Sculpting a Paper Mache Wolf Mask, Parts 3 and 4

wolf mask patternNote: The video on this page is part of a long series because it took a long time to make the sculpture and turn it into a mask. If you’d like a much faster start, check out my paper mache wolf mask pattern. Just print it, cut out the pieces and tape them together. Then you can use the techniques shown in the video series to embellish the mask and add detail, without needing to start from scratch.

And now, back to the original post:

I don’t usually put two videos on one post, but this time I thought it made the most sense. A few days ago I filmed myself working on the wolf’s ears while I talked. (That’s part 3.) Then I woke up the next morning and changed my mind about most of the things I said in that video. The second video above tells you why I disagreed with myself, and add the ruff around the canine’s cheeks. If you would like to see the video I disagreed with, it’s down below.

I was feeling a bit silly about the whole thing until I started reading a book that arrived in the mail yesterday – Designing the Doll: From Concept to ConstructionSculpting a Paper Mache Wolf Mask, Parts 3 and 4 by Susanna Oroyan. Jim Kransberger recommended it because of the way the author talks about the thinking processes involved in creating art.

And there, on almost the very first page, was this paragraph:

Artists can’t put the materials together to get the effect until they think out how they will do it. This thinking out is a pretty jumpy business. It jumps between ideas, techniques, and materials. It explores and rejects several solutions before picking the right one for the particular piece.

Yes, “jumpy” definitely described my thinking process – but I don’t usually have hundreds of people listening in as I make my artistic decisions, and then almost immediately change my mind…

So, you might not be all that interested in the first video on this post, unless you want to say hi to Banjo, who volunteered to be my model for this mask. (I’ll tell you why I was thinking about making a silicone mold in the next post).

First Video for the Day: How to Make a Paper Mache Wolf Mask, Part 3 – Refining the clay sculpture

In the next video I’ll use the clay model as a positive mold, and add two layers of the fast-setting paper mache. Then he’ll be painted and, if I like the way he comes out, I’ll put him on my wall.

I have some ideas about making flexible positive molds, which would only be useful to people who wanted to make quite a number of masks based on their own designs, perhaps to sell at art shows. If anyone is interested in that, let me know and I’ll pursue it a bit more. The molds would not be cheap, so you wouldn’t want to do it if you didn’t think you had something worth reproducing.

Also, since the books I love most are the ones that are recommended to me, feel free to mention the art books that you enjoy the most down in the comments section. I’d love to know what inspires you, and really gets the creative juices flowing.

Update: If you’d like to see all the other videos in this series, you can find them here:

And for those of you who don’t have time to watch the whole series, I made a much shorter version showing the highlights. You can find the short version of How to Make a Paper Mache Mask here.

13 thoughts on “Sculpting a Paper Mache Wolf Mask, Parts 3 and 4”

  1. Jonni,
    can you send me the youtube link for the wearable harlequin mask.
    thanks! have a great weekend.

  2. Hum.

    Thank you Jonni for the information. I’m going to be looking around. Can’t do much of anything else since foot is still in a cast.


  3. Jonni,

    I’ve gotten decent results in negative molds with something akin to strip paper … I was doing a face … so didn’t need details like fur. And I was using maps for the paper, so you can’t see the details quite as well … but here’s an example:



    I did this one about 12+ years ago when experimenting with molded paper and paper mache techniques. (They’re not that different, really). First I made a negative plaster cloth mold of my face, cast that in plaster (so a positive plaster cast), then used that to make a negative plaster mold.

    I started the experiments by making tin-can homemade paper sheets and then pressing layers of them into the mold. By pressing with a sponge I was able to get the paper into the crevices and details while also pressing out/soaking up some of the moisture.

    The tin can technique has you put torn paper in a blender to make the pulp that becomes your homemade paper. I soaked my paper before tearing it … and noticed that the characteristics of the soaked paper was similar to the homemade paper sheet, wet, pliable, easy to work.

    So I tried pressing a whole sheet of soaked paper in the mold.

    It worked. I liked it. It needed reinforcement in the back, so I added homemade paper sheets.

    I didn’t use paste in the first sheet (it’s just a soaked xerox of an old map), but I did add paste between the subsequent layers. I also rubbed the mold itself with a layer of butchers wax as a release agent before casting.

    There are a couple of things I’d do differently if I were to do it again, but I wanted to share it because I think negative molds are a possibility. At least for relatively simple shapes. Then the details (fur, bumps, etc.) can be added with clay, gesso, whatever — during the finishing stages.

    Also … my copy of the mask book came today and I love it. Haven’t mastered the tin foil face copying yet. How do you hold the tin foil long enough to know that it’s even on both sides?

    Might just do a direct plastercloth mold, since that’s what’s familiar to me. : )

    — b

    • Good information – thanks. Maybe I just need to give the negative molds another try.

      My tin foil mask form actually ended up a little uneven on the sides, but it’s obvious that the nose isn’t quite in the middle, so it doesn’t matter. If you’re comfortable making a mod with plaster cloth, go for it. I didn’t offer that as an option in the book because I was concerned that kids might try it, and not be careful enough to keep it out of their eyes. Any mask form, though, will work just fine. Be sure to let us see your masks when they’re done – I know you’ll come up with something exciting.

  4. Hallo Jonni!
    I would love to see how you do in order to mass produce the masks. Also waited to see how you would make the silicone mold to the wolf / dog. I want so much to learn. Looking forward to your project each day. Always exciting.
    Sending a picture of my 9 years old grandson who here has sculpted an angel with a bow in wax. He has autism, so he do not talk much but love to create. Right now, he wants to become a sculptor.
    Greetings Gisela

    • Hi Gisela. I can’t make a video of the silicone mold-making process, because it gets all over the plastic gloves you have to wear, and then I can’t turn the camera on and off. 😉 But there are some really good videos of the process out on YouTube. This one is by the folks who make the brush-on silicone. And I have a post about my previous mold attempts here. That mold came out well, but I decided I didn’t like the wolf. Now that I look at it again, I can’t remember why I didn’t like it. Maybe the human-like frown.

      Anyway, I haven’t been able to find a “real” paper mache product that works well inside negative molds. However, I was thinking that you could make a positive mold using flexible foam, and then you could have undercuts on your mask, under the nose, in the nostrils, etc., and still get the mask off the mold when it’s dry. It would be expensive, though.

      Your grandson’s sculpture is quite nice. He may be a famous sculptor someday.

  5. Okay, I’ve been thinking again. (I know it can be dangerous when I think but here goes…) It seems like you have changed your mind about making the negative mold mostly because, I think you said in one of the videos that, you like making the positive molds so much and that was why you’ve changed your mind. Fair enough. With me being so new to paper mache and sculpture and all I might have misunderstood the point of making the negative mold in the first place. I thought the point of the negative mold was so you could easily make many Wolf masks that you could sell on this site or another site. And the negative mold would allow you to keep all the fine details of the Wolf mask.

    The questions you asked in a previous blog seemed to be pointing in the direction of you selling your masks online. Which I thought was a great idea. But now by not making the negative mold you are going to have a one of a kind mask. If you are still planning on selling your masks online “One Of A Kind” (OOAK) items do fetch a higher price than items that are reproduced. But OOAK items are a lot more time consuming to make.

    So I really think it would be in your best interest to pursue your idea of making a flexible positive mold. It could give you the best of both worlds scenario. Giving you a base to work with and still with every mask you create allow your creativity to shine in different ways with the details of each mask. Also each mask would still be OOAK since there is no way to duplicate every detail exactly.

    • Yes, the flexible positive mold is exactly what I was thinking. But I don’t think I want to go into the mask-making business. That’s what I thought I might pursue, just as an experiment to see what it takes to sell art online, but I reconsidered. Simply because I don’t want to turn myself into a factory. I’ve done that before, and was successful at it, but I gave it up because I spend all my time making the same thing over and over again. I like making the first one, but the 15th one is just plain boring. I think that commercial mask-making companies usually separate the design and production.

      If someone did want to make masks for a living, which I think is quite doable (there’s a whole store in downtown Portland, OR completely dedicated to masks) I think the flexible positive mold is the way to go. I was thinking it might be possible to make a real quick negative mold of the original with alginate, then pour in the flexible 2-part foam stuff and let it expand, then break off the alginate. You’d have a positive mold that could easily pull out of the dried paper mache.

      As for what I will be making to sell (if they work) – that will be a subject for another discussion. I have some things running around in my brain right now, but I want to wait and see how they come out before I talk about them. Don’t want to jinx the process, you know…

  6. Hi Jonni,
    I am really looking forward to seeing this guy with the paper mache.
    He looks so good right now.

    Oh yes, I’m interested in the mold idea for more than 1 sculpture. I think you mentioned this in #3. Too many times I give a piece or sell a piece I realize I wanted. Since the entire paper mache process takes so long from start to completion, I rarely attempt to create another. If I do, the next effort falls short. (Most times I can’t remember how I did the first one).
    Anyway, I really would like to see how you do it.
    Thank you as always for your generous sharing.

    • Hi Sharon. Your work is so detailed, I’m not sure if a positive mold would work for you. You would get the basic shape, but you’d need to reproduce all the details by hand. Maybe a two part plaster mold and some sort of pourable paper mache would work better?


Leave a Comment