Happy New Year! And Now, What Shall We Do Next?

It’s almost 2014! Boy, this year went fast. When I got up this morning it was -12° F, with a 10 mph wind. I just checked, and it’s now 1° colder! Brrr! It’s a perfect time to stay inside and work on a new paper mache project.

Do you have any projects planned for the new year? Whatever you have planned, I’d love to hear about it. (And then, of course, keep us posted on your progress over on the Daily Sculptors Group Page.)

As I look over the year we’re now leaving behind, I can remember several things I intended to make, but didn’t. Do you do that, too? You get a great idea and you can see the finished sculpture in your mind clear as day. But, for whatever reason, you get distracted and do a dozen other things instead? No big deal, though — those projects can go on the to-do list for next year. 😉

While you’re thinking about what you’d like to make in the coming months, I hope you’ll also send me some advice about what you’d like to see next for this blog. There are tons of tutorials here already, but there’s always room for more. I had fun making the video about painting a dog’s eye, so I thought maybe I’d do another video about painting paper mache – this time about an easy way to get realistic fur. But that won’t take long, and with this winter weather keeping me inside, I need more than that to keep me busy. Do you have some ideas for me? I’ve even thought about doing another book, so if you have suggestions about a specific crafty subject that would fill up over 100 pages and keep me occupied inside for a few months, please let me know.

That’s it for today. (If you’re wondering, the flying piggy at the top of this page first appeared on this site back in 2009. You can see the post here.)

Paper Mache Dragon, waiting for some color…

OK, one more thing. A lot of people have asked me what happened to that dragon I made a few months ago. He’s out on my front porch, waiting for the weather to warm up so I can paint him. I couldn’t bear the idea of splashing all that paint around in my dining room. I’m thinking about giving him a coat of concrete sealer before I paint him, and maybe putting him out on the front lawn, if I can figure out how to keep the local college kids from throwing him in the back of their pickup truck and taking him home. 🙂

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21 thoughts on “Happy New Year! And Now, What Shall We Do Next?

  1. I don’t think my image made it to you. Will attach again. I have a question Jonni…..I like to use paper towels stiffened with glue to make clothes for my models…as you have done in some of your projects. Trouble is, the clothes end up looking shiny. How can I stiffen them but keep them matt?

    • Hi Debbie. You may need to make your image smaller so the upload plugin will work.

      Your glue-stiffened fabric could probably be less shiny if you allow it to dry and get hard, and then give the fabric several coats of matt varnish. This would protect the glue from moisture in the air, and take away the shine.

  2. Hi Jonni, I was inspired to take up paper mâché because of your amazing work…bought your book, made the fish, chicken, pig etc and now completely obsessed with paper mâché! Here is my latest project…a birthday surprise for a friend who enjoys choral singing. I’m based on Wales, UK by the way.

    Love your work, debbie

  3. I’m not sure how to ask you a question. Maybe this is not the correct place, but here goes. I have been using celluclay (just found your recipe for paper clay and will be trying) over recycled materials like bottles (glass) and find that after painting and varnishing, sometimes before, sometimes a year later my creations crack. Any suggestions?

    • It sounds like the clay is shrinking, and the bottles are not. It’s odd that it takes so long for the crack to happen, though. You could try to use armatures that will shrink with the paper mache, I suppose, although you’re probably quite attached to the idea of using your recycled items. Since physics is involved, I don’t have any other ideas. Perhaps one of my other readers can offer a suggestion? Anyone?

      • Hi Jonni! Thank you so much for your thoughts. I am attached to the idea of using my recycled items, but will try to use armatures that will shrink. I was also wondering if the recipe for your air dry clay would shrink as much. I would love to try making it and working with it , but would not want the same results. I will get busy using recycled items that will shrink. Thank you again and I just love your work, as well as your site.

        • Yes, the new recipe shrinks just as much – maybe even more, since it has less paper. You can repair the cracks, though, when the first layer dries, by adding more clay over the gaps – but they may still open up over time. Keep looking – you may find a product or recipe that doesn’t shrink, although I think just about any recipe that includes water will get smaller as the water evaporates.

  4. Hi Jonni –
    Good to see you have some new projects on your site. I wondered what you’d be up to over the holiday period.
    I have a few projects finished of which I’ll send photos in another message, but I thought I’d add a comment about things falling apart and having ‘wobbly legs’.
    I’ve found that using wire coat-hangers is a good way to keep things together. It’s a cheap way to get hold of some wire for armatures, it bends and cuts easily and – most importantly – it keeps everything in place, especially if it’s reinforced with your air-dry clay.
    I did a project late last year that was a wild boar leaping. The boar’s body has the front legs in mid air and, while the two rear feet are in contact with a log (that’s what it’s leaping over), only one is doing any structural work (the one that has the armature).
    I’m currently at work on a horse piece and have used a bent piece of wire for the front legs and the same for the back legs. It’s nowhere near finished, but is standing well while I work on it. Your air-dry clay recipe sets like concrete, and I’ve always found that putting pieces in front of a fan blower (without heat) gets them dry pretty quickly.
    I did rig up a sheet of plastic (into a ‘C’ shape) so that the airflow that had already passed the model piece was diverted back over the rear of the model, saving the problem of needing to turn it repeatedly to benefit from the moving air. Perhaps that might be a cruder version of your proposed ‘drying chamber’?

    • I think your drying system is great – do you happen to have a photo you could share with us, so we can see it in action?

      And I’d love to see those sculptures you’re working on, too. The wire idea is good – I’ve done that with smaller items, or when working on something that has really skinny legs, or that has only two legs and needs to be balanced perfectly. I can’t find wire hangers, though. Where do you find yours?

      • I bought the coathangers online – from Amazon (UK).
        Great value and they arrived within a couple of days.
        I’ll remember to photograph the ‘recycled drying air’ arrangement next time I have it set up…

  5. I have a number of projects started and have yet to find (or make) the time to get back to them to finish. The ones I am most dedicated to finishing is a 4 foot sea captain that is giving me fits and the other is a hanging mobile. Finding balance in the mobile is a challenge – I have the draft design in cardboard hanging in balance but then to add/build paper mache onto the cardboard template and still find balance is all about physics and quite tricky. On the sea captain (and some other projects) I have found difficulty in building a solid yet light weight armature. So, my suggestion for 2014 might be on armatures and balance perhaps.

  6. Happy New Year to everyone. I would like to see a video about fur also. I don’t have plans for any fur bearing beast at present, but one thing often leads to another…and another.
    I do not have a good vent in my bedroom cum ‘studio’ either and boy does it get cold in here. For Christmas, my daughter gave me a small ceramic heater with a fan (under $30). It dries my pm better than the oven (unless I’m using the convection feature).

  7. I would love to see tutorials on (1) fur and (2) how you varnish your pieces. I have struggled with both. The tutorial on painting eyes was great! When it gets warm enough and you do seal your dragon, that would be another great event to watch!

    I am working on a Pegasus (which is very slow because it is cold here and I have no way to get the clay dry-no heater vents) and a baby chick piggy bank, which I can stick in the oven!

    I want to make my dog with his brother and sister. It is something I have dreamed about doing since I got your book 1.5 years ago! That is a selfish reason I would like a tutorial on fur (short-haired, preferably!!!).

    HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone. This site has meant a lot to me, especially because it has been a very rough year. Thanks everyone.

    • OK, we have a vote for the fur video. Thanks, Rex! I’m not sure about the varnish video, though. That site you linked to had some great info. I just paint on some matte acrylic varnish, which wouldn’t be much fun to watch, I’m afraid.

      It sounds like we might also need a tutorial about building a paper mache drying chamber. I’ll do a bit of research and see what I can come up with. Making the pieces dry fast is so important, especially in climates where mold spores are really active. So, maybe that’s two items for my list. .. 😉

      • Jonni, I have struggled with the varnish “pocketing” and turning a cloudy color. Maybe I’m just overdoing it. Thanks.

      • Okay. I’ll share. The whole project just makes me laugh. I made a flat bottom as Jonni shows how to do in her book, and then after the third time the head fell off in the oven, the body changed, the bottom didn’t fit, so I made the bottom into a nest. I think this project should be titled, “Out of the Nest.” I need to get a final coat on it and then paint it. Last night I dreamed I painted a T-shirt on the chick, and the T-shirt had numbers and letters and designs on it. So you can tell I take people’s comments to heart; however, I’m NOT doing the chick in a T-shirt!

        • Rex, it looks great! I can’t wait to see it all painted (and a t-shirt on it would be fun, but you should follow through on your vision). Thank you for sharing.

        • I don’t know Rex- you should probably listen to your dream. What’s wrong with a chick with a T shirt?
          Jonni- any painting tutorial comes in handy and I would welcome them. I would love a tutorial that would address thin legged creatures and getting them to stand up straight.
          On another note- you have been quite mum on the progress of your show with your daughter. Care to share how things are going?

          • Heh – I liked the chick in a t-shirt idea, too. Maybe Rex will do that next time. 🙂

            Thin legged critters, especially the two-legged kind, really are a challenge. My little chick wobbled for a long time before I finally got him to stand still. That sounds like a good subject for a video. I’ll do a bit of research and see what I can come up with.

            Jessie has been going like gangbusters this year (oops, last year, I guess it is now) with all her new paintings and the shows she’s been accepted to and the award she got at a local show. I, on the other hand, have been going at a snail’s pace. I’ve spent the last six months trying to learn more about sculpting faces, and I’ve still got a long way to go. I think my latest, The Lodge Brother, is getting closer to where I want to go, so I’m hopeful. That’s one of the things that will get transferred from last year’s to-do list to this year’s to-do list.

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