A short time ago Eileen Gallagher posted a photo of her “Desert Dweller” mask, made with recycled cardboard, and several of us asked her to write a guest post so we could see the entire process. She graciously agreed. Her post is below.
Recently I have been fooling around with a variation of Jonni’s paper mache clay. Instead of using toilet paper, I tried recycled cardboard, or maybe it is pressed cardboard. I got a small appliance that was packed in this material and when I saw it, I was intrigued with the texture and wondered what I could do with a rougher texture. Jonni is a great one for experimenting so I thought I would take a cue from her and try something new.
- recycled or pressed cardboard
- Elmer’s glue
- Boiled linseed oil
- drill with attached paint mixer bit
- colander or sieve
Step 1– obtain some recycled or pressed cardboard.(pic 1)
Step 2- soak the pieces in warm water to soften. It will soften up nicely as soon as it gets wet. This makes step 3 easier.
Step 3- break up the oddly shaped pieces into small pieces. Soak over night in the water to ensure it soaks through all the cardboard.
Step 4- the next day, gather your supplies and tools.
Step 5- drain the saturated cardboard and slightly squeeze out most of the water. You will find tiny bits of plastic and different colored paper in it. This is OK, I removed the plastic as I was sculpting but just left the bits of colored paper as I knew I would be painting over it anyway. It will look clumpy at this stage.
Step 6- place wet cardboard back into the basin and add about 1/3 cup Elmer’s glue and 2 TBS linseed oil. Then using the drill with paint mixer attachment, mix until all the cardboard is shredded to a consistency that you think you can work with, perhaps about 10 minutes. The finished product will clump together into a ball much like Jonni’s clay. Add more glue if you want it smoother.
Step 7- start applying to your armature. You will need to use your hands for this (wear gloves if you object to the linseed oil), tools felt too clumsy and it was difficult to get it to stay together at first. You can go back and add the detail after you have much of it applied. You will also need to put a thicker layer on than Jonni’s clay. I did about a 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Go back and add details with tools if desired at this stage. In this pic I used a plastic mask covered with saran wrap and applied some clay to it. The left side has some textures added with tools.
After you have the basic armature covered as you would like, let dry with a fan or by a heating vent. It takes a lot longer to dry than Jonni’s clay. Perhaps 24 hrs.
If you have more details that you would like to add, you can put more on after it dries. It takes some effort to make it adhere to the dried cardboard but is easily done with a bit of watered down glue. Also, If you want a smoother clay, simply add more glue and mix it well. The texture comes out almost as smooth as Jonni’s clay.
Some differences from Jonni’s clay- it takes longer to dry, comes out much rougher in texture, it seems lighter in weight, the junctures where you added wet to dry may be more noticeable if you are not careful.
Here are the 2 projects I have completed with this cardboard clay:
The cross was completed in several layers. I covered the whole armature first, let dry, then added the Celtic knot features on top. It was probably harder to sculpt the details using this clay but I wanted that weathered look….and got it.
The mask was done putting a thick layer of this clay on the face using a plastic mask as the armature, and carving out the textures while the first layer was still wet. When that was dry, I added the clothing armature with newspaper and used much more glue to the cardboard pulp to get a burlap type texture. The difference between the 2 textures really helped make the piece.
With both of these pieces, after they dried, I did a layer of gesso, and painted with acrylic paint, then varnish as usual.
So, that’s it. I would be glad to clarify or answer any questions. Sometime when you need a more weathered look to a sculpture, I hope you try it out.