Paper Mache Clay Santa
I made this Santa several years ago during my first blizzard after moving to the Midwest. It was a fun project, and really got me into the mood of the holidays. You’ll see from the comments below that this is an older post, but it was time to give him some updates.
Besides – when does Santa go out of style?
I’m not sure what to call this project, exactly. Is it a wall sculpture? A mask? If your front door is protected from rain, snow and wind, you could put him there, to welcome your holiday guests. Then what would he be – a wreath replacement?
So, I decided to stop dithering, and I’m calling it a Santa Portrait Mask.
My Santa is about 12″ tall, but you can make your Santa any size you like. He’s built over a simple form made out of crumpled paper, a plastic bag with a few strips of masking tape, some wet clay (you could use any modeling clay, too), and plastic wrap. Then I finished him with paper mache clay. You could use paper strips and paste instead, but it wouldn’t be as easy to get the details. Another option is the Smoother Air Dry Clay recipe, if you like to add finer details and you want a smoother surface on Santa. (By the way, you can now find all of my special recipes if you click on the Art Library link at the top of the site.)
You can paint your Santa with acrylic paints.
I started out by stuffing some crumpled paper inside a plastic bag, and then I taped the bag to my worktop. The shape was somewhat Santa-like, with a wider bottom than top because of the beard.
Then I added a thin layer of wet clay from the pottery supply store to the basic form, so I could work out a bit more detail before starting in with the paper mache clay. I prefer using the WED clay for projects like this, because it doesn’t dry out as fast as normal wet clay, so you have longer to work. Unfortunately, my local pottery supply store doesn’t carry it, and the shipping costs for wet clay are way too high if you only want to do one project. My next choice would be Sargent Art Plastilina, because it’s quite soft and easy to use (and much cheaper than most oil-based clay), and you can use it again for another project once you’re done with Santa.
You can see from the photo above that I didn’t get carried away with any details, and I made no attempt to smooth out the shapes. I did that when I added the paper mache clay. Besides, the plastic wrap would cover most fine details, anyway. I did add the hat, depressions for the eye sockets, the nose, cheeks, and mustache.
The wet clay was covered with some plastic wrap to separate it from the paper mache clay that will go on top.
The paper mache clay then goes on over the plastic wrap. I used a very thin layer, except where I sculpted the eyes. If you’re making a waterproof Santa so you can put him on your front door, use Apoxie Sculpt for this step. You would need to apply it with your fingers instead of a knife, and you’ll want to use gloves.
To make the eyes, I just made a balls out of aluminum foil, pressed them into the wet paper mache clay, and covered them with a thin layer of the PM clay. Then I added a thin strip of PM clay for the upper eyelid, and used a knife to create a thin lower lid at the bottom of each eyeball.
The last step was to add some texture for the beard. While the paper mache clay is still damp, you can use a lightly damp sponge to smooth the face. You can also use a knife dipped in a mixture of white glue and water (the mixture makes the knife slick, so it slides over the paper mache clay).
Santa, Before Painting:
Allow your Santa to dry for several days. He will dry faster if you put him in front of a fan, or over a heating vent. When my Santa was dry, I removed the paper and clay form, pulled out the plastic wrap, and then I added another thin layer of paper mache clay to the underside. I did this because there were a few spots where my first layer was much too thin. The additional layer on the back took care of that, and it made the piece strong enough to hold up–I figured it would be going in and out of boxes for storage, and I wanted it to be extra-strong. I used the back of a spoon to add the layer on the back, so I could reach into the deepest parts and make it reasonably smooth. After that, he needs to dry again, but it will go faster this time.