Nikki’s Armature Video – Must Watch

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This is great – Nikki made us a video to show how she builds hollow armatures for her cement sculptures. As she says in the video, these techniques will work just as well for traditional paper mache strips and paste, and, even better, the paper mache clay. Thank you, Nikki!


20 thoughts on “Nikki’s Armature Video – Must Watch”

  1. has the video been removed? is there another location to view it? Thank you in advance for any further information

    • Hi Julia. Yes, it looks like the video got misplaced when I updated the blog a few months back. Thanks for letting me know! I just now put it back where it belongs, and you can watch it at the top of this page.

  2. Thank you for a nice, informative video Nikki. It was very generous of you to do this for all of us! I learn so many wonderful ideas here, so thanks go to Jonni, too!

  3. Thank you Nikki
    This tutorial is great. I’ve wondered how to sculpt cement and all that it involves. Very well done.

  4. I wait for the first layer to dry, but this happens pretty quickly here. That’s why I often cover it with plastic between layers so that it “cures” slow enough to prevent cracking. I end up with pieces that are from 1/4 – 3/8 think depending on the piece and where it will end up (inside or outside).

    The weight is also influenced by the size. The very large mountain needed to be moved by two people. The large white dog could be lifted by me, and the same with the totem poles. The large columns are easy to move around even ‘tho they are heavy. You could also affix wheels to the bottom or put the sculpture on something else that can be more easily moved. That large white dog is now on a moveable cart which has been disguised out in the front yard.

    Turntables are helpful, too, and you can make your own, either round or rectangular, square. You can buy the wood and turning apparatus at Home Depot and other hardware stores. I have them in various sizes and shapes as they are really helpful. Let me know if this helps or you need more info/detail and I’ll try to help.

  5. I just read all the lovely comments about my video, and I so appreciate them. I love knowing that I have been of help to you all! I think Jonni has created such an awesome, friendly, helpful, place that is encouraging and supportive of all of us!

    The cement I used was called White Portland Cement. I got it from a local cement supplier, not at the Home Depot type stores. The very first time I tried cement, I did use the regular grey cement, but it dried so quickly and was not fun/easy to work with for me. I’m sure that someone more experienced might not have had that problem. When I went to the cement supply company, I told them that I wanted to sculpt in cement, and they said that the white portland cement was what I would probably prefer. It definitely was. I loved working with it from the start! Huge difference. I just mixed it with a varying amount of white playground sand that I did get at Home Depot and some water. I’d give you the “recipe” that I used, but you just have to kind of see what works for you, and also the climate makes a huge difference. I live in the desert and the heat and dry air required me to always have a spray water bottle to keep spritzing the work. Add less water at first until you get a consistency that stays on and you can get the effect you want. You can always add more water. I also would cover it with plastic when letting it dry to help it dry slower and try to prevent cracking.
    I put on a coat of waterproof liquid for cement (can’t remember names) on pretty much all of the sculptures, and it comes in varying sheens. The ones that went outside are still doing great, except those that got hit by either soccer balls or puppies going crazy! :) The white dog with all the fur made with the steel wool has now rusted in areas, and I think that it adds to his character. Again, thanks for all the wonderful, supportive comments! Let me know if there are any other questions.

    I’m also glad that this was helpful as it was my first attempt at such a thing. Someone suggested that it would be nice to have had narration and music, but that’s for future efforts, and a bit more tech knowledge and equipment. But then that takes away from my sculpting money! :)

    • Just a reference note: Portland Cement doesn’t “dry,” it cures. Major difference. Drying is a process that simply removes moisture from whatever. The curing process in concrete is a chemical reaction. It is this property that allows the piles for bridges and the foundations for dams to be poured under water.

      It’s also why you dont want to add too much water as it separates the bonds and makes for weaker concrete. (How they prevent this under water, I assume it has to do with formulation.)

      In a nutshell. Keep it moist and don’t let it freeze until it cures.

      My apologies to those who already know this.

    • Hi Nikki, thanks for the great video, watched it a few times, trying to think what I will make. (if I stop spending all my time making paper mache :) ).
      Just like to check a few details if I may, you say you cover the armature, then build up layers to get detail after. Do you wait till the first coat dries, and do you just use the cement over the first coat, straight on it?
      I am thinking of doing a largish work, but live and work by myself, just wondering if I just put as thin a layer of cement as I can, to keep the weight down so I can move it around, do you think that would make it not strong enough. I do understand you are not an expert, just being very kind and passing on your knowledge, but wondering if you had done work with a very thin layer.
      Again thanks for the video.

      • Chris, I’m new to this blog formatt so am not sure if you received my reply to your questions. If not, then you can find them below your comments on this page. Nikki

  6. Wow, thanks Nikki, very informative. Re: stryofoam – you can get large sheets of it in lumber yard or big DIY stores as house insulation panels. I have used it and glued them together to get thick blocks.

  7. Thanks Nikki for the great ideas – how did you know that I wanted to work with cement? I bet a great gnome for someone’s lawn could be made using some of your armature methods.

    If some of you are intrigued by Nikki’s wonderful work, you might want to look up a cement sculpture artist by the name of T. J. Neil. He’s impressive.

    By the way – Nikki what type of cement do you use, and is it difficult to work with (i.e., drying/working time, etc.?)

  8. Excellent Nikki,

    Informative, compelling, entertaining and nicely edited too. You have some really wonderful art displayed and some large pieces as well. I had no idea you had this much experience when you where asking about making your large PM vase and I hinted to start small so you wouldn’t get discouraged. You are far more experienced then I and you work in concrete too!

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Bob C.

    • Hi Bob. Not to worry – you got it right the first time. It was Debbie who started the thread about the vase, and Nikki offered her help, as you did.

      I think I’ll be watching this video several more times – she has some great ideas for large projects. I also like the fact that she uses concrete for her outside sculptures, which makes more practical sense than trying to weatherproof paper mache. I hope to be trying a few pieces myself this spring. Thanks again, Nikki.

  9. Fantastic idea Nikki, thanks. Styrofoam is very light and easier to handle and shape than most other armature bits and pieces. Great idea, and great work, loved the totem and the cat.

  10. Whoever Nikki is, how neat for her to take the time she could have been using to make things in order to show armature process, and thank you! I loved watching both the process and seeing the finished works. How neat!


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