Molds for Paper Mache Sculptures – Is this a Crazy Idea?


An idea for a new small business has been floating around in my head for a few weeks, and I’d like your input. Feel perfectly free to tell me I’m crazy. Or not. Honestly, I really haven’t decided myself.

This would be a way for me to expand my own income while also giving me a really good excuse for making more sculptures.

Here’s the idea: I’ve been thinking about making rigid foam copies of a few of my animal sculptures. The foam copies would be positive molds that people could then cover with a few layers of paper mache. Buyers could then paint their sculptures with their acrylic paints to personalize them in any way they chose. So, basically, I’d be providing a base for the sculpture, but not the finished sculpture itself .

Paper Mache Bobcat
Paper Mache Bobcat

Most of the sculptures I’ve already done are rather large and they’d need a lot of foam, (which tends to be rather expensive), so I would probably start with smaller ones, custom-made for the purpose.  I wouldn’t want to do forms for wearable masks, because then I’d have to compete with the mask forms from China.

Gearing up for this kind of enterprise would take money, and a whole lot of research and time. I don’t want to go any farther with the idea if I’m the only one who thinks it would be fun. I’ve been known to be wrong – after all, I would have loved my coloring book when I was a kid, but I’ve only sold about five of them. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t… 🙂

Perhaps the most important consideration is the cost of the foam. Most of us get started in paper mache precisely because it’s cheap. And these foam molds would not be cheap.

So tell me. Honestly. No holds barred. Would it be fun to cover a ready-made form with paper mache? Not for a hypothetical “other” person, but can you imagine it being fun for you? If you saw such a product for sale on my site, would you ignore it, or would you be intrigued? If it seems somewhat interesting, is there any particular sculpture that I’ve already done or might do in the future that you think I should make available as a mold? What price do you think a reasonable person would pay for such a thing? Have you ever seen anything like what I’m describing for sale somewhere else? And, most importantly, should I just consider it another one of my crazy ideas, and move on?

I can’t wait to hear what you think.

And by the way, if you’re working on a cat from our previous series, but you haven’t shown it off yet, please do. I’d love to see how they all turned out.

104 thoughts on “Molds for Paper Mache Sculptures – Is this a Crazy Idea?”

  1. I love the lion head you made in concrete. Our high school team is(are) Lions. Can I buy a latex mold from you? I thought it would be a great gift or award to make one in concrete for a few people through the season. Don’t know if I’m up for selling them but I would like to make at least one to see how hard it is for me personally.

  2. Hi Jonni,
    How about kits?
    For beginner adults or a great parent- child project.

    What I mean- a box, your foam sculpture, ingredients for paper mâché in small containers, craft paint- basic colors or colors relating to the figure, a paint brush, and very simple directions.
    What they would supply – news paper, bowl.
    You could make boxes according to difficulty.

    Something like this could inspire or pass he someone get past the fear of making art. Everything you need in a box.
    I’ve had this idea for many different art projects and one day someone will add on an extra 5 hours to my 24,

    I did a paper mâché years ago and you have sparked the interest again.
    I do appreciate all the work you have put into your videos and help.

    I’m working on some funny mermaids right now – they will have a saying to go with them.
    1. Tall lanky fashion mermaid – “sporting her new flips and cherry/watermelon faux nails she contemplates all the fashion possibilities ”
    Not sure if you can get the idea from pic.

    • Hi Abby. The kits are a great idea, but I suspect that I may be too lazy to do it. 😉

      I would love to see your mermaid, but the image didn’t get attached to your comment. The file size was probably too large. Could you edit the photo and try again?

  3. I purchased a sea hag, or mermaid, from a shop in St. Augustine, FL, sort of white-washed and made of a light material like papier mache, certainly made from a mold, and I paid $29.99 because I liked the object because it fit into my decor around the house.

    You never know what people are looking for, but if you are going into that sort of business, online and high street are dangerous propositions. Personally I feel that providing retailers already in place with your work is the genius thing to do. Plaster of Paris would also do well, or even that rubber latex some use, though much more expensive. People are paying for what you do with the media.

  4. Hi Jonni,
    I think you’re a genius! I haven’t had a chance yet to try your formula, but I definitely encourage you to make the forms! There are so many people out there that would love an opportunity to make some of your creatures but don’t have an understanding to create them from scratch! YES!! you’ve got a WINNER of an idea in your forms! Thanks!

  5. Hi,

    I’m not sure if you’ve checked on this or not, but have you been able to find a company that has foam pieces as a waste product? There may be a company in your area that regularly throws away foam. The foam could be rigid foam board for insulation and building or it could be the softer spray type that is used in packaging like at UPS or a parts distributor. Hope the idea works out. I’m always impressed with the ideas that people like you come up with to nurture their creative outlets.

    Kind regards,


  6. Thank you for sharing your brilliant recipe for Paper mâché! I have done quite a lot of mosaics but a first bodice in paper mâché . I decoupage over the top while still wet,waited till dry then applied coat or two of speed gloss,a first of many I’m hooked!

  7. I’m currently toying with a design for a set of reusable armatures that I will use to create parts for a paper mache non animanl sculpture. I wonder how this would work for animal sculptures?

      • In this case it will be a set of lathe turned pieces with a narrow saw kerf cut on a plane along their axsis. Paper machete would be layer up and when dry would be split along the kerf line. The two halves would then be rejoined.

  8. I would not think there is much of a market for pre cut armatures, but if you were to sell just the armatures, I would finding a company like that will cut/sell for you, and you post the design for just the armatures.

    • That’s an interesting idea. But I think I’ve given up on this idea, since the designs are already in my book, and people can make their own.

  9. Hi Jonni,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed watching your videos and exploring your website. My son has a Rainforest project at school where we are needing to make an Okapi. Paper mache was my first thought but then how to make the form for it has got me boggled. I don’t think I need to make a life size replica. Is cardboard the best to use as a pattern?

    • I would use cardboard, unless it really is a life-sized adult okapi. Something that large would probably need reinforcement, perhaps with rebar. I don’t know how old your son is, but I can’t imagine that the teacher would require him to do any major engineering for his sculpture.

      A baby okapi or a small-sized adult could be made using the same techniques shown in the recent video series about making a paper mache cat. Or you could use the techniques (basically the same, except for the paper mache layer) that you can see in the panda tutorial.

      A google image search should help you find a good photo of an okapi standing up that he can use for a pattern. I hope he has fun with his project.

  10. Hi Jonni,
    I have to say that I would not buy a form to cover with paper mache, but I suspect there are many who would. (Creating the form is my favorite part!) I am curious as to how you are going to make your forms…would you individually carve each one out? I didn’t read all 70 posts before replying so you may have answered it.
    You might try making a 2 or 3 piece plaster mold of one of your completed sculptures, then experiment with spray in foam. The “Great Stuff” insulating foam they sell at Home Depot comes to mind. Possibly cheaper than buying craft foam. Just throwing out the idea…Patti

    • Hi Patti. I didn’t realize until just now that this post received so many replies! I think the major consensus is that people agree with you – it might be a good product for other people, but it would take a lot of fun out of the process for most of the folks who visit this site. I might play around with the technology, but I doubt that I’ll pursue it as a business.

    • But the lovely thing about writing books is that the entire process is free. Unless you write a how-to book, and do all of the projects over at least four times so each one comes out as well as possible, like I do. Then you have that art supply issue again…

      • Really? You have four of each one of the figures from your book? I haven’t noticed more than at least one in the background of your videos but in that case your house must be overrun by beautiful little friends. 🙂

        • Ah – but the “rejects” don’t stay in my house for long. This is a little house, and there really isn’t room for the “practice” sculptures. (One of the reasons for making the masks was because all the shelf space was taken by the four-leggeds – and now the walls are running out of room, too… )

          • People must enjoy coming to your house for visits then since they get to see your wonderful work all over the house. So what happens to the “rejects”?

            • The ones that don’t work go to the garbage. I’m not sure the materials would be good for the garden, so I don’t try to compost them. It isn’t good to have one’s mistakes sitting around, looking at you all the time, so they have to go. Practice is good though, so I don’t mind when something doesn’t work out. There’s always something to learn.

            • I can’t imagine what would be so wrong with them that they’d end up in the trash. You’re so great at what you do. I thought you meant “practice” items as in you make at least four so that you can pick the best one to include in the book.

            • I can’t imagine having four piglets, four dachshunds, four chickens, etc., sitting around my house. This is a really little house, you know. Don’t you ever create a work of art that you think could have been better? Then make another one, using what you learned the first time, and see that the new one is much closer to what you had originally imagined? If so, what do you do with the first one?

            • I see what you mean. As for your questions. I’m kind of a perfectionist … well not kind of, I’m a big ol perfectionist. It’s to the point were anything I make I always seem to find something wrong with it. Even something that I was happy with before, I start finding something wrong with it and think it could have been better. Other people may look at some piece and like it but I just can’t get past the imperfections I keep seeing. So I figure it’s all in my head and learn to live with the fact that someone as imperfect as me can only create things that are imperfect.

              The other thing is that I don’t think of recreating something to make it better. My mind is already moving on to something new. So I try to use what I learned from making those, even the mistakes, to apply to next different sculpture, painting, or drawing I make.

  11. I’m not interested myself . Here’s a thought . Consider using Kickstarter run by Amazon . Basically you ask people to donate money for your project . You have a certain time to raise the money you need and if you get it in that time ” a month for example ” you keep the money and do your project and give your sponsors a premium or something . If there’s not enough money no one gets charged and you get no money . It’s a good way to find if there’s interest in your project too .

    • Hi Razzor. I keep trying to think up a project I could put on Kickstarter, but I don’t think I’ve found it yet. It does look like a lot of fun (I didn’t know it was run by Amazon.).

    • Hi Jose. Getting published on Amazon is really easy, and it’s basically free, unless you buy your own ISBN number. Just go to and check out the various tabs. I put together several videos, just in case someone else wanted to write and illustrate a book (because I have so much fun doing it, I assume other people will too..). You can find the first one here.

      Publishing a book and selling your book are two totally different things. That’s why I always recommend Aaron Shepard’s book Aiming at Amazon to anyone thinking about self-publishing.

      • Hi Jonni,

        Oh wow! Thanks for the information. I’m not sure I’m quite at the point of having an idea for something to write and publish but I would like to self publish at some point. It would be one thing on my bucket list I guess. I just got your mask book so you’re doing something right in being a self published author. I’m itching to try some of those out but I have to wait till I’m a little bit more stable financially … not that they’re expensive but sometimes you’ve gotta balance the need for food over art supplies no matter how myuch you’d rather get those art supplies. Starving artist, indeed.

  12. Hi Jonni,
    You got an interesting idea and it got me to thinking. A business is not a bad idea. In my 40 years of working, I have been a jack of all trades and some of the jobs have been in manufacturing. One of the popular arts and crafts are kits and there are a lot out there. You have a particular niche market. You make sculptures out of paper mache. What I had envisioned after I read this is this model:

    Armatures are great and there are a lot of people who do not have the math or drawing skills to make the kind of armatures in your book. It takes a kind of finesse a lot of people do not have. The secret is how to make in bulk and what are your start up costs will be.
    The biggest expense will be your dies to cut your materials. You can use cardboard or the foam used by artists. One die can cost up to $500.00 to $2000.00. But those can be a one time cost, and that will pay for itself in the long run. One die can cut a hundred pieces at once. The kit can include one page of your book or the entire book itself with one project like the bobcat in the kit. That will be a good way to get your book sold or to get people started and not being fearful that they cannot do what you do. It takes the fear of getting started out of the equation. There are many companies here in the USA that do that kind of work. If you do your research well, your start up costs can be abut as low as $5,000.00 to $10,000.00. By getting a business license, you will be able to buy materials at below wholesale prices. I never did start my home based business, but I did the research. The good thing about this, is after the initial start up costs, you can market your business and another company will do the manufacturing. If like me, you have good ideas but not a strong business background, why not get a partner who does? Do not let a small thing like this discourage you. I like to look at businesses and I research basic start up costs and if money were no object, I would have started one by now. I guess the passion for the idea determines whether you start the looking process at least to see the feasibility. I think this can work.

    • Hi Christine. Thanks for the ideas – you obviously put a lot of thought into this issue.

      I think the point where I lost interest was when I realized that I would have to change gears from being a free-spirited author/sculptor, and turn into a factory manager/worker/distributor. Those things are honorable careers, but I can’t make myself believe that it would be more fun than what I’m doing now. More money, perhaps. But not more fun.

      These ideas for potential products do pop into my head now and then, and I think some of them would be really good ideas. But maybe for somebody else? But I am still thinking about it. (I like the idea of cardboard instead of foam, but maybe the patterns could be printed on the cardboard, and the buyer cuts them out? But then, how would it be different from my book, which includes the patterns and instructions? And amazon does all the work? See how my mind works?

  13. Sort of what I thought the way you would react Jonni….still, keep on with the ideas and the feedback…they will blossom.

  14. I tried making life-sized molds of my papier mache’ salmon but then decided that each of them to be different in some way. I have used taxidermist figures for molds but could not make it work for various reasons. My examples were built around orange juice containers so they are light weight.

    If you can do this mold of your figures , all the more power to you. I’d like to know what happens.

    Shapes: professional example available

    • Now that I know about taxidermy molds, I don’t think there would be much point in me trying to do the same thing. I certainly couldn’t do better on the price.

      Your salmon are wonderful, by the way. Now I’m going to spend some time looking around your site –

      • Thank you! I taught art – grades 1 thru 8 — for 7 years – driving between 3 schools. Each spring… papier mache’ tropical fish for the lower grades and dragons (or like creatures)for the older kids proved to be the most popular activity .. (maybe not the custodians).

        Most of my 39 salmon and life-sized creatures were made during my first year of retirement. After traveling for several years, I am now ready to jump start my art again. I have purchased supplies to make your paper clay and am anxious to give it a try. You have beautiful papier mache’ creations and I like how you use
        videos to “spread the word about papier mache’ – accessible to all.

        It is therapeutic as well as an inexpensive expressive art form -suitable for all ages.

        KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. Sincerely, Vicki Vance

  15. It might be very helpful to get some feedback from educators at zoos, aquariums and natural history museums. This might be a market for custom designed animals forms for use in classes. You could include instructions for teachers and videos for use in class to add value. This way you could sell groups of items and avoid the expense of retail packaging. (Sell them a batch of coloring books, while you are at it.) I think if you can figure out who will buy the product, then you can figure out how to produce it.
    Sounds like work!

    • Yes, it does sound like work, doesn’t it. And I’m lazy – when I write a book, sells it and ships it for me. I don’t have to do a thing once I’ve sent the files to the printer. Maybe that’s more my style. 😉

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