great job, and if he sits in a place where your visitors will see him right away, they’ll certainly feel welcome.

              Enjoy the holidays.

  4. Hi Norma. Thanks for showing us your Santa ornament. Those rosy cheeks are perfect, and I love the long flowing beard. As for your question, you don’t need to remove the crumpled newspaper and plastic bag from the inside of your snowman, as long as the paper inside is completely dry. The plastic makes the outside skin take a little longer to dry, because air can’t circulate. However, if you give it plenty of time before painting your snowman, it should be fine.

    My daughter also paints portraits and landscapes. Would you be willing to show us one of yours? I’d love to see it.

    Reply
  5. Jonni, this tomte is adorable! Very practical with the season coming upon us as well. I do have a question…you put the clay right over the foil. In past tutorials, you have always covered the foil with masking tape. Is there a difference? It certainly would be easier to not cover with masking tape but I thought one needed to do so because of possible rust coming through. That technique could be used to make thinner things like bird legs or beaks.
    Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Hi Eileen. I think we can use either tape or hot glue with foil. Of course when we make an armature with crumpled paper, we have to use tape.

      I’ve always hesitated to use the hot glue because I tend to stick my finger in it, and it hurts – I ordered the little thimble things after making the squirrel. I’m not into suffering for my art. πŸ˜‰

      As for the problems with rust, I’ve used other aluminum products, like armature wire and the expanded mesh, and I’ve never had any problems with it. I checked Google this morning, just to make sure, and it turns out that aluminum will corrode. That shouldn’t make any difference to us, though. One of the sites I found said “aluminum corrosion is aluminum oxide, a very hard material that actually protects the aluminum from further corrosion.”

      So, if the foil doesn’t create a colored material that moves from the armature outwards into the paper mache clay, eventually damaging the paint (which rust from steel wire will do, if it isn’t covered) then we should be safe using aluminum foil without covering it with tape. Kim Beaton uses the foil under her Pal Tiya sculptures now, but she started using it originally with her paper mache sculptures. If she can get away with it, it should work for us, too.

      Reply
    • Thanks for that link, Lew. There are some inspiring images on that page. By the way, is your art group looking for new members, or is it a closed group of close friends? I know a lot of our regular readers are vets.

      Reply
  6. Cathy, a neighbor, used a few of my paper mache pumpkins to use for Halloween decorations. You wouldn’t hardly recognize the pumpkins, but they are cute with the witches on them. (She used to use real pumpkins, but they wilted, of course. This was a better option!)

    Reply
    • There are orange pumpkins in the background. The purple pumpkins I didn’t recognize as my own, but I love what she did with them. The witch’s bodies are gourds and the faces SuperSculpty.

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  7. Here is an image of Halloween witches created by Cathy, my neighbor. I made paper mache balls on a skewer and she added SuperSculpty for the faces. The neat thing that you cannot see here is that the glow in the dark.

    Reply
    • You two make a good team, Rex, even though your styles are so different. What does Cathy do with all those witches heads? Does she sell them at a local store? And did she have any problem with the Super Sculpy cracking? Using the paper mache balls as a base must really cut down on the expense of the Sculpey.

      Reply
      • She loves Halloween. (Not me so much.) She gives them away as gifts.

        She does have problem with Super Sculpy cracking. She made a whale coming up out of the ocean. It is beautifully painted. She used Super Sculpy over a long gourd; looks like a whale. The problem was that the fins fell off. She would hear a clunk and something would fall off.

        She has created a most amazing octopus (I’ll try and get a photo when it is finished). She mixed Super Sculpy with the air dry clay and has had no cracking or anything falling off. She swears it works. It takes quite an imagination to combine those two things, if you ask me.

        Reply
        • That is surprising. I can’t even imagine how she does it. I’ll bet she’d like working with the epoxy clays, if she doesn’t mind working while wearing gloves. It’s amazingly strong, but it doesn’t wait until you bake it before getting hard. That can be a problem if you prefer to work more slowly. I saw online that some people use Apoxy Sculpt over gourds. No cracking, because it doesn’t shrink.

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  8. Here are the three baby warthogs I have been working on. The faces are not completed yet, and my neighbor is trying to convince me to put carded wool on for their manes.

    I used the measurements Jonni used for her kune kune pig, but when I saw the result, I thought the hips were not wide enough. I made the Styrofoam wider, and then the hips seemed too wide. I made a third to see if I could get something better in between. Any opinions are welcome. I think the first one is the best, however.

    The eyes are pointing in every direction, so I cut out three more patterns last night to give it another go. And the tusks are all over the mouth. It is a process. (I hate to say this is all in preparation for doing a larger warthog – or two!)

    Great to see the fantastic things everyone is making and for the inspiration to keep going.

    Reply
    • Wow – Rex, you really captured the look of the beasts. I’m really looking forward to seeing them when they’re finished.

      As for those eyes and tusks – I have decided to blame my binary vision for the fact that none of my animals ever come out quite symmetrical. Fortunately, real critters aren’t symmetrical, either. I’ve been trying to come up with a system for creating head armatures that place the eyes exactly where they belong. I’ll keep working on it. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

      Reply
  9. Jonni, that is so cute and adorable. I love your thimbles (must get me some), and how did you get my scissors? lol

    Really, though, I’m cussing because it would be a great little gift for Christmas. (I don’t do Christmas presents.) Just so d… cute. I’ll definitely have to give it a try. Thanks for the great tutorial.

    Reply
    • Hi Rex. I’ll bet you noticed all the paint and other goo on those scissors – and I even tried to clean them off before the video! It was hopeless. The thimbles are a bit big for me, but they did help me avoid burning myself. Even when I had them on my fingers, I still caught myself reaching out a naked finger to push the whiskers into the glue. I stopped myself, though. That stuff hurts.

      I don’t do Christmas presents either, and not just because I’m cheap and stingy. I tell people it’s against my religion, but they don’t believe me. Everyone I know already has more stuff than they actually need, even those of us, like me, who practice voluntary poverty. I wouldn’t mind doing a hand-made-only swap, but I can’t talk my friends and family into it. So I gave up on the whole thing. It reduced my holiday stress by 90%. I highly recommend it to everyone.

      But I still might find a new home for my little Tomte/Santa. That’s not the same.

      Reply
      • We are on the same page about Christmas. The two “safety tips” I would stress the most is hot glue and wire screen. I try and be extra alert when dealing with those. It doesn’t always work, of course! I’m easily distracted.

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      • Jonni, I wonder if you used a foam cone instead of crushed tin foil for the armature, you could eliminate the use of hot glue all together? You could do the bottom half with the paper mache, paint it as you did above, then stick the whiskers into the foam, then do the top half with the clay over the foam. Either of your clays will adhere beautifully to foam and the clay would make the whiskers stay in as well. Just a thought! No more burnt fingers!

        Reply
        • Yes – excellent idea! I walked right by the foam cones at Walmart yesterday, and it didn’t even occur to me. In fact, if you wanted to make a taller, curvy hat, you could add a bit of foil to the top and just tape it onto the cone.

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  10. This is so adorable! !!! And I can’t wait to make one…thank you so much for sharing this with us. ..love it. .

    Reply
  11. This is adorable! We love those little Tomte’s. The site looks great, and as far as classes… do you mean we come to you? or classes offered on site like Craftsy? Are you familiar with their style of classes? I would check that out, it may be a format that works for you. I’d travel, or take workshops via Craftsy, or however you want to present them. After all these years of following your blog, and trying out ideas, it would be a pleasure to meet you in person or pay you for your time via a series of classes. You’re so generous to put up this information, and it truly is inspiring and so much fun. Good luck on decisions and hunting for the right fit.
    As far as projects go, I recently made a couple plaster molds for creating paper mache pins; mini mask pins I can give to friends who work the Ren Faire with me. A dragon and unicorn. The Unicorn was meant to be a full face pin, but I couldn’t get the material out of the too elaborate mold, so I cut it in two, and use half a face. If pictures load you’ll see what I’m saying.
    I appreciate the tutorials on YouTube, it’s a format that is fine for me, and all the links to products helps too. Thanks again for your fun projects and shares and problem solving.

    Reply
    • Hi Susan. I hope you and your daughter have fun with the little Tomte. And yes, I was thinking kind of like the Craftsy model, although they don’t have any sculpting classes. At least I couldn’t find any. I can’t imagine why not –

      As for your paper mache pins, I got your email and responded. If you tried to upload a photo here on the blog, the images were probably too large.

      Reply
  12. This is so adorable Jonni! He has gnome-like features, but a little different, I love him. I don’t know how you come up with so many cute things to make!

    Reply
    • Hi Carrie. I can’t take total credit for this idea – I saw one of these online. I think it was felted, with wool for a beard. Then I started looking around, and there were tons of them – all different, all cute. So I made myself one. It was good a good stress-reduction project, and got my mind off the election and other dismal things while I was making those whiskers. πŸ˜‰

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  13. I am curious about your waterproof squirrel. Would the small amount of air trapped inside the aluminum foil cause expansion and contraction issues? Also the same concept with the foam used? Thank you, I love watching your videos. Is there a particular store, or catalog you order supplies at a reasonable price?

    Reply
    • Hi Crystal. I contacted the Smooth-On company to make sure it would last outside. They told me that the thing to watch out for is a pinhole in the epoxy ‘skin’ that allows water to drip inside. If the sculpture gets water inside, it will expand when it freezes, and it could pop the sculpture apart. If you’re careful to completely cover the foil, they say we have no worries. As for the foam – hundreds of signs and theme park sculptures are made with epoxy clay over foam. I’ve never seen anyone mention a problem with expansion. The enemy is water, no air – but only water on the inside. Water on the outside doesn’t hurt a thing.

      We don’t have an art store within 80 miles of my town, so I order almost all of my art supplies on amazon.com. I miss being able to roam the aisles of a local art supply store, but that’s not an option for small-town folks like me.

      Reply
      • Thank you for replying. I’m glad to hear the results. I really admire your work. I love doing new things. It has always been and interest of mine to make a sculpture but, I was always hesitant. Your videos have inspired me to try sculpting. I look forward to viewing your future creations. Thank you so much!

        Reply

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