In a recent comment on this blog, Diann McDonald showed us several of her sculptures, including this one. Because we get a lot of questions about how to make paper mache houses, and Diann’s delightfully whimsical Once in a Blue Moon sculpture includes several, I asked her if she’d be willing to show us how it was done. Now I’ll turn this page over to her… Thanks, Diann!
©2015 Diann McDonald
I must begin with thanking Jonni for inviting me to do a guest post on her web site. It is an honour and a privilege. Preparing this article for you was fun and a learning experience as well. I have come away learning something myself, and that is, Jonni makes giving tutorials and writing how-to articles/books look so much easier than it is. Lol!
In this how-to I will be showing you how I created my Once in a Blue Moon project. This was a fun sculpture to create and to use the mâché clay in different ways to produce the different textures I wanted for each form. I will also talk about the use of the tole paints and how I achieved the finish on the individual pieces.
Let’s get started!
My first step is to sketch the idea on to paper so that I can see a more concrete picture of my sculpture. This helps me visualize the sculpture though I may not complete the project exactly like the sketch, it gives me a starting point.
Step 2 – I now choose which part I want to do first.
In this project I chose the moon so that I could determine how large the overall sculpture would be. I really don’t worry much about correct scale as I feel it adds a little whimsy to the over all piece if things aren’t exact.
To start I drew a crescent moon on paper and transferred that to foam core and cut them out. Next I attached the two pieces together with a strip of light weight card board ( cereal box) and masking tape along the back of the moon. I then filled the moon with crumpled up phone book pages ( I find this paper easier to crumple smaller) and then sealed the front edges with another strip of card board and masking tape. I then covered the whole moon in tape. It is 8 x7 inches.
Now comes the fun gooey part of adding the paper strips and flour paste. I know that some people will add the paper clay directly to the structure but for some of my pieces I like to have a paper strip base for added support. Since I was going to be adding clay I only put on three layers of phone book paper. Then I dried it over night.
When the moon was dry I covered it in a medium thick layer of CelluClay. This clay when dry is rougher than Jonni’s and gave me the look I wanted for the moon. I did not sand but left it as it was. Sanding after all is not my favourite part of mâché work. Next I decided what position I wanted the moon resting in and drilled a hole for the rod. I have discovered that using the drill is quite fun! I glued the wooden rod in place with wood glue.
Step 4 – Time now to paint the moon.
I use the small bottles of tole paint for all my projects. They are reasonable in price and come in a large variety of colours. You can mix them and lighten or darken as you want. I do not use a gesso or primer before painting.
In order to achieve the colouring I wanted for the moon I started with a base coat of navy blue. When this was dry I covered it with a wash of turquoise. For the wash I diluted the paint with water and then sponged it over the moon and rubbed it off lightly with paper towel. The wash fills in the indented areas and gives the shadowing effect I like.The final coat of paint was again a wash but of light blue this time. I sealed the finished moon with a water based varnish.
Step 5 – On now to the house.
I constructed the house with foam core and masking tape. I wanted a thin house not something square and bulky so I measured it out to three inches in depth from front to back with the height to the peak of the roof 7 and 1/2 inches. The walls measure 6 inches tall to the roof edge by 5 and 1/2 inches wide. All pieces are rectangles except for the side pieces which are shaped into a point at the top to form the peak of the roof. I taped all pieces together with the masking tape to form the base of the house.
Once the sides, front and back were taped together I attached the roof. These pieces are 3 inches by 6. Here is where it can get a little tricky to fit them to the base structure but with patience and readjusting you can assemble the roof to the fit you want.
Now that the main part of the house is completed I added the small side section. I only cut one side piece as this section is butted against the main structure. This of course measures smaller but is assembled in the same way. The front and back are 4 x 41/2. The side is 2x 5 inches to the peak with the roof 2 x 4 3/4 inches.
Once the whole house was assembled I measured and cut out the windows ( 2in x 2in for the main house and 1.5 x 1.5 for the add on ) and then applied Jonni’s clay to the roof. To create the look of shingles on the roof I used a paring knife to score lines in the soft clay to resemble the shingles. The roof was painted a light grey colour and then a wash of black was applied twice. Hint- If you find you have added two much of your wash simply repaint it in your base coat and start again. Sometimes a darker shade of your base for your wash rather than black may be what you need to achieve the results you are looking for.
Step 6 -Adding the cobblestones.
This step is the most time consuming part of the whole sculpture. I did not realize how much clay or time it would take to cover the house but I soon found out. Make sure you have a full recipe of Jonni’s clay ready as these stones use up a lot. I started off by applying a thin layer of water diluted white craft glue at the bottom of the house in about a 1 inch strip. Then I took a small piece of clay ( about the size of a bean) and rolled ever so slightly into a ball. I did not make the ball perfectly round as the stones would look too uniformed. I then pressed this lightly to flatten it to the glue area to create the stone. Working from one side to the other I created a row of stones that were just touching each other slightly. On the second row I placed the stone above the space where the bottom two touched. I continued in this way of first applying glue then stones and row by row filled in the house. Sometimes smaller stones were needed to fill in areas around the edge of the roof or windows.
To form the window and door frames I rolled clay logs and placed them around the opening against the stones. I then flattened these to create the look of wood. The house was now set aside to dry.
Step 7 – It is now time to paint.
For the base coat I used a light tan colour with dark brown for the windows and door frames. This was then covered in a black wash and I was disappointed at how it looked. It was not what I was after and was too dark. So I applied a medium grey wash and rubbed it off removing some of the black with it. I was now happy with the results. It seemed to me that windows made the house look vacant and deserted so I glued a plastic sheet to the inside. This gave a bit of reflection and gave the house a more lived-in look.
House is now complete or so I thought when I realized that I had not added the chimney. That led to step 8
Using an old piece of bamboo that I had in my found-object stash, I cut this on my miter box with an angle at the bottom so it would lay flush with the roof and painted then red. Voila! I now have a chimney.
Step 9 – It was time now to construct the little cottage on the moon for the man who lives there.
This was created in the same way as the other house with the foam core. It measures 3 inches high and 4 inches wide and is only 1inch in depth. The roof is 21/4 x 3. To achieve the brick look I scored the clay with the knife. It was painted in red with a black wash on top. The window and door are painted tissue paper and glued on. For the chimney I again went to my found objects stash and used a hex key or Allen key as some call it. I drilled a hole in the side and glued the key in place. For the cap I used a self covering button.
I drilled a hole in the moon and one in the bottom of the house and used a wooden dowel to attach the house.
Step 10 – It is now ready to assemble.
I painted the base black with a very light coat of blue to represent the glow of the moon and added a bit of glitter to the roof and base. I hammered two nails from the bottom of the base to the top at opposite corners of the house, added glue to the nails and placed the house over the nails. The nails went into the foam core to secure the house in place.
I drilled a hole for the moon’s dowel and glued in place with wood glue. Did I tell you I love using the drill? Now for the last step.
The tree was made by wrapping three pieces of 18 gauge wire together for the trunk and then taping smaller pieces on for the branches. It was covered in full masking tape and then in mâché paste and paper strips from a novel. The leaves were painted using tole paint, cut out and glued in place. A touch of glitter was applied. I again drilled a hole in the base and glued the tree in place.
The star garland was make with stars cut from card stock and 26 gauge wire wrapped on the pole. The completed base, garland and tree were given three coats of varnish.
Wow! I had no idea that I had that many steps in creating my project! I guess when you enjoy something you don’t stop to think about what it takes to get there you simply enjoy the journey. I hope you have many wonderful art filled journeys ahead for you. Take care and make art!
Just Me ,