Old Woman – A Mask and a Few Accidental Experiments with Paper Mache Clay


A few days ago I mentioned that we’re going to have a Mask Party here on the blog. (Thanks, Tejae, for the idea.)

To get us all in the mood, I made a mask of an old woman, using as a model a photograph by Edward Curtis. Maybe we should call it a disembodied head, instead of a mask. I might remove the back of the armature, (which was not covered with paper mache), and hang her on my wall — or I might make a scarecrow-like body and put her in front of the house for Halloween. I really haven’t decided yet.

Anyhow, the video shows how it was done. This is probably the fastest sculpture I’ve ever done with any kind of paper mache. I wasn’t trying to hurry, it just worked out that way.

OK, now it’s your turn. Are you in the Halloween mood yet?

15 thoughts on “Old Woman – A Mask and a Few Accidental Experiments with Paper Mache Clay

  1. Hi Joni,
    I wonder if you used plasticine instead of clay, then gave her a few layers of “Joni’s Clay”???

    Would be easy to take off the mask and then apply fiberglass resin to harden it???

    I used plasticine, then Dip-N-Drape <–*can't find in Canada anymore*, then Fiber glass resin to harden a lot of my masks I've used for theatre and they take a lot of beatings…

    I would like to be more "green" and use old newspapers/mulched as "Joni's Clay" for my art now…
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/1.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/2.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/3.jpg[/img]

    • Wow – fabulous costumes and masks, David. Do you have a website so we could see more of them?

      Yes, you can put the paper mache clay over modeling clay – it is easier than using water-based clay. The clay does dry extremely hard, but I don’t know if it’s as strong as fiberglass. If you experiment with it I hope you’ll let us know what you find out.

        • Interesting – is the resin the kind you buy at the hardware store? Is it something you need to work on outside for safety reasons? I like the idea of making the items stronger, but is it as fun to paint on as paper mache or plaster? (I’m Facebook illiterate, so I can’t actually find the photos you were referring to – sorry. One of these days I’ll figure it out. Maybe.)

        • David, what is the brand of fiberglass resin and where do I buy it? Will it make the paper mache waterproof. I’m trying to figure out how to make carvings or forms for glass mosaic pieces and use outside in the garden. Thanks!

          • Hi MiMiDee. David’s comment is really old and he probably isn’t following it anymore. You might want to check out http://www.aquaresin.com/ – it’s a fiberglass resin that doesn’t have some of the scary toxic properties of normal fiberglass. I used it for my chimp, but I haven’t tried it since then. Some people use resin coatings over foam for outdoor sculptures. Would that work for your mosaics? And I’ve been making small outdoor sculptures with Apoxie Sculpt, but it’s expensive for larger sculpts.

            We have a few readers who come to the Daily Sculptors page every day who also do stained glass and mosaics. You might want to write a comment on that page to see if anyone has an idea that would work for you.

            • Thank you very much, Jonni. After I asked the question, I saw you using a garden sprayer to put sealer on one of your outside creations; it was in a wheelbarrow. Did that work and did he stay outside? If so, what was the product. I’m just starting to do research for what to use. I also saw you make a mold. I’ve made many molds and I also tried a “cheapie” project using silicone caulk and corn starch. It worked! I also have a paint on rubber that doesn’t have to be mixed – works great. I don’t know how old the video was and you probably know all about this by now, but thought I’d share the info with you. Thanks again!

            • The cement sealer I used in that video didn’t work. The paper mache clay ‘melted’ as soon as it started to rain.

              I just remembered seeing a website by a lady in WI who has a garden full of mosaic sculptures, and she gives workshops to students. It would be worth attending just to see her gardens. Have you seen her site?

  2. She is really wonderful! I can see her whole face here – the other pic is too shadowed. I wish I could sculpt faces like this. Gotta practice, I guess. Altho I suspect you have a natural talent for sculpting.

  3. Hi Jonni. I love your old gal, too. You’re a great sculptor. Unfortunately, I can’t watch the videos (I have dialup internet). Do you have any pics of the old gal that show her whole face?

  4. I love the piece, Jonni. The old woman has such character. For me, she is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Potato Eaters”, which embraces the ugliness of the lowest worker. As Vincent’s friend and fellow painter, Emile Bernard, says about the painting, it creates “a fearful canvas of remarkable ugliness and yet with a disturbing life”. I would say your mask of the old woman has a disturbing life all of its own and is, in itself, also a thing of beauty.

  5. I love this project, she has such feeling of a life lived. Very interesting your using the different thickness of the jonniclay, might have to try it on a few things.

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