Paper Mache Animals

Make Thin Sheets of Paper Mache Clay for Your Sculpture Projects



Today we have a guest post by Mark Smith that comes just in time! Several people in the last few weeks have asked about making thin flowers and leaves out of paper mache clay. Now Mark Smith showa us a technique that will make that possible, and he makes it look easy!

Read through Mark’s article below, (be sure to watch the video, too), and then click on his name and check out the sculptures on his website.

If you try this technique, be sure to come back to this page (or the Daily Sculptors Page) and show it off.

How to Make Thin Sheets of Paper Mache Clay

ยฉ2017 Mark Smith

A little over two years ago, my wife found your site and suggested I look at it for use in a three-dimensional art class I was about to host weekly at the Central Outreach and Advocacy Center here in Atlanta, Ga. The Center is in downtown not too far from where I’ve lived for about 33 years.

Once the head of a college art department but most of my career a tradeshow exhibit builder and designer, a couple years ago I volunteered to conduct an art class for the homeless. I was asked to offer it because I’m a sculptor by training and would offer a different medium for the people who come to the center seeking job hunting training and help with their documentation for employment. Offering art classses was originated years ago by volunteers to give these folks something to do while they awaited their appointments.

Your clay recipe has been one of the mainstays of my Thursday class since day one. Over time though, I realized that I needed to accelerate the process as much as possible to provide a more immediate sense of accomplishment. We came up with using 2″ pvc pipe with fittings that allowed someone to roll out about a 3/16″ thick slab quickly with little experience. The problem there was that the clay would be pressed on the placemats we used and would become distorted as we tried by various methods to pick them off the mat.

What I want to give you, though, is a video of a discovery I just made connecting two widespread dots in my life.

Last year I learned how to make my own tortillas. I got the largest press I could find, had a lot of fun developing the feel and made the best tortillas ever as well. Just yesterday, it dawned on me that the method used in tortilla making was the exact process that could give us quick, super thin sheets of clay that weren’t stuck down to anything!

Thanks so much for your work. Your videos are among the best on the web. I’ve shown them in my class.

I tell people that I’m not really teaching (ie.lessons), just hosting and helping. Which is cool because I get more surprises that way!

I hope people find this useful. If you would like a printable plan for the cutting board press, click here.

Tip for Keeping Your Paper Mache Clay Fresh

Oh, one thing for those who prepare the recipe for teaching like I do. I’ve found that bleached flour (which I don’t normally use in our cooking) seems to reduce the tendency to mold and extends the life in the refrigerator for mixed clay. Also, I mix up and storeย  a number of single unrefrigerated batches of the recipe without the flour and corn starch. Since I regularly need fresh clay for my classes, I can then only add the flour and corn starch right before a class with a lot less setup, mess and time.

Sculptures Made Using Thin Sheets of Paper Mache Clay

I also sent pics of some demos I made for how versatile and strong the clay sheets are. I’ve tried to accelerate all the clay prep methods so people can get right to making something in my class. We only have three hours and many guests are there only one time so I want to allow some kind of feeling of accomplishment and learning in only one sitting.

Draped Paper Mache Clay, Piece 1

Draped Clay, Piece 1

Draped Paper Mache Clay Piece 1 On the Wall

Draped Clay Piece 1 On the Wall

Why We Needed a Larger Press

Why We Needed a Larger Press

Very Strong Molded Paper Mache Clay Sheet

Very Strong Molded Paper Mache Clay Sheet

Outreach Center Art Room

Outreach Center Art Room

Paper Mache Clay Draped Over Bottle Sculpture

Paper Mache Clay Draped Over Bottle Sculpture

Bottle Sculpture Molded Piece Made with Sheets of Paper Mache Clay

Bottle Sculpture Molded Piece Made with Sheets of Paper Mache Clay

Be sure to take a look at Mark’s sculptures here: http://www.mlsmith.com/

You may also like:

How I painted the Unicorn.Unicorn Pattern
Hyena Mask PatternHyena Mask Pattern
Life Sized Paper Mache Baby ElephantLife-Sized Baby Elephant

33 Comments

  • Had trouble with hinge being to big I got 3 inch and my boards were about 2 so I might have to figure bigger screws?? Also on the joist putting machine screws in had a little trouble with the. Holes had to make them bigger so hopefully it will work the top board move a little to much side to side if I move it I want it to be tigher !

    • I post wrong pic so switch this comment is for elephant … as the first is for this picture #2 so so far I have used chicken wire and newspaper next it time to use clay sheet I just hope my clay press thank you mark smith for the instructions and jinni good for sharing this has been a huge help ! If any one has advice or thought please feel free to contact email [email protected]

        • So I just adjusted screws it still moves it be nice if when I hold the top board up it stays by it self thinking !?!? Any idea also added a handle makes it much easier to carry and lift

          • So I started making the elephant apparently my son named her beauty !! I am running a bit of a problem as i get to the sides and belly it is not only hard to get it to not fall of /slide !! Gravity at its best ! As far as using the paper Mache clay recipe I have used to of everything and comes out to be a perfect amount !! I love the press and I’m so happy I made it I couldn’t imagine trying to rube that stuff on like butter .. also the legs like to lean to one side I have her trunk / neck resting upon a work table right is there anything that could be suggested to help or stand I thought about taking a board quite large putting wheels on it then four legs to match her legs and put her directly on top of the wood legs I used chicken wire so she pretty hollow inside

            • Hi Carissa. I like the idea of using the board with wheels. My baby elephant is quite heavy, and the wheels would really help when I need to vacuum. How big is your elephant?

              For the undersides, you might need to wait until the rest of the pm clay is dry before turning her over and adding paper mache to the belly. I like using a knife for this, and I keep my pm clay sticky – not too much flour – so it will hang on to the form even upside down. Your sheets of pm clay might be making it harder, just because the weight of the entire sheet is much heavier than the weight of one smear of the pm clay. Is she too heavy to turn her upside down? How big is she? You probably told us already, but my brain can only hold so much info, and I forgot. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            • So I would say about three feet and not that heavenly yet how long to dry first layer you think also did u see other comment and press I made I love it iam so thankful for you and your website yea I really think it leans one leg longer then other but if I build that I’m hoping it will help with the movement also on the press I made I put handles which really help

            • Yes, I did see your other comment. I haven’t made a press yet, but Mark certainly has given us a great idea. I might make one myself this winter, when some of my other projects are done. The addition of the handles were a great idea.

  • Hi Mark,
    How thick is the resulting sheet compared to the cardboard used to provide the hinge separation? I imagine it would be of similar thickness or slightly thicker.
    matrixmom31 suggested using a rolling pin, on the youtube post, is that viable?
    Perhaps it could be used in conjunction with this technique to provide a greater coverage of the area under compression, even allowing excess to be squeezed out the sides and trimmed prior to release, thereby maybe making a completely rectangular sheet.
    As an alternative to the rolling pin could a pasta sheet roller be employed??

  • This is so clever, and how awesome that folks who might otherwise not have access to creative expression are being given this opportunity! We used to prepare meals made from salvaged and donated foods and shared it with the homeless at a local park, but it never occurred to me that spending time making art would have benefited their psyche.

    I’ve not yet made anything that required me to roll out the clay, but I know my clay never holds together like that. The ‘clay recipe’ links to the original recipe, so I’m wondering…is the clay in the video the air dry clay recipe, or is it the original recipe with extra flour?
    Thanks

    • Hi Jonni, just got Mark’s plans a few hrs. Thanks for posting the link. Your Youtube videos & website have given me renewed hope for my financial future. I’ve been on disability since ’07. I found your site and jumped for joy! I’m now in the process of making a prototype of an invention; I was inspired by you, ALL GLORY TO GOD, and your paper mache clay recipe! I will show it to you as soon as I complete the patent filing process. Thanks to Mark’s press I’m hoping it won’t take long at all, filing that is, you have to have a working prototype I was stuck because rolling pins and the tortilla press weren’t working out too well for me. I’ll show you my press as soon as I finish it. Thanks again for being so generous and sharing you art and techniques with us. Ella P.

      • How exciting! I hope your new invention does really well. I’m curious – how long does it take to get a patent on a new idea? Is it just a matter of filling out some paperwork, or do you actually have to prove that it works?

        I can’t wait to see your press, but I’m even more anxious to see your invention.

        • Hi Jonni, thanks! There are 2 main types; provisional and non-provisional. You can file both, the provisional establishes a filing date and gives you a year for more research, product testing, market research sales, etc. , & you get to use ‘patent pending’, but you have to file for the more comprehensive non provisional within the year of filing the provisional. A non provisional can take years due to the examination process, the type of invention, and the enormous volume of applications. At least I think, I get the provisional and non provisional mixed up sometimes, and there are other types, utility, and design. My state offers free attorney patent assistance thru the state bar assoc. you just have to take a short course online, have a prototype or detailed description, prove you earn less than 300 times the national poverty level, and enough money for the application filing fees, which are low because you’d be filing as a micro entity(income less than 300 times the national poverty level). Patent attorney fees are very prohibitive. some people file their own provisional applications and as a micro entity the filing fees are around $80. The time it takes for what I think is the provisional eludes me right now, I was taking the online course over and over before submitting it but stopped to concentrate on the prototype. I’m not positive but I think most states may have programs like this. The USPTO site had some very informative videos when I started around Nov. last yr but can’t seem to find them now. Sorry to be so long-winded. Check out United States Patent and Trademark Offiice Pro Bono Programs. I know you have an invention or two up your sleeve? I’m computer illiterate I don’t know how to do links and stuff. Hope this is helpful.

          • Thanks, Ella. I’ve always wondered about this process, and it sounds like you’ve done your homework. I’ve never invented anything except recipes for paper mache supplies, but I’m quite impressed with your creativity (and patience with the bureaucracy.) I grew up in a tiny town where a family moved in and started a restaurant. The business didn’t last very long, but one of the kids was in my class, and the other kid was in my brother’s class, and they were really nice boys. It turns out that, after the restaurant folded and they moved away, the father invented something that was terribly important (I can’t remember what it was) and the “boys” are now running the business and living in really big houses. I have read that the trick is following through and building the business after you have the patent – or perhaps getting a savvy lawyer and licensing your patent to a reputable company? I hope you do really, really well with your idea – and as soon as you have it protected with your patent, I hope you’ll come back and tell us all about it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Thank you sharing your time and skills with the homeless, I was in that situation once so I know how much your giving means. My question is about your cutting board press i started out with a tortilla press but ran into the same challenge piecing them together I’m going to Ikea today! Do you have a parts list? what size and type hinges, and brackets did you use and I didn’t get how you get the lever to raise and lower. My Ikea store was out of those chopping boards but they have some with a beveled edge will this work without chamforing? Well I’m heading out as soon as they open, maybe Home Depot or Lowes can help with those questions. I can’t thank you enough for these tips! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ella, I can’t help with the technical questions (I’ll leave that to Mark) but I would love to see your press when you finish it. And if you make anything with the press and Mark’s methods, I hope you’ll let us see those, too.

      • Hi Joni this is carissa now I I am trying fro make this press and I’m having some trouble the big whole you drill in the bottom cutting board what is the size and should I use drill press ?? It is really hard to drill three joints working on it please get back to me. [edit: removed personal contact info.]

        • Hi Carissa. I took a look at the downloadable plan, and I think the big round hole is just the one that came with the cutting board. I could be mistaken, though. If Mark is still watching this post, I’m sure he’ll let us know if I got that wrong.

        • Finally finished ran into problems with the hinges and angle but work around it might have to put bigger screws in I’m try it today

    • Thanks, Ella. I have learned a lot by the classes I host with the OAC and go into the room each week expecting surprises which often come. We had our fourth annual fundraising art show a few weeks ago which I work on. I’m now free to make a drawing with dimensions, a parts list and some assembly guidance to go with the video. I’ll send it to Jonni and you as well.

      • Thanks again Mark. I’m waiting for a miter guide I ordered for my saw it should arrive next week and I’ll make good use of your instructions!

  • Wow, this is a terrific idea. I am thinking this would really work well for my sculptures that have draped clothing. I can hardly wait to learn how to use Mark’s new paper mache’ method. Thank you Mark.

  • Great class and great idea for this clay. We should have more art and music programs like this for everybody especially those who normally could not attend classes like this. Thank You for sharing art with people and for sharing your idea with us.

  • Thank you Mark for helping the homeless and spreading the wonder of art. I have made tortillas with a press from Mexico, now I see that it can be useful for art too! Thanks for the tips!

  • Hi Mark.

    That’s a wonderful thing for you to share with the homeless! Very interesting. And you learned how to make tortillas in the process!

    All the best.

    Rozani

      • hi mark I also have a heart for the homeless how would one go about giving money through their art to the homeless

        • Hi, Barbara. Thanks for your compassion for the homeless. I delayed my reply to you because I found out that Central Outreach and Advocacy Center where I host my art class was about to setup a store online where you can give to our program while also receiving a variety of art work, original publications, cards, etc. with your money. That includes two original books I designed for the last two art shows we’ve held. They are WE MAKE ART and Art Opens Windows.

          Because of the OAC’s mission, we can’t give the proceeds to the artists directly, but I can tell you that 100% of the money goes to the OAC which includes maintaining our art program and supporting our public exhibition of the artist’s work. Here’s the link to the store:

          http://ow.ly/5OgH30cXs8K

          I have heard of a new organization, too, that is set up to show homeless art online and give much of the purchase price to the artists themselves. If you’d prefer that outlet, I’m pretty sure I can find its name for you.

          I hope this is helpful to you and happy creating! Happy Independence Day, as well!

  • Thanks Mark for a lovely tutorial! I was one of the ones Jonni referred to that wanted to do thin flowers and found your video very helpful. I have used wax paper with clay in between and used a regular rolling pin but never quite that thin. Can I ask how strong the final product is? Is it easily breakable?
    What a fabulous thing you are doing for the homeless in your area. There is nothing like doing art to help the self esteem! Thanks also for the tips on how you prepare your clay for classes. I will be teaching classes myself and I wondered how I was going to preserve and prepare the clay ahead of time. Great tutorial.

    • Thanks, Eileen. We’ve been using the clay for several years and it’s very strong. If the clay is a little dried out or old, it sometimes doesn’t always stick to itself strongly by just adding one clump to another. But I did the demo draped pieces here to test these new thin sheets. I was surprised how durable the long pieces of just one piece were. To hang them, I can put small screws in the clay and they hold really well.

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