Paper Mache Starfish

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African Animals Pattern Set.
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when you buy this three-pattern set. Use the patterns to create memorable gifts, or to bring a little bit of Africa to your own home

sea starThis little starfish gave me an opportunity to play around with an idea I got from Jessie a few days ago. She was talking about range hoods (there was a perfectly good reason for that), and she mentioned the nice patina you can get by adding vinegar and salt to copper. Then I happened to notice an image of a starfish on Wikipedia, and the lighter green/blue color of the starfish looked like the same color as copper patina. What a great excuse to play with my copper coating!

Before I made this little guy I didn’t realize that starfish are called Sea Stars by a lot of people. I like that name better. It’s more romantic, or something.

As you can tell from the photos in the video, I didn’t come close to the colors and shapes of the real starfish, because I was really just playing around. But the paper mache version is “starfishy,” I think. Close enough, anyway. And it was fun to make.

And that’s what counts, right? 😉


23 thoughts on “Paper Mache Starfish”

  1. Hello Jonni,
    I accidentally ran into your incredible website because I just made a fiber glass Star mold and I made a gesso star out of it but turn out very heavy so I wonder if I can make one out of your air dry clay recipie but don´t know if I have to use any kind of oil or grease to kkep the clay from stiking to the mold. Any ideas?

    • Hi Juan. I’ve never used the air dry clay with a fiber glass mold, but I would think a release would be a good idea. Do a small test piece first, just to make sure you can get the dried clay out of the mold. I think it should work, but there’s really only way to find out – by trying it.

  2. Oh! I would love to do a whole 3D wall art thing with starfish and sea horses (is that right?) and maybe some little ocean snails! This has definitely kick started some ideas for my daughter’s sea-themed room:) Thank you so much for this post!

  3. Cool!!! It is so beautiful…whether you call it a starfish or sea star, it is wonderful. What does Jessie think about it?
    I remember when the science community started pushing for “sea star” over “starfish” because it isn’t a ‘fish.’
    You are familiar with ceramics and pottery…many artist use salt during different stages of firing and get some beautiful effects. The same with copper (copper matte is my favorite, if you’ve never seen any google it).
    Boy, talk about rambling on. I apologize, but your work always gets my brain a-sparkin. 🙂

    • What a cutie he is Tina. Did you use the air dry clay or the regular clay? You got it so smooth. There are no criticisms and you should be proud of your first endeavor! Make sure you put a small plate inside so the water that may spill from watering the plant doesn’t ruin your sculpture.
      Please come over to the Daily Sculpture page and post your next work. There are a bunch of regulars there and we help and encourage one another. It is wonderful.

      • Thanks Eileen… I used both the regular and the air dried clay. I coated him with the regular clay first then used the air dried for the finer details. I will post to the daily sculpture page next time.

  4. Beautiful sea star. I love the colors. I enjoy looking at all your projects; you are so inventive and talented.


  5. Hi Jonni,
    Here’s the elf planter I just finished. I started out with a balloon (his head) mounted it on an empty masking tape roll and a large coffee can (his body). I used crumpled paper to make his arms and legs and paper clay for the details. It took about 2 weeks to complete. Any constructive criticism is most welcome as I am a beginner.

    • Hi Tina. Your photo didn’t come through for some reason. Perhaps the size is too big? Please try again – I got to see your planter already, and I know others will want to see him, too.

      • Here’s a pic of the back of my elf planter. He’s 2.5′ tall. I started with a balloon (his head) an empty masking tape roll (his neck) and a large coffee can (his body). I used paper/paste to make arms/legs, filling out his face and body, then used paper clay for the details. Any construction criticism is most welcome. Love this site.

  6. Hi Jonni,
    That is pretty cool. I have never painted with copper paints. There appears to be many little tricks to them. You make it all look so easy 🙂

  7. You are really quite clever! I went online to check out what occurs when you mix vinegar, salt and copper. There were a lot of sites that kids use this to clean pennies. Below I copied and pasted the actual rationales.

    Our experiment used chemistry to create a chemical reaction which removed the oxide from
    the penny. The ingredients for our chemical reaction were acid acetic (vinegar) and sodium
    chloride (salt) . These two ingredients combined to form a new substance called hydrochloric
    acid. The acid removed the dullness and tarnish (oxide) from the penny. Once the oxide was
    gone the penny looked shiny and clean again.

    So, in all-we learn something new every day. This finish could be used to make sunken ships or sunken treasures. Really fun.

    • Interesting! I wonder why the same products can clean copper, and also cause it to turn green? I really like the idea of making a sunken treasure ship – wouldn’t that be a great conversation piece?

      • I think it has to do with the way the vinegar and salt oxidizes with the copper. Since you were using a copper “based” paint, which probably contains other ingredients as well, perhaps that is why you got the blue color. Apparently with the pennies, the vinegar and salt turns the penny black, then you wash it off and the penny is shiny again. Still a fun experiment- we can always count on you to think outside the box!

  8. Hello! Your website is fantastic. I’ve been looking around because I have a school event coming up where we decorate huge spaces in our gym by theme, and we’ve decided on the theme of USA. I, being slightly insane, came up with an idea to make a giant Mt. Rushmore sculpture – I’d use large cardboard boxes as a base, and then make huge faces, maybe 2 or more feet in diameter. This is a huge undertaking for me, and it’s probably not quite possible, but I’d still like to find out from a professional first.

    If I use Elmer’s glue for paste, how much would you recommend I buy? Additionally, what do you think would be the best method in order to make the faces? I’m not planning on making the sculpting too detailed, because we’ll be painting it as well. I’m also planning on making a large eagle as well, using a LOT of balled up newspaper so it’s around 5 feet long, but that one will be mostly vaguely sculpted, where details are going to be done with painting.

    I understand I’m describing huge, likely almost impossible projects, but any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated!!

    • Hi Miranda. Your project doesn’t sound impossible at all. I would build up the general mountain shapes, over the boxes, with either crumpled paper or chicken wire, and then use crumpled paper and tape for the faces. You can get as much detail as you want if you go slowly and add small bits of paper, the way you would if you were working with clay. Then cover the whole thing with your paper mache. I have no idea how much glue you’ll need, though. I would use a flour and water paste, because it’s less expensive and I think it’s actually easier to use.


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