I’m doing an experiment today. I’m covering a damp clay sculpture with paper mache, because I want to ship the paper mache head to my Dad in Washington. The water-based clay is heavy, and it would probably get ruined if I tried to ship it anyway.
I’m using the fast-setting paper mache paste and shop towels that I use for my paper mache masks, but I’ve never tried using them over anything other than modeling clay or Super Sculpey — and I’ve never tried using them on a piece that will need to be cut apart and put back together again after the clay has been removed. I sealed the wet clay with wax, but I won’t know until tomorrow if the wax sealed it well enough to allow the paper mache head to dry.
We know that paper mache over modeling clay works for masks, but if we can also get it to work in the round, (if the pieces go back together again without the shape getting distorted), it means we could make a permanent copy of any clay sculpture without first making a complicated multi-part mold and pouring plaster – or firing them in a kiln, or hiring the services of a bronze foundry. Cheap art, simple art, without armatures made out of crumpled paper or masking tape. I like it.
Just in case this paper mache head experiment actually works, I hope you’ll start thinking about how we could use this process for other sculptures, and how we could fill the hole left after the clay is removed. Small sculptures could be left hollow, but larger ones would need some inner support. Ideas?