Paper Mache Octopus

This paper mache octopus and the guest post below were created by Cindy Williams. Thanks, Cindy!

The story of the paper octopus.

©2020 Cindy Williams

Octopuses are amazing animals. They have three hearts and a donut shaped brain. Their blood is copper based (instead of iron based), thereby making it blue. They can change the color and shape of their skin instantaneously. An octopus can squeeze down to fit through an opening the size of its eye, which is the only inflexible part of its body. And perhaps best of all, it’s OK to say octopuses or octopi.

So of course, I had to make one out of paper! The project started with crumpled newspaper and masking tape. I wrapped wire coat hangers with tin foil to make the tentacles. All my projects tend to start from computer pictures and simple beginnings.

Doing research for the paper mache octopus

Next, I got a basic feel for how the octopus would sit on the wall by literally taping it to the wall.

Creating the armature for a paper mache octopus

Once I had a general sense of how that would work, I took all the tentacles off, beefed them up as needed with more tin foil and tape and then used shop towels to paper mache them.

Creating the octopus arms

Once the tentacles were dry, I found it necessary to label them with numbers, or I would hopelessly mix them up. Then with some hot glue and tape, I attached the tentacles to the body. Since space was limited where the tentacles all came together, I attached one or two arms at a time, applied paper mache, and let them dry before attaching more. After all the tentacles were on, it was time to paper mache the body too. Once that was all done, I threw it on the wall again to make sure it still had the right look. If a tentacle didn’t sit right, I would simply make a cut all around where I wanted it to pivot, swivel it around, tape it up, and paper mache it in the correct position.

Paper mache added to the octopus

Now for some details. The webbing between tentacles is done by stringing wire between them and then using shop towels to mache the web space. The little frills on the arms are pieces of tin foil taped on then paper mached.

Adding frills to the octopus sculpture

Octopuses swim by squirting water out of a siphon, which is kind of like nature’s little underwater jet propeller. I made a little siphon out of crumpled up newspaper and tape. Then I paper mached the siphon shape, let it dry, cut it in half, hollowed it out, and paper mached the hollowed out siphon. To date, the siphon remains free – it can be pulled out! Also, at this stage I drew some guidelines on the legs for the suction cups to follow.

Octopus sculpture with siphon

It seems as though every paper mache project I do has some repetitive, time consuming element to it and this project provided me with hours of work as I made over 400 suction cups. To do this I picked three pipes of different sizes. The biggest suction cups were made by taking a piece of PVC pipe, taping a single sheet of newspaper to it (to prevent the paper mache from directly contacting the pipe and thus sticking to it), and applying paper mache to the PVC pipe. When it was dry, the paper mache tube slid off the PVC pipe and could then be cut into dozens of little circles. I took these hollow circles and one by one hot glued them to the tentacles. Then I came back and paper mached each circle, and poked a little hole in it too… cause you know, that’s how octopus suckers look. Repeat times 400.

Making suckers for the octupus sculpture

Sculpting suckers on the paper mache octopus

To make the head look better, I added some tin foil fins, taped them in place and paper mached them. I also added a little texture to the head and eye area by using home-made paper mache clay.

Adding texture to the octopus

I ordered glass octopus eyes online (where apparently you can get anything, including glass octopus eyes) and used a resin clay to get them to fit just right. The resin clay is called Magic Sculpt and I love it for eyes because it air dries and is easy to work with.

Glass eyes for the octopus

Then it was painting and more painting. My paint strategy includes picking out a few colors then working light to dark, wiping areas with a paper towel to get an awesome shading effect. I also discovered that a neat effect occurs when you water paint down – it produces spots, which in the case of an octopus, I found fitting. From here it was just patience and persistence until I finally had it all done. Thanks for reading this. I always get a kick out of how rough these projects start out – it feels like turning trash into art!

Painting the paper mache octopus

Paper mache octopus

Octopus sculpture on the wall

Highly Detailed Paper Mache Octopus

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44 thoughts on “Paper Mache Octopus”

  1. Just amazing!!! About how many hours do you estimate you spent on this project total? I bet it was hundreds!

    Reply
  2. That has to be the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time. You did an amazing job on it! Thank you for going into such detail on your tutorial. I agree with all the earlier comments, it’s an awesome octopus!

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  3. Absolutely the best write-up of a paper mache project and especially if an octopus, which I have thought vaguely of tackling myself. It wS the suckers that put me off!

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  4. Wow, wow, wow! Talk about octopus knowledge! Talk about the patience it took to make this guy! Super sculpture and great tutorial. Thanks for thinking of taking progress pics and sharing with us.

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  5. Great job, very realistic, thanks for sharing your work. P where is the place you said you can buy all kinds of eyes ?
    Thanks , Sugi

    Reply
    • I bought these eyes on Etsy. Searched for “octopus eyes” – turns out, there’s actually quite a few options!

      Reply
  6. Great Job Cindy! I love to watch all of you artists work! It may motivate me to do something someday. Love paper mache!!
    Has anyone found away of making paper mache that is weather proof? I am a gardener and would love to create pieces for my garden.
    We are in the deep freeze here in Alberta. -34C today. Hope spring comes early this year!!
    Have a good one everyone!

    Reply
  7. I’m sitting at my table smiling after reading your “how to make an octopus “. Awesome job. Your idea of hanging it on a wall really works with the way you developed the tentacles.

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  8. Amazing!!! And many other words of astonishment, I’m basically speechless! What a labor of love and dedication! Not to mention the sheer artistry. I love your Octopus, your good humor, and I share the love of ocean life. But I’m curious if you “just” have a passion for sealife or if you’re in the business? What a wonderful creature, Thank you for sharing your process.

    Reply
    • Hi Susan, thanks for your comments. My initial interest in the octopus comes from a little joke I have with my mom. We try to out do one another by naming all the animals we can think of in another language. We started this game years ago when I asked her the word for octopus in Spanish, and the answer, “pulpo,” still sends us both into hysterics to this day. On a more serious note, once I started the octopus I became fascinated by all the cool facts I learned about these creatures. My next project could very well be a nautilus. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Oh. My. That is one of the most beautiful and perfect works of art I have ever seen. It is incredible. You are so gifted… thank you so much for sharing your very inspiration work.
    (Did I mention, I actually quite like this..? Oh good. Just so you know 😀 )

    Reply
  10. WOWSERS! That’s brilliant! That’s the most lifelike critter I’ve ever seen made from paper mache! Well done and thanks for sharing! I bet he’s scary in the dark hanging from your wall with those beady eyes!

    Reply

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