Pedro’s Unique Paper Mache Pigeon

pedro-tnSeveral weeks ago our friend Pedro Rodrigues from Lisbon showed us some unique paper mache sculptures he’d made that looked like birds with human faces. His sculpting techniques are just as unique as the sculptures themselves, so I asked him to show us how they were made. (He does some amazing things with toilet paper!)

His article is below. Be sure to click on the photos to see the images in a larger size. And thanks, Pedro!

©2015 Pedro Rodrigues

Hi Jonni!

Sorry it took so long, but I’m sure you know that working on creative work isn’t as consistent as it should (time wise).

Thank you for your invitation on writing an article and, of course, to all who commented the previous pieces!

Indeed I did a swallow but when I saw your invitation to write an article the swallow was already started and nevertheless I thought it could be a little bit too “simple” technique wise, so I decided to make a pigeon.

Here in Lisbon there are lots and because they are always being fed they are always in the mood for love, so I wanted to portray one male pigeon whilst dancing to conquer his bride to be.

So now the “how to”.

I decided to number the photos and describe the steps, thought it is an easy way to write down and show the process.

Photo 1 – first I always start with a balloon armature with 3 layers of newspaper glued with flour (made my peace with flour glue because I noticed that for simple layers it doesn’t get moldy as in thick pastes).

Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 1
Photo 2 –This is the half a rubber ball armature which I used to make the neck.
Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 2
Photo 3 – From a kinder surprise egg I made the back of the head. Didn’t took photo but the neck was made with a roll of paper stuck on the figure and the face is made out from a silicone cast shape  that I made for faces (for another project that I’m working on for over two years).
Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 3
Photo 4 – As you can see the main figure is assembled.
Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 4
Photo 5 – Cardboard for the wings and tail.

Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 5
Photo 6 – Aluminum foil glued into the face to “sketch” the nose, mouth and the brows area.
Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 6
Photo 7 – So now I start to model the outer face with rolls of toilet paper. Toilet paper is just an amazing material because although it looks fragile, its really strong if you know how to deal with, plus its amazingly plastic too!

The technique though is easy. I start by covering the area with white glue and then set the rolls of toilet paper and give another good brush of glue on them. After dried I cover the roll with a piece of plain sheet depending on the texture I want. either still wet or half dried you can smear it in order to create either texture or layer.

On this photo though I’m only building the neck shape.
Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 7
Photo 8 – So now I have the head and the crop done and ready to dry. It doesn’t matter if you put another layer before the first dries because its glue anyway. Normally a layer takes 30min to 1 hour to dry (we’ve been having a nice warm spring!).
Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 8
Photos 9a and b – The tail was made, like I said, with cardboard structure and with toilet paper rolls and then after dried all was covered with plain sheets of the same material (on 9b I had to redesign the tail.
Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 9

Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 9b
Photo 10a and b – The wings effect was made also with toilet paper rolls but this time I’ve bent them to create a nice wavy effect. For the rest of the wing I glued a sheet of toilet paper and reversed the direction thus its aspect.

Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 10

Paper Mache Bird Man, Step 10
Photo 11 – The legs are made with two rolls of newspaper stuck on the figure and on the base (again from another half rubber ball), feet are made with rolls of toilet paper and a air drying nail. Then I glue sheets of the same paper and depending on the security of the legs I add some air drying modeling paste and at the end I cover all with liquid cold porcelain.

Paper Mache Bird Man Step 11

Photo 12 – After I modeled the face with air drying modeling paste and after finished as well as the whole piece, I coat the base with liquid cold porcelain (just a simple mix of potato starch and white glue) to avoid lumps and in some fragile parts of the sculpture because once dried it will help to make it harder (on this one I covered the wings and, as written above, the legs).

Paper Mache Bird Man Step 12

Last but not the least I paint with acrylic colours and normally give a coat of varnish (not as much for protection, more for its shinny effect! 🙂

Paianting the paper mache bird man sculpture

In the middle of it I started to feel a bit bothered because I was already seeing some sort of “factory” looking all a bit the same, so I decided to go a bit wild (paint wise) and … don’t really know who he is, just doesn’t look the “macho man” I had in mind when I started it! Eh eh eh




Please feel free to ask if there is anything to clarify!

Many thanks, warmest regards from Portugal,


13 thoughts on “Pedro’s Unique Paper Mache Pigeon”

  1. Really, really cool, Pedro!!!! Thank u so much for sharing. I love these chicken men. They look so creepy and natural at the same time!!

    I have a question for you. Will this toilet paper technique work for creating fur?? If so, how would I manipulate the TP before adding to my clay form?

    Thanks again,

    • Hi Jen, thanks!
      I agree with you, I’m still not quite sure what to think of them, but I wanted them to look cute, I guess they decided to come to the world with some other “cuteness” within, eh eh eh
      Regarding the paper, well, depends on what you want to do actually … Im planning to do a koala bear soon (no human face, promise!)and for the fur I will use thinner “TP” rolls and place them as you can see in the pigeon’s neck.
      If by the other hand you want to create other texture you first aplly glue to the thing you want the fur to be placed in and then just grab a big amount of paper and crease it and place it randomly on the figure, then you play with a brush´s cable and do more relief if you want. When the paper is dried it will maintain the form that you gave it.
      The image below has that technique on the white fur to suggest the royal mantle (these dolls are mixed media but with lost of paper mache involved 🙂

      • Hi Pedro. The image you tried to upload to your comment didn’t work, unfortunately. I know we all want to see it, so could you try again? The image may have been too big.

        • Oh, lets try again then!
          This picture shows other possibilities with toilet paper. You see, these dolls have a paper strips, the volume is done with papercrete, then faces are air drying moddeling paste. As you can see on his shirt and cape the folds are t.paper, his beard and eyebrows are tp (by the way, beards and hair painted with watercolour whilst the t.paper is still soaked give wonderful effects!)
          This historical portraying goes on since two years from now, im always upgrading technical wise, now I’m planning to leave papercrete (as it takes “lots” to dry) and do volumes with a bit more of paper strips and t.paper. As im so eager to portray ALL probably it will help me to move a little bit faster 😀

  2. Potato starch is a Jewish Passover product sold in supermarkets around Passover in March and beginning of April (around Easter).

  3. Thank you for this demonstration! I am anxious to try integrating some toilet paper details into some new work. It’s very cool and so is your pigeon!

  4. Hi Christine, hi all!

    Many thanks to Jonni first of all, then let me tell you that it was a pleasure sharing with you my way and also an privilege to be asked to do so.

    Toilet paper is really an awsome material. Today I started something new which is, upon a paper stripes armature, totally modeled with several layers of toilet paper (either rolls or balls) and from now on I guess it will be “my angel, my all, my other self” as I used to model with papercrete (which takes a lot of time to dry and soaked toilet paper doesnt!)

    Cold porcelain, Christine, is very very simple, I just mix 1 measure of starch with 3 of white glue, then stir and aply. If you prefer a bit more liquid add another meausre of glue to it. Eitherway its a mix that dries rather fast (like plaster!)
    (also tried cold porcelain mixed with plaster and ciment but …. lets just stick with starch and the glue (eventually one drop of (any) oil)!

  5. Pedro, this is so cool and I agree with Jonni, this is a new way to use toilet paper in paper mache sculptures. It gives me an idea on how to use this to finish my stalled project that has been a bane on my creative juices. That one dried up and now, I may go back to it. Do you have your recipe for cold porcelain you could share?

    • Very intriguing Pedro! I love your use of the toilet paper to achieve the feathery effect on the wings, head and neck. I am confused though when you spoke of potato starch. I can not figure what that is. What is it used for besides making cold porcelain? Would it be the same thing as corn starch? Similar? This was a neat, well thought out post. Thanks for sharing.

      • Hi Eileen, thanks for commenting!
        Potato starch is starch but from potatoes. not from from … corn!
        The thing with potato starch though is that its much much much cheaper than the other starch.
        I enjoy cooking very very much but to tell you the truth I never used potato starch on anything else than art wise … but im sure its used like the other one. 🙂
        Thank you!


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