Sculpting with Paverpol

Market Lady in Paverpol Today we have a guest post from our friend Eileen Gallagher.  We receive a lot of questions and comments about Paverpol here on the blog, and it’s one of the many things I’ve been wanting to try someday.

This looks like a lot of fun, and Eileen’s sculpture came out very nice. I love the layering of textures, and the bread in the basket …

Thanks for writing up this tutorial, Eileen!

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Older Woman on Market Day, Made with Paverpol

©2016 Eileen Gallagher

Hi Everyone!  Recently, I have tried a different product, it is a fabric stiffener called Paverpol.  I have always loved the way fabric drapes and folds and wanted to try Paverpol along with a paper mache sculpture.

I purchased it off of Dick Blick’s online art supply store.  It is a bit pricey so wait until you can get a discount. Paverpol does waterproof the fabrics and the sculpture.  But, from my research I think one would have to add another substance called Paverplast to the Paverpol and apply in numerous layers to truly have it become waterproof.

Paverpol acts as a glue as well and sticks to itself when wet.   Also, I have only done 2 Paverpol sculptures and with each one I have learned a lot.  I do not claim to be a expert on Paverpol- they actually hold certified courses on how to become a Paverpol instructor. Perhaps one day…

Supplies needed:

Armature – same as for any paper mache sculpture… wire, paper, cardboard, masking tape, etc.  You will need a base and a dowel is helpful to keep it sturdy.

Sculpture Jonni’s smooth air dry clay, watery glue, strips of fabric in varying textures (stretchy cotton works best for the draping effect- old t-shirts are great)

Painting – Paverpol, paint brushes, plastic knife for stirring, kitchen skewer to adjust draping, bits of cotton thread, acrylic paints

***very helpful to have a smock, plastic to cover your work area, cheap plastic gloves and paper towels  It is a very messy medium and it will stain clothing, rugs, etc.

Paverpol lends itself to figurative work since you are draping fabrics.  So, I am doing a figure of an older woman on market day.  She is about a foot tall, 13 ½ “ with the base.

The armature for the Paverpol sculpture.

Step 1 –  make an armature out of wire, tin foil, base, dowel and masking tape.  Do it just like you do an armature for a paper mache sculpture.  This lady’s skirt will be covering her legs so I opted to exclude legs. I used a dowel glued into a small wood round cut from a branch.  I will not go over how to do the armature as most of you already know what to do from visiting Jonni’s site.  I made the basket and cane separately.  The basket is made of cardboard (details to be added later) , the cane is wire covered with masking tape.

 Step 2 – Add the paper mache clay as you would on any other paper mache sculpture.  For this one, I did not want a detailed face, just a suggestion of a face, but you can add as much or as little detail as you want.   I did the head, face, neck and hands with Jonni’s smooth air dry clay.  It looks rather like a alien at this point, we will see.  I added newspaper strips and paste to the cane and let dry.  The basket was done with the Paverpol and thin strips of fabric wrapped around the basket to look like a weaved basket.  Paverpol also has an adhesive in it so it will stick to anything but plastic.

I painted the cardboard armature, then dipped the thin strips or fabric into the Paverpol and wrapped them around the basket and the handle to achieve a weaved basket effect.  This was different and fun to do.

Face and hands sculpted with air-dry clay.
Face and hands sculpted with air-dry clay, and basket made with cloth strips and Paverpol.

Step 3 –  After everything was dry, I sanded a bit on the face, hands, and cane.  Then, I “gessoed” it to help seal those areas.  Now it was time to start adding the strips of cloth dipped in Paverpol.

First you need to thoroughly stir the paverpol with a plastic knife.  Using gloves (not imperative but it does make for easier cleanup), I dipped one precut piece of cloth  into the Paverpol and made sure it was totally covered in the stuff.  You don’t want it to be sloppy wet, just enough to have no white spots of fabric. The t-shirt fabric gets stretchy when wet which becomes helpful when you are draping and pulling it into the shape that you want.

I first covered the shoulders, arms, torso, hips and down the dowel to give it strength.  This was not going to be seen when the piece was finished but added a layer to stiffen it-when dry it would become quite stiff and sturdy.  Paverpol is fairly forgiving in the amount of time it takes to dry- if it is getting tacky and difficult to handle, just put some more Paverpol on the fabric and it gets less tacky.  The gloves do tend to get tacky as the stuff dries, so have a few pairs of cheap dollar store disposable gloves on hand.  You can use bare hands, when it dries on your hands, you can just peel it off but it is hard to get your hands totally clean.

When I finished the first layer of cloth, I used a cheap paint brush to paint the head, face, and hands with the Paverpol.  Then left it overnight to dry.

***Note about Paverpol and your drainage pipes- it says right on the container that Paverpol should not be poured down the drain as it is designed to stick on anything but plastic.  So, have a paper bowl with water to clean your brush and hands and throw the water and sediment out into the garden.  If it is dried and peeled off, it will not hurt your pipes.  Also, since it is an air dry substance, you need to cover the tub back up when not using it or it will harden in the tub.

Beginning to add the fabric and Paverpol.
Beginning to add the fabric and Paverpol.

Step 4 – next, I made some small loaves of bread, apples, oranges, a bottle of wine, etc to put in the basket.  This was done with the air dry clay and left to dry.  I then made a wig of sorts out of thin cotton thread that one might use for crochet projects.

Making items for the market basket.
Making items for the market basket.


Making the wig with yarn and Paverpol.
Making the wig with yarn and Paverpol.

Step 5 –  let the fun begin!  Now I added the clothes.  Using various lengths of cloth, I fashioned the top and then the skirt.  This should be planned out before you go dipping the cloth into the Paverpol.  You will need to have your cloth ready so that you don’t have to pick up a pair of scissors while your hands are covered in Paverpol.  First, use a paintbrush to wet the area with Paverpol.  Wet the fabric and drape it so it is falling in the way that you want it to fall.  Use a skewer to help push and pull it the way you want.  Bits of plastic wrap can be used to keep the fabric in place if needed.  After she was “dressed”, I added the hair and hat. The rest of the body was dry enough to handle by the time I had finished the hat.

Adding the clothes to the Market Lady.

Step 6 –  do your finishing touches.  I added a shawl made from some stockingette that is offered by the Paverpol co.  This was just to have a different texture for the shawl. I then added the market day items to the basket by painting them and the inside of the basket with the Paverpol.  The face and hands needed several coats of Paverpol to get a uniform color. I then put the basket on her arm and the cane in her hand using Paverpol as the glue.   I painted the base as well.  Lastly, I wanted this bronze lady to have a patina so I mixed acrylic paints to the desired color and drybrushed the piece with the paint to achieve the desired effect.  Done!

Her face is still a bit alien like but the rest of the piece turned out just how I wanted it.  I hope you try Paverpol sometime, if you have any questions, I can try and answer them.  It was fun to experiment with this medium and it really does dry very hard and stiff.  Oh- one last thing- it takes about 2 weeks for a Paverpol sculpture to really cure.

Finished Paverpol Sculpture, Front.
Finished Paverpol Sculpture, Front.


Finished Paverpol Sculpture, Side.
Finished Paverpol Sculpture, Back.


Finished Paverpol Sculpture, Side.
Finished Paverpol Sculpture, Side.

17 thoughts on “Sculpting with Paverpol”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful tutorial! Even though I’ve never used it before, I find Paverpol a very intriguing medium. I wonder if Jonni might try her hand at creating recipe that’s similar to Paverpol since it’s so expensive to purchase? Just a thought from a poor frugal artist!?

    • Elaine does make beautiful sculptures with Paverpol, but I’ve never used it myself, and I have no idea what’s in it. Maybe Elaine can come up with a recipe – or not. Some commercial products for sculptors really can’t be reproduced at home, and this might be one of them. We’ll see what Elaine has to say about it. :)

  2. Can you tell me if I were stiffening felted bowls the size of fruit bowls, how many could I do with one 1000g tub of paverpol?

    • Cheryl, this was a guest post, and I’m not sure if Eileen is still watching for comments. If she doesn’t see it, you might want to contact the Paverpol folks for an answer.

      This sounds like an interesting project, and it sounds like you intend to make more than one. I hope you’ll let us see them when they’re done.

  3. I am so keen to make paper mache dolls just like this but alas you can’t get Paverpol in my country. Would good old PVA glue mixed with water be stiff enough? How did you use fabric before you discovered Paverpol?
    Thanks so much for the fabulous tutorial

    • Hi Nyasha- PVA glue will certainly stiffen the fabric but it will not make it waterproof which is one of the benefits of Paverpol. If it gets wet, it will melt. It does work well though. Mix with a bit of water depending on how stiff you want it to be. Using straight glue might be too tedious and sticky to paint it on. You could use several layers of glue/water to get it really stiff. It can also be painted.
      I sew with fabrics for all sorts of things from clothing, to quilts, to costumes. I have used fabrics with paper mache but mostly for and with trim type materials or embellishments, not for dressing a doll like you would like to do. I would try it, do an experiment!
      I got my Paverpol off the internet as no stores have it here either. Could you get it online or will shipping be too high?
      Good luck it you decide to try the PVA and make sure you show us your results!

  4. Eileen, this is really wonderful. You should be very proud of her. Your instructions were very clear and orderly. You did an awesome job, and she came alive. I loved it all. The shawl is wonderful, and the basket of food is great. Thank you.

    (I must say, though, just looking at the sculpture put the fear of god in me! I’m not sure I’m brave enough yet!)

    • Thanks for the nice comments. Rex, you certainly could do this, I have seen your work. it is fun occasionally to try something new. I liked that I could do it along with paper mache…my first love! I enjoyed doing the basket as well.

  5. Hi Jonni,
    I checked out the site with the paper mache caricatures of Woody, Keith, etc. and discovered the name and address of the shop where they are sold.
    Shop Name: 2 Bis
    Address: (near Plaza Sant Jaime) Carrer Bisbe, 2 – 08002 Barcelona
    I’ll bet they would be glad to offer the name of the artist and more information about the work.

  6. Thank you Jonni for all your splendorous work. I am a Teacher of Art K-12 for 15 years.
    And I thought I have been working with Art for 30 years. But after I found your website, everything had to be reinvented.
    These recent years following your great work have taught how art should be. Pure Heart.
    My students have seen the difference. I am truly grateful,
    William Galloza


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