Progress Report – Molds and Paper Mache Clay

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I’ve been working like crazy all week, but I don’t have much progress to show for it. I’m still trying to find a formula for the paper mache clay that will work well in a rubber mold. So far I’ve completed one black-footed ferret, with a plaque based on an ancient petroglyph at Wyoming’s historic Legend Rock. (Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions about the plaque at the end of the post about making the rubber mold. I didn’t follow your ideas exactly, but the feedback helped point me in the right direction.)

I chose the carving from that location because the last wild population of black-footed ferrets in the US was found in that state. I’m hoping that the rough “rock” behind the ferret will somewhat mitigate the critter’s excessive cuteness. He looks so innocent, doesn’t he? (False advertising for a highly effective carnivore, but we do seem to be genetically drawn to that high forehead, big button eyes. We can’t help it.)

The walrus is almost done, but I haven’t finished sculpting his background rock.  I did find ancient petroglyphs from Siberia near the habitat of the walrus, though, and I’ll be finishing the mold for the plaque today. And I found an Arabian oryx that was carved on a rock wall in Saudi Arabia, so the other two critters should be done soon. I really thought I’d be whipping out these portraits quickly – at least one a day – but all the experimentation (and messing around in general) has really slowed me down. I want to do a timber wolf and a big-horned sheep next. One thing I’ve discovered is that I really enjoy doing the head sculptures more than I enjoy making the full critter, complete with legs and tail, etc. Since I’m having fun with it, that’s probably what I’ll be doing for a while.

Tell me what you think of the “rock” background. Does it work?

OK, back to the experiments. I will figure out how to make the paper mache clay work in a mold the same way every time – but I’m not there yet. Back to the drawing board.

12 thoughts on “Progress Report – Molds and Paper Mache Clay”

  1. Kia Ora from New Zealand. Jonni, I’m so glad I found you and signed up. I’ve been sculpting on and off since I was a kid, and used epoxy for many years – as a result of which I now am allergic to it. So I’ve got a bunch of molds (and inspiration) sitting going to waste. I’ve just done a search of your site and landed on this page, so shall be devouring all your information shortly.
    Thank you so much for making all this material available!!


  2. Hi! Great site and so much info. Thanks!

    I saw these ‘busts’ you’re making and immediately thought of similar paper mache animals I saw at a store called Anthropologie. It says on their website they are made from layers of recycled cement bags and book pages. If there’s one near you I would recommend taking a look around, they hire people to create the store displays and they are usually amazing pieces of installation art. Lots of inspiration for your own ar projects!

    I think if you click my name you should see the animal heads at the bottom of the page from their website, if I did it right that is!

    • Thanks Matt. I checked them out, and they’re so close to what I’ve been trying to do lately (that is, before I started a huge garden project that seems to be taking up all my pm time.) I’ll have to go back and take a closer look.

  3. Love your work.
    Tried this clay for the first time last night and have a question.
    I am doing a Mardi Gras mask For a Gallery. If they clay is as thick as 1″ or more does it still dry completely and will it mold?
    Jonni , you are really capturing the animals in a simply yet beautiful tone.
    Thank for your help.

    • Hi Kiki. Yes, the clay will dry completely, but only if you give it enough time. It will dry on the outside first, so it’s really easy to believe it’s dry all the way through, even if it’s still damp inside. I have not yet experienced mold on any of my pieces, but I live in a very dry climate and I’m very careful to let things dry out before finishing them.

      Bob, a fellow reader, puts a bit of salt in his batch of clay to make sure it won’t mold. But even if you do that, you still want to make sure there’s no dampness at the center of your piece.

      Good luck – and please let us see your mask when it’s done. I know a lot of our readers are interested in making masks, and we’d all love to see how your mask turns out.

  4. I’m so excited to have stumbled onto your blog. I love paper mache. I love your animals, I may have to try my hand at it again. Your work is wonderful.
    Thanks for the tutorials and recipes.

  5. I think this is a perfect background for your Ferret! Can’t wait to see what you have imagined for the rest of the trio.

  6. It look’s so life like! I love the way you did the eyes! I can’t wait to see what the wolf will look like, I love wolves!

    • Thanks, Monica. I guess I’d better get to work – I haven’t even started on the wolf. (I’m outside, working on a fence for a few pet chickens, and getting some sun. But I will be back with paper mache soon.)

  7. Hi Jonni

    That works! I think it looks like rock behind that very cute ferret. I tend to gravitate towards the head sculptures myself. Have a happy 4th!



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