Paper Clay Hen with Siamese “Chicks”

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This hen and “chicks” is the first project I’ve completed using my paper clay recipe. The base is paper clay over particle board, and the hen and kittens are made from paper clay over a crumpled paper and masking tape form. The feathers are paper clay over plastic mesh drywall tape (you find it right next to the joint compound at the hardware store).

I really wanted a matte finish on the hen, and I applied an acrylic matte varnish, but you can see in the photo that it’s shiny. If you happen to know about a water-based finish that really is matte, and that brushes on (no spray cans), please let me know. It would make me very happy.

I’m building cats this month because I’m getting ready for that pop-up gallery show in Bellingham next month. The house is filling up with cats, mostly the wild kind. After working on a full-sized snow leopard for several weeks (he’s still not done), I needed some little cats to play with – hence, these newborn Siamese kitties.

Siamese Kittens (Detail)
Hen with Siamese “Chicks” (Detail)

My father has been busy this week, too. You may remember how I bragged about the custom-made concrete bench he brought me last month. I’ve never seen him actually build his benches, but now I get a chance to see exactly how it’s done because he’s taken hundreds of photos of the process. And better yet, he’s posting them on his new blog.

My dad is now officially a blogger.

He just posted photos that show him carving a dog into a concrete bench mold that he used to make a custom bench for my Uncle Jack. If you have a chance, go check out his new blog. You’ll find it at GrampaPetes.com There are a lot of photos, so the page may take a few seconds to load. Be sure to say “hi” while you’re there.

24 thoughts on “Paper Clay Hen with Siamese “Chicks””

  1. Hi Jonni. I love what you are able to do with paper mache. True works of art. I have already followed your tutorial for your cat and made a black cat for our Halloween display. I have so many ideas it makes my head spin. Right now I’m focusing on my kitchen that I’m decorating with roosters, hen and chicks I have a perfect shelf for some roosting hens. I came to you to see if you had a tutorial to make them. I found your wonderful hen and chicks but only a small picture and no tutorial. Please tell me that you have a tutorial for your hen and that I must be looking in the wrong place! Thanks so much! Dee

    • Hi Dee. I was experimenting when I made the hen and “chicks,” so I didn’t do a tutorial. One of these days I do hope to make a hen to go with my Humpty Dumpty, though. And did you see the chicken clock I made last year?

  2. I have 1 more questionHow many quarts of paper mache clay do you think it will take for 120, 18 inch tall 3 stage totem poles… Geeez what was I thinking..LOLErin

    • You ask hard questions, Erin. I’m going to guess that you’ll need one quart or less for each totem pole. It kind of depends on how much attention the kids pay to your instructions – if they apply the clay in a very thin layer, which is all that’s needed, they might need less than a quart. But if they get carried away and lay it on too thickly, it will take more. I suggest that you make one of these totem poles yourself at home, and see exactly how much it takes. If my calculations are correct, you can get 21 3/4 cup measures from a gallon of Elmer’s Glue-All, and 80 one-cup measures of joint compound from a 5-gallon container. If each totem pole needs one recipe, you’d need six gallons of Elmer’s Glue-All, and 2 5-gallon buckets of joint compound. The traditional paper strips and paste made from flour and water would be less expensive, but the paste will end up all over the floor.

      If you go ahead and use the paper mache clay I sure hope you’ll let us know how this project turns out. I know a lot of teachers are thinking about using it, and some smaller classes have already made some wonderful sculptures. Any snags you run into, or ideas you’d like to share with other teachers would be much appreciated.

      Have fun!

  3. Hi Joni,I am starting a project with my 7th grade teen issues students. The are building a 3 stage totem pole using cans or bottles and paper mache. I have never done this but I am pretty fearless. I am having trouble deciding on the mache method. Paper pulp sounds too messy for 120, 12 year old boys and girls and I am having trouble understanding the application technique. Is the pulp used as a wetting agent for paper strips or in instead of?Would the clay be a better medium and is there a starch or glue that is used to make things stick and permanent? Are strips added as well to this method?Is there a video of the sculpting process that I can watch? I guess I am a little anxious.Thank you ,Erin

    • The paper mache clay is used instead of paper strips and paste. If you’re using the recipe at school, I recommend that you leave out the linseed oil, or replace it with glycerin. The clay works OK without the oil, but either oil or glycerin makes it spread a little easier. You use a knife to spread the clay in a very thin layer over an armature that already has the shapes you want. Getting all those kids to understand that the layer needs to be thin – 1/4 inch or less, might be a challenge.

      The paper mache clay recipe is here – it uses Elmer’s Glue-All. Elmer’s school glue does not work, according to another reader. The clay is less messy than paper and paste but it will be more expensive. It’s also a lot easier to apply and to get the details right, once you get the hang of it.

      You can see me adding the paper mache clay to a dragon sculpture on this video. No strips of paper are needed if you use the clay instead. Check out that video to see if you think you’re kids can grasp the idea – I’ve had some middle-school kids write in to say they’ve made a sculpture using this method, so it can be done.

    • To Erin…
      I have only just found this site, but really wanted to respond to you even though I am too late to help. I am a retired art teacher and have done lots of paper mache projects with lots of kids and the real secret is to use celulose paper mache glue. Elmers has just about bought out the market and so now you have to look for it as Elmer’s paper mache art paste. Blick and Nasco both sell it in 2 0z. powder form. It is reasonably priced at about $2.50 per 2 oz box . It dries quickly (usually over night) and lasts a long time and never gets stinky or gross. I have only recently used Jonni’s “clay”. It is wonderful, but too costly to use with 120 students methinks. Don’t be afraid to try again!

  4. Gads, Been a while sense visiting here but loved your hen and “chicks” LOL TOO cute. I could see that around my house and never think twice as it would look normal.
    I saw your comments today on the Website work. I would love to have one but sense the loss of DH I just can’t do the initial cost to even start it. I also lack in computer savy and direction reading. I remember trying to read directions to put up a swing set for the kids with slide and see-saw swinging seats. UGG. I did get the swing’s swinging but the other things never did get added. LOL

  5. OH my, This little lady is too cute with her kitty friends. Looks like home to me. LOL
    It would be fun for me to make a pr. of all the different feathered friends I had. I’d really have to live to a ripe old age to even do half of what I had. I had over 30 breeds of chickens + Swans, Geese, several kinds, Ducks, several kinds, Phesants,several kinds. EMU, OPPS That would be hard! At least I still have lots of the beautiful eggs they gave me that I can still do the art work with. Also had several kinds of smaller birds. I miss them all but not missing all the work it was or the money it cost to keep them all fed. Here is a picture of one of my little EMU girls


  6. Hello Jonni. I have been trying to make paper mache beads which are about an inch around. I found your website and think your recipe would be much easier. Can you tell me if the recipe will work as well for ball shapes or does it work better in thinnner projects. Thank you,


  7. Jonni,
    I have been making paperclay masks and lizards for about three years. No molds. I changedto DAS air hardening clay but prefered working with the product
    ” Paperclay”. It was to expensive.

    I was piqued by your comment of making your own paper clay. Is it a secret recipe or are you willing to share? I am not creative in that area. I would add a photo but am at work just now and that is a no no. as is this. Take care,

    • Hi Stacy. My paper mache recipe is not a secret – you can see the video here. The recipe shown in the video is for one-ply toilet paper. If you have two-ply toilet paper, use one roll instead of two.

      Personally, I think the new recipe is much easier to use that the commercial products, and it dries faster. Let us know what you think. And we’d love to see some of your masks, too!

  8. I have discovered that with matte varnish, the stuff that dulls the varnish is in the bottom. If it is not shaken/stirred enough, you get a shine. I use Liqitex Matte Varnish. It’s great stuff, but if I forget to shake the bottle, it’ll leave a shine. On the second coat, I make sure I shake it. It then will cover the shine completely. Even on something that has a different water based varnish that’s gloss or satin. Hope this helps…. PJ

  9. For a matte finish, you can buy “artist’s varnish” in small to medium sized bottles at the craft store. I’ve only ever found polyurethane based ones, but it’s quite cheap and I’ve never had problems with it reacting with anything. I also picked up an “all purpose sealer” by Delta Ceramcoat that claims to prepare wood and porous surfaces (including paper mache) for painting the last time I was out, although I haven’t had the chance to experiment with it yet. Not sure if either of these are what you’re after but a quick look at the paint aisle should offer up lots of possibilities.

  10. Very sweet and cute Jonni,

    You certainly manage to capture an amazing life quality with your sculptures. I’m amazed and inspired too because I don’t think I have ever done “cute”. I’m working on a rattlesnake at the moment and I don’t recall ever seeing any cute ones. Hummmm …maybe my choice of subjects is one reason?

    So very special to see your dad’s project. I wish he had a close up of the finished dog relief. His page loaded fine here. Thanks for sharing this too.

    • Hi Andrew. That would be me. My name is Jonni Good, and I designed everything on this site, except for the wonderful Halloween items submitted by several of my readers lately. If you don’t see anything indicating the artist’s name on the post, you may assume the artwork is mine.

      But I’m not a “he,” actually. I’m a 59-year old woman, living in Oregon. To read a bit more about me, click on the orange “Meet the Artist” button at the top of the sidebar.

      Thanks for asking.

  11. Jonni
    I love it. I really like the sleek look. My mother is a HUGE fan of all things chicken and rooster. It’s definately a modern look I think. Great piece. I love the effect you get with the paper clay.

    • Thanks Addie. I just wish I had used a different finish so it wouldn’t be so shiny. I like a more organic look. If you have suggestions for a matte finish, I’d love to hear it.


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