Paper Mache Golden Retriever – Adding the Feathers

Get a fast start on your next paper mache project or hand-made gift with Jonni’s easy downloadable patterns for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts. The patterns help you create a beautiful work of art, even if you’ve never sculpted anything before.

Golden Retriever Sitting UpI took some time off for other projects, but now I’m getting back into the “flow” with my book about little dogs built around wire armatures. I worried about how to make the fur seem somewhat realistic, and I think this method of putting the longer hair (the feathers) on the back of the legs and tail works really well. I used several coats of the home-made gesso over the cut paper towels, so the effect is rather subtle. You could get different effects by separating the hairs more than I did, using a thinner-bodied commercial gesso instead, or maybe even using newspaper instead of the paper towels. Experimenting is fun!

I didn’t actually intend to put such tiny details as the teeth on these little fellows, but with the tongue hanging off to the side, it just seemed like I needed an excuse to put a few spots of white paint above the black lower lip. Otherwise, it might look like all his teeth fell out! I do own a magnifying glass (it’s around here somewhere) but I’m too lazy to use for sculpting. So I rummaged through my spice cupboards and found the smallest seeds in there – the mustard seeds. I also pulled out the fennel seeds, because they’re pointy. I tried cutting a fennel seed in half and gluing it on in place of the larger canine teeth, but it really didn’t work. Too toothy for my taste, I guess. Anyway, I’ll get a photo of the Golden as soon as I have him painted, and you can tell me what you think. Should I skip the teeth, or do they work? Stay tuned… 😉

Kitchen Island
Major Distraction…

I admit that I set the book aside for a month or two. Spring is here (well, not today, but perhaps in principal at least), and when spring comes along I get into the mood for building and remodeling and rearranging things. I started out with the stair project (still not finished), and then moved on to start a complete rebuild of the kitchen. Last month I built a new kitchen island out of a base cabinet that was in such a weird place that it was mostly unusable. It was fun learning how to use the Kreg pocket hole jig, and installing new Blum drawers, but now it’s time to get serious about this book again. I must ignore that red paint on the kitchen walls for a few more weeks!

The patterns are all done, and now all I need to do is to make sculptures based on all those patterns so I know for sure that they work. Only about 18 more to go! Feel free to nag to keep me focused.

40 thoughts on “Paper Mache Golden Retriever – Adding the Feathers”

  1. Hi Jonni,
    I love your feathering and fur idea, on the dog. But I’m undecided about the yellowish mustard seed teeth. Perhaps grains of barley, may be worth considering, they seem a good size and have a creamy white colour.

  2. I stumbled across your site when researching who to paper mache and love it. I have never paper mache’d in my life and I am 62 years old. I decided to tackle a project of a life size Shetland Sheepdog (small collie). Actually two of them. One standing and the other gaiting. Nothing like starting out big… I’m not happy with the head on the standing one but can adjust by adding paper mache to fill it out or use clay. I have been trying to figure out how to get the leg and tail feathers and this video really helped but wonder if it would work on a “large” scale. I would need to cut out what I have already. To get the body hair that hangs from the belly and chest, would it work attaching it half way up the side or would I have to wrap the whole dog? Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. I can’t get my picture small enough to load

    • Hi, Denise. If there’s enough area for the paper towels to hang on to, just attaching it halfway up the side should work just fine. And I do hope we get to see these Shelties when they’re done. What a fun project!

      • Thank you Jonni, My sheltie is 13 inches tall. This is what I have so far, I haven’t done your method of feathering yet. I was trying to create the feathering but wasn’t happy with it on the legs or tail. Now I will cut what I have off and try your method. I was also trying to create a ruff (mane) but think I will build up the area and use a thick Gesso and “carve” the effect in. Unless you have any ideas that can help this first timer.

        • Here is the standing Sheltie I am also working on. It is 13.5 inches tall. This is the one I have to work on the muzzle, mane and tail. Lots more work.

          • Hi Jonni,
            I finished the Sheltie. I am not an artist and the eyes are not what I like but they will do for the project. I watched your video on painting eyes but it didn’t work with my application. Maybe next project.

            • Hi Denise. Your photo of your Sheltie tried to come through, but for some reason we can’t see it. Could you try again? I have no idea why it didn’t work the first time, but maybe it was just a temporary glitch in the system.

        • Hi Denise. I think you’ve made a great start. The Sheltie really looks like he’s moving – it’s very believable. You might be able to leave the feathers you have, for support, and add more definition with the paper towels. Just a thought.

          • Thank you Jonni for the encouragement. I’ll start the feathers this evening and see how they work. I’m looking forward to trying it. Next picture will be the finished products

  3. Hi Jonni,
    I am a college student from India. I stumbled upon your blog and just fell in love with it. I am mostly a illustrator/graphic artist but seeing this has made me want to sculpt more than ever. I want to start with something small like this. What animal would you suggest I try out?
    I was thinking a cat maybe? But what would be easier as a first project? I am really good with details so it doesn’t have to be too easy.
    Thanks a lot for inspiring me,

    • That’s a difficult question, Aarya. I would choose whichever animal you love the most, because that will keep your interest and you’ll be very happy once the sculpture is done. You can use the wire armatures, like on this Golden Retriever, for any small animal. And for larger ones, you can create a cardboard pattern, like I did for my cat. (The cat videos can be found on the extended tutorials page).

  4. I have not been on the internet much in a while, being very ill with a heart arrhythmia. I was so excited to check in yesterday and see your book on tiny dog sculptures in paper mache! I ordered one immediately. But I am so eager to get started that I thought if you happen to see this it can get me started quicker! What gauge armature wire is a good one for these sculptures? I want to get some on its way ASAP so I can try some of these adorable dogs!

  5. Dear Jonni, I’m a little late on responding to this post (busy busy) but I just wanted to thank you for including a golden retriever in your dog book! I love them. I’ve never even had one but every time I’ve been around one, I just adore them. One day though! 😀

    • Hi Nikki. I had a golden retriever years ago, and she’s still my favorite dog. She was wonderful with my baby chicks, the neighbor’s kids, easy to live with. They’re great dogs.

  6. Hi Jonni,
    I just wanted to ask if you can do a few tutorials on just painting the paper mache?
    I am getting fairly confident in my sculptures(thanks to you) but the painting is still daunting, especially for a dog with patches etc.

  7. Hi Jonni,
    Have you ever thought of polymer clay for your teeth? That way you can make an ideal size and shape. I must thank you for sharing your knowledge on this site and in your books of course! I have them all. I am working on my largest project yet using your paper mache clay as well as Creative Paper Clay for details. It’s a life size fairy sitting on a giant toadstool. There is a lot going on under the toadstool as a family of mice tend to their garden. I am not finished yet though, I still have face details, the wings and a maybe an embellishment on the dress to do. Nevertheless I am still sharing with you. Thanks again!

    • Your fairy and friends are lovely, Suzy. Very nice detail.

      And yes, I thought about the polymer clay, but at the size I was working with, it would have required a magnifying glass. I didn’t want to get quite that carried away. I think I’m lazier than you are. 😉

      • What about a grain of rice? Pointy, yes, perhaps too pointy for your idea, especially if a fennel seed is too much. Maybe arborial rice, that is rounder. You could seal it easily enough. Or, perhaps, and I know this sounds nuts, but what about a dried minced onion? Just ideas…

          • I’m still not sure about the teeth, because I still haven’t painted the poor little guy. But, like all Goldens, he’s waiting patiently for me to get around to it. Maybe this week.

          • Would anybody be interested in making a paper mache dog from a picture for me as a gift for someone i know? Its a small breed dog and id talk to you further about it if anyone is interested? Id be willing to pay whatever you were asking. Id need it before june 25th. Please email me at Thank you!

        • Good ideas, Ann. I did have fun going through my spice rack to find itty bitty teeth. No rice or dried onions on hand, though… 🙂

  8. Jonni, that’s a great effect with the feathers. Congratulations on the kitchen, as well.

    I love how your cat seems to keep looking at the tiny dog in your hand at the end of the video. Jealously?

  9. I love the feathering technique! That so imaginative, I’m seeing other applications for it already. Thank you for sharing. I’m amazed at how much detail you packed into such a small sculpture- I like the teeth. Is it my imagination or are they more pointy in one picture than the other? The last photo looks like the fennel seed, is that correct? By the way, Your cat is so sweet, she’s great!

    • I think the camera is deceiving you, but they may seem more pointy in the video because I added a thin strip of paper towel and paste in front of them, for the lip, and then used two coats of heavy gesso over everything. I just looked at the real teeth, and they aren’t pointy, and I didn’t use the fennel seed. They will, I hope, show up better once I get them painted, and the white teeth have a dark mouth and lip for contrast. When I look at them up close, they look more like people teeth than dog teeth (no canines), so maybe I should have used them for a tiny little person instead! 😉

      • Oh, that makes sense, thank you. I’m really looking forward to the finished project!
        Regarding the cleaning of your scissors while working: when I encounter similar circumstances, I keep a cup of warm water (with a couple drops of mineral oil) near by and when I’m not using the scissors or knife, I keep them in the water. Then when I need to use them, I press them into a towel to dry off any excess water. I hope that helps.

  10. Jonni, what a great technic. Thank’s for sharing. I am imagining all kinds of projects we could use this technic for. Your Retriever looks great, I was surprised to see how small he is, and have so much detail, WOW. These dogs will appeal to lots of people for their size. Some people are intimidated by the big size of paper mache projects. This may get more people interested in the great world of paper mache. I will be buying this book for sure 🙂 Thank’s once again for sharing, you are a fantastic mentor.

  11. Hi Jonni- He turned out really cute and the feathering looks great. I bet that same technique could be used on the finer feathers of birds as well. We are always learning!
    As for the teeth, it was difficult to see the teeth on the video. In the pic above, it looks like you kept the canines and it looks good. One would see at least the bottom canines on an actual dog in that pose, so my vote is to keep them. Thanks for sharing and good luck with the book. It seems very labor intensive.

  12. Hi Jonni,
    I watched your tutorials several months ago and learned a lot! A friend asked me if I knew how to create a paper mache dog (Boxer), I said no but I would try, so I found your site and learned how. I’ve been sculpting Boxers ever since. I’ve made 10 dogs and one faux bronze head study so far. I would like to send pictures of the dogs to you, but the photos are too big. If I had an address or PO box I’d send it to you. I’m not very computer savy other wise I’d probably know how to figure it out. I really wanted you to know how much I appreciate your talent and generosity in teaching others such a wonderful form of art.

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