Today we have a guest post by our friend Rex Winn, showing us his latest techniques for making pumpkins with paper mache clay.
Just follow this tutorial, and in no time you’ll have plenty of colorful pumpkins for a beautiful Autumn display. Thanks, Rex!
©2016 Rex Winn
Making Small to Medium-Sized Pumpkins
These pumpkins range in size from 25 cm to 40 cm [10″ to 15″] in circumference. They could be larger, but I wanted them to fit on my bookcase shelves.
The pumpkins were made from three different sizes of doggie bags.
Gather one end of the bag and seal it with masking tape.
Cut off the “square” end. (I figured out this makes a round bag on my 25th pumpkin instead of fighting square bottoms and tops!)
Turn the bag inside out. This places the masking tape “knob” inside, which makes it easier to remove later.
Place rice (or whatever works for you) in the bag. The amount of rice in the bag will determine the size of the pumpkin, of course.
Create the stem of the pumpkin by placing masking tape around the top of the bag. Remove as much air as possible and cut off the excess plastic at the top of the bag.
Using a strong string, create a loop around the stem.
Wrap string around the ball to create the grooves in the pumpkin. Do not tighten the first loop around the pumpkin very much because as you make multiple passes around the pumpkin, it gets tighter and tighter. As you pass the string over the stem, wrap it around the stem to create an anchor to hold the string in place.
As you wrap the string around the pumpkin, try to keep the string on the bottom passing at the center point. It doesn’t always work, so after I have tied off the top, I take a piece of string and gather the strings at the bottom.
This is how the bottom looks after the strings are tied together.
Cover the strings with masking tape, pressing the masking tape into the grooves of the pumpkin. (You do not need to cover the plastic with masking tape.)
Make paper mache clay. Instead of measuring the ingredients, I weigh them. I find this method works for me to make more consistent batches of Jonni’s paper mache clay. I add everything but the flour, and when the clay is well mixed, I add the flour. That way I get a smoother clay. (A personal preference.)
Add clay to the top of the pumpkin.
On my 45th pumpkin, I discovered if I add the paper mache clay around the top of the pumpkin as though it were a ball, the process is faster.
Using your pallet knife, you can quickly create grooves all around the pumpkin in a matter of seconds.
Follow the string pattern to create grooves.
Push or smooth clay from the grooves to create the ridges. Add paper mache clay as far down the pumpkin as you can comfortably.
The clay now needs to dry.
I add clay to the stem and check that the grooves follow the string (where the masking tape is).
When the top is completely dry, add clay to the bottom in the form of a ball.
Make a round button in the center of the bottom and then create the grooves with the pallet knife, drawing the knife from the button to meet the groove on the side.
Connect the top and bottom portions of the pumpkin with clay. A smooth transition will ward off unwanted bumps around the ridges.
When the pumpkin is dry, cut open a section of the pumpkin. I use a pullsaw, (a dovetail saw). It is a small saw and cuts when you pull it, giving you more control. I cut in a groove and then move over two grooves to make the next cut.
Make a cut at the top and bottom of the panel.
The panel should remove easily, and the rice (or whatever is inside) can easily be removed.
Remove the doggie bag and the rice. This will make certain the pumpkin dries properly and does not develop mold later. At times I get impatient and do not wait until the clay is completely dry, and I’ve had pumpkins totally collapse. Practice your meditation at this point!
Needle-nose pliers are a great tool to remove the insides.
In this case, the doggie bag and string came out in one pull.
After removing the insides, paste on the cut-away “panel” using a little clay.
The pumpkin now has the first layer of clay.
For the second layer of clay, I love using Jonni’s smooth air-dry clay. You can use whatever you choose, of course. I repeat the above instructions, creating a ball of smooth air-dry clay.
Make grooves using a pallet knife.
Unlike the paper mache clay, I like using my fingers dipped in water to smooth the surface of the pumpkin. With my finger, I make a smooth line in every groove and then form the ridge.
Repeat the process on the bottom of the pumpkin.
Refine the pumpkin as you add the second layer of clay.
When the pumpkin is dry, I sand it to remove any unwanted bumps.
After I sand, for a smoother finish, I wipe the pumpkin off with a wet rag.
Cover the pumpkin with gesso to seal it. Jonni’s recipe is cheap, easy to make, and seals the pumpkin. If you want, you could add a little warm yellow to the gesso instead of the white acrylic paint. (I never remember to do this.)
I love creating different colors of pumpkins. With Cadmium Yellow Medium (a warm yellow) and a Cadmium Red (a warm red), you can create any color of orange you desire. Some of my pumpkins are yellow, some a red-orange, and for others I add Titanium White to create a light-colored pumpkin. (If you don’t use a warm yellow and a warm red, you will not get a good or vibrant orange color.)
For the stem I get a bit crazy. I add yellow, red, green, blue, and then Burnt Umber. I mix the colors on the stem until I’m happy and then use a baby wipe to remove the excess. I discovered baby wipes a few years ago and don’t know how people paint without them.
Good luck, and please share your projects with us online.