Sermel Gesso Recipe – and Traditional Mask Making Overview

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Today we have a special guest post from Robert MacVeigh, who has a new gesso recipe that I’m going to try out the very first chance I get. And don’t forget to keep scrolling — he tells us how he makes his traditional masks, too.

©2015 Robert MacVeigh


Jonni asked me who I am and for the life of me I can’t be sure. Everything I do is an “act of passion without any common-sense”. I porpoise from project to project taking things just so far and then move on to the next until I have moved full circle back to the first project and/or genre – evolving it or myself to the next level and anon, anon, anon – somebody make it stop…. My interests include watercolors and acrylics, paintmaking, papermaking, printmaking bookbinding, woodcarving, woodwork, maskmaking, wirework, tin & silver smithing. My head is spinning and my shop is a mess

Very best regards, Robert MacVeigh

…soon after regaining consciousness…


A few months ago, I began making decorated masks in the Venetian style of Festivale (in reverse plaster molds). I make my own paper from paper fibre and wool because I cannot find a suitable 180-lb paper that molds as seamlessly (almost plastic) and tears as accurately in both directions. I use a cooked-mucilage of flour and water because of the lovely gelatinous character that aide in “the laying of the strips”.

I concocted this recipe from a vague description in a “How it’s made” video on tv. I had an understanding of each material so I kept at it until I had something that worked and sanded “as advertised” in the video. A porcelain smooth surface can easily be achieved with this mixture.

The masks are extremely thin (2 layers) but very hard, strong, and flexible. The gesso doubles the strength and rigidity without making it the least bit brittle (absolutely no cracking from extreme flexing). The real key to sandability is the small proportion of PVA and the addition of Talc which delays the clogging of the sandpaper with the PVA glue. The clay aids the sandability but for practical purposes, it is used to control thickness or the mixture


The next photo shows the negative mold and the mask as it was just pulled from the mold. There are 2 layers of handmade (180lb) paper in the mask – a total of 3 sheets of 9 x 11 which sucks up a miraculous half cup of mucilage (flour glue). This paper, when soaked, is so tender, that it literally melts together like plastic in the mold – handling the wet paper is an artform in itself. When dry, this mask and its method is much harder and stiffer than any other type of mucilage and paper I have worked with.

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making OverviewIn the following photo, the mask on the left is sanded porcelain smooth but still has a few touch-ups (dark spots) in progress. The mask on the right has the first wet coat applied. The finished gesso layer is at least 1/16-inch thick which gives lots of room for sanding.

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview

Paper Mache Masks with Gesso AddedThe next photo shows off the mask painted (acrylic latex gloss) and on the right with latex primer.

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview


  • 14 grams or 2 Tbsp Talc (probably more than needed – 1-tbsp might be enough)
  • 120 gram or 5/8 cup (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) Cedar Heights Redart powdered clay (any fine potters or sculptor’s clay would do) OR maybe try Jonni’s “joint-compound” and reduce or eliminate the water. You could also use about the same amount of wet clay and use more water or clay to adjust the consistency
  • 55 grams or 55 ml water
  • 30 grams or 30 ml PVA (white glue)
  • 30 grams wet paper pulp (rung out so that it does not drip)

In fact, you could try Jonni’s gesso recipe; reduce the glue and add the talc – let me know how it goes if you try this???


TIP 1: I have reduced my talc to 1.5 Tbsp and still have the same remarkable sandability.

TIP 2: Add your paper pulp (20g wet) and your water (55g) to a tightly lidded jar and “shake the clumps out of it”!!! Then add your glue and mix well. This liquefies the pulp and makes mixing it into the clay and talc into a smoother mass much easier.

TIP 3: Mix the clay and the talc together (dry) before adding to the liquids – the talc is very water resistant and the clay just loves water thus cancelling out the problem.

TIP 4: Always add the clay to the liquid. This makes mixing a lot easier and gives better control over achieving the final stiffness – that of room temperature cream cheese – or just until it no longer self levels in the container. If you prefer to brush it on, make it a little thinner otherwise it is meant to be smeared on by hand.

TIP 5: Watch this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULef3DJ_qmk – at the 2 to 5-minute mark it shows the mixture and its application


  • Apply 2 coats full strength and finish with a final coat reduced to a watery consistency. Allow 3 to 4 hours between coats. This final coat you will have to learn by trial and error, but I can say that as watery as it seems, it still has “consistency”.
  • …if you take a dampish brush to the first and second coats (right after you apply them), you can smooth out the otherwise fairly rough application. Be sure the brush is not too wet – I brush it out a bit on a piece of newspaper before I take it to the clay. You don’t want to move the clay around, just smooth it over lightly. It’s not the end of the world if you do not brush it out like this since sands out ever so nicely.
  • Allow to dry completely (at least overnight) before sanding. The drier it is the easier and faster the sanding goes. It took me about 20-minutes to sand these masks porcelain smooth.


  • The Talc is probably the only hard-to-find ingredient and I see no reason why you could not use talcum powder from the pharmacy since so little is required in proportion to the recipe.
  • HUMIDITY: We live in a dry climate, so dampness is new to me with this process. This morning I put a first-coat onto a new mask and because it is too humid to dry, the moisture migrated into the paper mask which means the paper started to swell which showed up as cracks in the damp coating. Not even a fan was helping. Into the convection oven it went (dehydration mode) and voila – a perfect but slightly cracked surface awaiting a second coat.Just thinking out loud; but it makes a lot of sense to dry this mixture as quickly as possible because it holds a lot of water in a fairly thick coating and clay does not like to give up its moisture. On the other hand, the paper is so dry, that the moisture is just as likely to migrate that way as it is to evaporate unless an artificial means is provided – recently proven – if the paper gets moist, it expands and cracks the coating. A 100watt lightbulb under a cardboard box is a functional, if not slightly dangerous heat source. I put a big coffee can punched full of holes over the lightbulb to dissipate the heat – the can gets hot, but not hot enough to start a fire.
  • To thicken the recipe add clay (I find thicker is better and often add 15% more clay to this basic recipe)
  • To thin the recipe add water not glue (never increase the glue)
  • If you find your paper pulp clumps, then you are not done – keep beating the mixture
  • Leave the mixture overnight – the pulp and especially the clay keep absorbing water for a long time
  • You will find the sanding produces a very fine airborne dust which should be evacuated or wear a mask
  • Use the full strength mixture for repairs and touch-ups
  • The mixture will store in a tightly sealed container until it goes mouldy. I have not had this happen yet and some of my containers are 3 weeks old.
  • I start sanding with 100 to 150 grit paper depending on surface condition.
  • There is some minor shrinkage upon drying do leave your repairs and touch-ups a little proud of the surface.

How Robert Makes His Masks

This is not so much a tutorial as it is an introductory overview to a very unique process. You have to want to get down and dirty to learn this technique, because the trade is only ever learned in the little shops found in Venice and thereabouts. There are no books that I know of and the videos listed below leave out all the juicy details… I’d be happy to answer questions as long as you realize that it is still a huge learning curve for me. Besides, unlike the unique masks that are produced by traditional means, this method produces a lot of one mask for each mold. For some, it is how you decorate it, for others, it is a means to mastering a painted design.


This is the “positive” clay sculpture for the neutral mask. The clay model is sadly sacrificed to the hydrostone plaster mold which will be pulled from sculpture. The rim around the edge becomes a ledge in the finished plaster. This ledge is used to fold back the reinforcing edge in the Mache process (vaguely explained below, but can be realized in the video links provided below).

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview

THE MOLDSermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview

The Hydrostone Plaster mold has the same density as Marble 10,000psi and is a wonderful product to work with. Same principle as plaster of paris which is useless for this process. I would use nothing softer than Hydrocal which is 5,000psi.

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview


The traditional Venetian paper is call “carta lana” or wool paper. Shipping is too expensive for the quantities of paper I need. All other papers I have experimented with are too hard (not plastic enough) no matter how long I soak them for. As far as machine made papers go, kids’ construction paper is as good as it got. So, through much development, I concocted my own wool paper recipe in two colors – on color for each layer. Each layer take 1.5 sheets of paper and the 3 sheets suck up over ½ cup of mucilage glue. Did I mention that I like the word mucilage!!!

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview


The sheets soaked with – yes – MUCILAGE… I drench both sides and let them set for five minutes… The paper is so tender and plastic to work with – that just tearing strips, picking them up and placing them is a whole other artform.

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making OverviewThe banding layer acts to reinforce (double up) the edge of the mask. It is temporarily folded back out of the way and onto the plaster ledge while 2 more layers of paper are added to the mold. The second photo shows the band folded back out of the way.Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview

The mask with the reinforcing edge folded into position over the final layer of the mask.

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview

The mask dried in the oven on convection dehydrate mode at 120 degrees for 1.5 hours – freshly pulled from the mold.

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview

The mask on the left has the first coat of sermel gesso applied (see recipe above). The mask on the right has been sanded porcelain smooth except for a couple touch-ups (dark spots).

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making OverviewPainted with one coat of acrylic latex gloss and on the right with latex primer. I am finally pleased with the finish I am obtaining.

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview


Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview


Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview


This is Eleanor and she is a different story. The model for Eleanor was of course, Eleanor! After liberally coating her features with Vaseline, a mold was taken by building up layers of plaster soaked cheesecloth. I do not have the original negative mold because it was sacrificed to make this Hydrostone plaster mold.

This “form” is used differently from the above process as it is a perfect custom fit to the actress. From this mold (actually a form), I will apply clay to form features that match the character in the play she is performing. From here I may take one of two directions: 1) I could just build up a mache in the manner that jonni works by applying mache over the clay form. Or 2) if more than one mask is required, I would take a hydrostone “negative”mold from which I can produce many masks more quickly – most of my work in paper mache happens after the mask shell is made.

Regardless, as many clay mock-ups can be made as wished for but they can only be for Eleanor.Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview

As a joke, I made a negative mold from the positive and made her a paper mask that looks just like her – rob a bank anyone???

Sermel Gesso Recipe - and Traditional Mask Making Overview


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2j0rKaWo6g in italian but a must see – shows the best of the best masks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vb5IEaCgF7M – all of the following discuss construction





33 thoughts on “Sermel Gesso Recipe – and Traditional Mask Making Overview”

  1. I really like this recipe and I am trying to follow it myself to make carta Lana paper. I understand Robert no longer responds on here, do you know how the wool is processed into a slurry? Sounds silly I know but I have alpaca fleece and it merely clumps in the blender, and makes wierd hairy paper.. I imagine I am doing something wrong, but there is barely any information out there about this other than this one page!

    Many thanks

    • Gosh, no – I don’t have a clue. But you might get an actual answer if you put your question in the comment area on the Daily Sculptors page. A lot of people who come to that page all the time, and I know some of them have mentioned using dryer lint or wool in paper mache. Maybe one of them would see your comment and offer some help. Good luck with it!

      • I don’t know anything about wool in paper, but I’ve found alpaca wool vs sheep wool in felting is harder to get a nice tight felt because alpaca wool doesn’t have the kink to it that a nice sheep wool does and so doesn’t shrink down as well. Perhaps that translates to why the alpaca wool sticks out, it doesn’t lock together as well as sheep wool.

  2. Thank you for your posting, it is most informative.
    I’m gonna give making my own Carta Lana a go. I have about 20 lbs of wool rovings. Going to try different papers. Seems some people swear by tissue paper. My millinery mentor swears by rice paper and you like construction paper. And figure I’ll also try the paper that amazon sticks in boxes for padding just for the fun of it. Just made a plaster negative mold, but it’s gonna take a couple of days to dry. Time to do paper experiments.

    • I love that paper that comes, for free, in Amazon boxes. I wish they would never use those inflatable bubble things, instead. BTW, how do you intend to keep your paper mache from sticking to your plaster mold? Have you found a release that won’t cause problems when you paint the casting?

  3. Could you please tell me what face mold you used? I am hoping to create masks for decorating as a form of therapy for clients.

    • It could be cardboard curled into the shapes. Or wire creating the outside edges and then filled in with cloth? I’m just guessing, obviously. It’s a beautiful mask.

  4. Hello Robert!

    I keep coming back to this post.

    I’m keen on making my own masks and I’ve been doing research on materials and techniques. I’m going with the plaster mould idea and the Venetian style you’ve adapted sounds perfect. You included some video links and I checked some of those out as well.

    I especially liked this one… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vclDw_UBO6U

    This is the method I’m going to use when making my own masks, but I have some questions for you.

    You mentioned making your own Carta Lana paper. Here in the UK it can be bought from an online retailer called Squires Shop. They sell it in two different weights. At first I was going to buy this, but then when I read you can make your own, I figured I might give it a shot.

    The masks I’m making are Japanese Kitsune (Fox) masks. I’m trying to use traditional Japanese methods and materials. Washi paper is a home made Japanese paper, but doesn’t have the wool to give it that strength.

    So I was going to make my own version of Carta Lana, using Washi paper and wool. I have no idea how to go about this, so it would be great if you could share your paper making techniques. I’m looking for that very hard, very strong and flexible-but-not-brittle finish that you’re getting with your masks.

    I’m also trying my best to figure out ways of making this project eco-friendly as much as possible. With Jonni’s help I managed to find something called a Persimmon, which is a Japanese fruit used to make a tannin/dye which can be used a natural lacquer for wood and paper products. I’m keen to give this a shot. It’s a bit pricey! £20 for 500ml when imported from Japan to the UK. Will research some more before making a decision.

    Another eco-friendly product I found is something called “Auro Eco” which is 100% methyl cellulose wallpaper paste. Would this be a suitable replacement for the mucilage you mentioned? I’ve never used mucilage before and don’t know a lot about it.

    Thanks! ^_^

    • Hi Mark; Sorry about the big delay – I am not getting these messages forwarded to my mailbox anymore and have not be checking the site until now… I will reread your tome in the morning and offer up what I can for suggestions

      Very best regards, Robert

    • I am familiar with Squires Carta Lana but the shipping to Canada was exorbitant. I do recommend buying it over making it if you can get it at a reasonable price. The recipe (1:4 wool/paper) is simple enough and is easily varied, but the technique took many months to develop.

      Here’s a couple of references, but just google “how to make handmade paper” and you will be inundated with links…

      This is basic papermaking with a blender but does not include the wool addition; http://paperslurry.com/2014/05/19/how-to-make-handmade-paper-from-recycled-materials/ follow these instructions. The paper is 20-25% wool by weight. I use a good quality construction paper for my scrap paper and I happen to have a local supplier of alpaca wool at $15/100grams of untwisted fibre. The construction paper makes for a very soft and plastic paper when it is wet and wool gives it strength both wet and especially dry. I cut the wool into ½-inch lengths weighing 4-grams and process that into a slurry. I cut the paper into 1-inch bits weighing 16grams and process that into a slurry. I don’t recommend processing the paper and wool together or you will burn out the blender. I aim to make my sheets about 0.012-inch thick or about 50-60-lb/90gsm? Other than that, the instructions in the above link cover the procedure in a simple and efficient manner.

      This is an excellent general interest site; http://newsletter.handpapermaking.org/beginner/index.htm

      This is a fantastic 57minute video if you really get into it; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPqjLzAnSIM

      Ha – Persimmon juice – I am a japanese woodblock printmaker and I use Persimmon to glue the tissues that form the case to my barens (turns harder than a stone and just as waterproof). You are one of the first people that actually knew what it was used for. Expensive and it does not go very far for my purposes, but a baren case lasts a lifetime.
      Here’s the link to my mucilage recipe https://www.ultimatepapermache.com/paper-mache-recipes/comment-page-15#comment-114933. What I like about it is that it is “greasy/slick” to work with which I find that really makes burnishing the paper layers together a lot easier (they virtually become one sheet).
      The methylcellulose is definitely “greasy/slick” (we use it as fake blood in the theatre) and worth a try but I am not sure how it will fair in the strength department.

      Regards, Robert

      • Thank you Robert!

        A lot of useful information there. I’ll be looking into it in greater depth over time.

        After sending my original message, I did a bit more research into Washi. At first, I thought it would be too thin and not give the same strength as Carta Lana, but I’ve found a few variations of Washi that are much thicker and stronger. Momigami is stronger than regular Washi. Then, Kyouseishi is stronger still and is likened to cloth almost. Not good for picking up fine details in paper mache, but good for strength I’m sure.

        Rice glue/paste is something else I’ve looked into. I’ll be experimenting with actual Japanese rice and mineral waters from various prefectures in Japan. I’m getting a little carried away with the thought process behind it all, but every ingredient in this whole thing has a reasoning behind why I’m using it. It will tell a great story in the end, should everything go to plan.

        The persimmon juice is something I’m really eager to try. It sounds great, but there’s a couple of things I’m not sure about. Can it be painted over with Acrylic paints? Or is it meant to be used as the FINAL coat to seal the whole piece? If I paint the masks with Acrylics first, can the persimmon juice be added afterwards? Or will it not work in the same way? The red/orange finish that it gives might actually benefit the final visual design, so I’m certainly going to pick some up and give it a try at least.

        Thanks for all the great info, it’s much appreciated!

        On a side note, here’s a question for both you and Jonni.

        Have either of you used Monster Clay? Here’s in England, it’s pretty cold, haha! Sculpey seems to be quite firm when I’m working with it. Monster Clay is apparently much softer and can even be heated up to make it more workable. I imagine in much warmer climates it could be considered too soft, but for me it might be ideal. The reason I ask is because I can get the quantity I need much cheaper if I buy Monster Clay. If I buy the same amount of Sculpey, it works out more expensive.

        I’ll be using the clay to build a positive sculpt, which will then have a release agent applied, before having plaster poured over to make a mould.

        Thanks again,

        Mark ^_^

        • Hi Mark;

          Yes, I was going to question your comment on washi but I did not want to complicate the issue. I use these handmade papers in a dampened condition for printmaking and they endure up to 36 impressions taken from woodblocks rubbed with a bamboo leaf covered baren, which is a “very rugged treatment”. Washi is “intensely” stronger than most any papers made today because it is made with whole plant fibres and not the ground wood pulp that we are used to. Hence, the wool that is added to Carta Lana which would otherwise just be construction paper without it. The real drawback of washi might be that it does not stretch the same way as carta lana when it is wet, thus, one might have to use much smaller pieces. Hence, you are having trouble picking up details. The carta lana is so plastic when drenched with glue that it literally fills some voids (almost like clay but not that incredible). The other nice feature of carta lana and handmade paper is that it does not have a grain direction. It tears easily in both directions. You will find this to be an important feature if you try it.
          Persimmon, once dry, can be painted with “anything”, even watercolour and takes a good coat of white or yellow glue…
          Can’t help you with the Monster clay? I’m a sculptor’s clay kind of guy – it’s easy to work, cheap like borsch (assuming it is still cheap) and does not care how cold it is until it freezes which doesn’t hurt it either… it also does not need a mold release for plaster casting – go figure!!!

          • Hello again!

            I’ve been talking to a Japanese lady who runs a website that sells Washi paper and through various emails we have established that the Momigami paper and Kyouseishi are likely unsuitable for mask making as they’re too thick and not flexible like the Carta Lana paper. She recommended I use a simple Kozo Washi. It comes on a huge roll, far too much for what I would need, and costs a lot of money. $100 for about 20 meters of the stuff. So it’s time to re-think.

            What kind of Washi paper have you used? Where do you buy yours? Is it handmade or machine made? I really want to give the Washi paper a try. I know the Carta Lana paper is suitable for what I’m doing, but I really do want to try the Japanese paper and see what results I can get.

            I had another look at the paper making techniques. Would be so much cheaper to make my own. I’m always throwing out scrap paper into the recycling. It would make sense to put that paper to good use. Plus, the fact that I’m making my own paper, that’s taking influence from Japan right there, without the need to to use actual Washi.

            Hmm, I’m just a little lost at the moment with my ideas. I’m probably going to have to try every method just to satisfy my curiosity and make a more informed decision about what direction to take. It’s a good job I have just under 6 months to create these masks. I think I’m going to need every second! ^_^

            As for the sculptor’s clay, I’m not sure which brand you use? I looked into Monster Clay some more and it does seem suitable. However I found another brand of modelling clay called Chavant NSP Medium that seems just as suitable and cheaper still. The stuff you use sounds perfect for making plaster casts.


          • Hi Mark; You notes below did not have a reply button so I am replying here…


            Exploration is the first rule and often the most expensive aspect of creativity – so go knutz – Rule two is; always check your bank balance…

            My two main sources are; http://www.imcclains.com/catalog/paper/groupd.html & http://www.japanesepaperplace.com/retail/retail-products/papers-for-printmaking.htm but keep in mind that these are for calligraphy, painting and printmaking and as such are unsuitable for paper mache simply because they do not stretch enough, no matter how thin they are – they only give a small amount before they tear or in the case of paper-mache – wrinkle – This leaves you with using very small pieces and a lot of my gesso recipe to cover the “sins of the evil wrinkle”…

            Kozo is a type of fibre that paper is made with and not a type of paper (I believe it is mulberry but don’t quote me). There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of types of paper made with Kozo. Gampi and Kozo are two of the most common papermaking fibres and they are my first consideration when chosing (because they’re tough)… The list of papers I use is too long and complex to get into here and of little value for your purposes. They range in price from about 0.50$ to 8.00$CAN per square foot. To name a few; Hosho, Iwano, imshu Nishinouchi, Kizuki Hanga, Echizen Kozo and for proofing Torinoko.


            I wonder what papers they use for Kitsune in Japan???


            Be warned: Papermaking is addictive…


            You can buy sculptors clay from amazon in 20lb blocks ready to use or you can go the local builders hardware and buy a 50lb bag of clay for 15$CAN (masons use it to make cement parging and stucco mixtures easier to work with). Just add water (4.5:1 Clay:water)… Give it a good mix and let it hydrate for overnight and then knead it into a working clay on a clean workbench… Either way (premade or powdered) it is not expensive.

            Some hobby supply’s sell it and any pottery supply house will have something suitable at a fair price…

        • Hi Mark;

          I am going to have to eat my “wishi/WASHI” words on the topic of washi and paper mache.
          http://www.aupapierjaponais.com/ which is a paper source I did not mention who published an article stating that “washi is highly workable when wet, so it is excellent for paper mache…” – they did not go into any other details so this is all the hope I can offer you, and I must add that I am a little surprised at the statement which means I am going to have to open my “little mind” the next time I am working with the papers…

          Best regards, Robert

          • Thanks again Robert,

            Yeah I’ve been looking more into it and thinking more about the mask design. I’ve got a day off work tomorrow and a few more days off at the end of next week, so I hope to have a more definitive idea for the visual design of the mask itself. From there I can go ahead and start experimenting with the different papers. I contacted a company in Canada that specializes in paper and they informed me of a British company that imports Japanese paper into England. He also recommended Sekishu Banshi Tsuru and Hosokawa Kozo as very strong Washi papers that would be ideal for paper mache. Both of which are sold by the company he mentioned.

            I was looking at a few more Youtube videos on Venetian mask-making and came across this one again –


            Do you know what process is taking place around the 8:15 mark on the video?

            I’m not sure if it’s some kind of gesso or something? But it seems to be the final layer which dries perfectly smooth as the next video in the series goes into painting techniques, painting right on top of whatever is being applied.

            It looks so simple and I’m not even sure they needed to sand afterwards.

          • Hey Mark;

            I’ve been to venice during carnivale and I am familiar with the video in question – the 8:15 minute-mark is simply a coat for primer/topcoat. And that is the advantage of having 30 years experience using Carta Lana… I on the other hand, am not that good even though I am pleased with the paper, I find I still need the gesso. It takes about 20 minutes to do a good sanding job on a mask

  5. Hello,

    Some interesting techniques here and certainly something to think about. I’ve written a rather large message and thought it might be better to email it to you?

    It goes into detail about a project I’m currently working on and is not 100% related to this particular post, but paper-mache and mould making in general.

    Hope you’ll check it out!

    Mark ^_^

  6. Up until today I had been applying the first two coats with a brush because that is what I was comfortable with, but I decided to make the batch a little thicker (simply adding extra clay) and apply it with my hands instead.

    I believe this method is far better because I can locally manage the thickness of the coat better controlling shapes, contours and touch-ups. An additional benefit was that the coat was smooth enough that I did not have to damp brush over the otherwise rougher brushed application. Any questionable areas were smoothed over with a few damp fingers. The final thinned coat is still brushed on and seems to do a better job levelling out the final surface.

    I also found that the overall buildup of material was probably 25% less, thus my drying time was shortened to a couple or three hours in front of the fan.

    • 2 TIPS

      TIP 1: I have reduced my talc to 1.5 Tbsp and still have the same remarkable sandability.

      TIP 2: add your paper pulp (20g wet) and your water (55g) to a tightly lidded jar and “shake the clumps out of it”!!! Then add your glue and mix well. This liquefies the pulp and makes mixing it into the clay and talc into a smoother mass much easier.

    • Jonni, OOPS!!! There is a glaring mistake in the amount of clay in the above recipe. It should read 1 to 1-1/4 cup of clay, not 1/4 cup of clay. I guess my days as a copy editor are numbered… I AM SO SORRY IF THIS CAUGHT ANYONE SHORT!!!

      TIP #3: mix the clay and the talc together (dry) before adding to the liquids – the talc is very water resistant and the clay just loves water thus cancelling out the problem.

      • Hi Robert. Now I’m confused. The recipe above says:
        1/4 cup Talc (probably more than needed – 1-tbsp might be enough)
        1/2 cup Cedar Heights Redart powdered clay

        Do you want me to change the 1/2 cup of clay to 1 1/4 cup? I think that’s what you want me to do, but I just want to make sure.
        Great tips by the way. I’ve added all three to the body of your post.

        • Better give me the night to get back to you on this. I have just figured out the batteries in my scale were dying when I finalized all of this and my measures for the water and glue now appear to be inconsistent. I am going to run up a couple batches in the morning to figure out where the conflict is and get back to you – I may just give you everything in volume measures if I find I can’t trust my scale – i feel awful for all the confusion because it is such a wonderful mixture.

          Talk to you in the morning…

        • RECIPE
          The original posting of this recipe was no accurate because the batteries in my scale were dying. It turns out that it was not that far wrong but the recipe as it is written has been tested and proven consistent over 3 batches. My most humble apologies. – Robert
          • TALC – 14grams or 2 Tbsp
          • POWDERED CLAY 120gram or 5/8cup = 1/2cup + 2 Tbsp
          (any fine potters or sculptor’s clay would do) OR maybe try Jonni’s “joint-compound” and reduce or eliminate the water. You could also use about the same amount of wet clay and use more water or clay to adjust the consistency
          • WATER – 55 grams or 55ml
          • PVA (white glue) – 30grams or 30ml
          • 20 grams wet paper pulp (rung out so that it does not drip)
          In fact, you could try Jonni’s gesso recipe; reduce the glue and add the talc – let me know how it goes if you try this???

          TIP 4: Always add the clay to the liquid. This makes mixing a lot easier and gives better control over achieving the final stiffness – that of room temperature cream cheese – or just until it no longer self levels in the container. If you prefer to brush it on, make it a little thinner otherwise it is meant to be smeared on by hand.
          TIP 5: Watch this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULef3DJ_qmk – at the 2 to 5-minute mark it shows the mixture and its application

          • Hi Robert. I made the changes, but be sure to check to make sure I put everything in the right place. And I added the additional tips to the post, as well. I’ll be sure to watch the video – have you made one yet, yourself?

          • Thanks for your patience Jonni, Your work is perfect as always – It is obvious your batteries have a full charge!!! 😉

  7. I am so glad you shared this and am chomping at the bit in my eagerness to give it a try. It looks and sounds phenomenal. I try out so many of the mix your own material recipes that people recommend but this one looks and sounds like it will deliver better on its promises than many of those mixtures I have tried. I may just go shopping this weekend for some powdered clay and talc.

    • Your very welcome Ralph – looking forward to your feedback… I am sure you will not be disappointed. I was just about to write up a recommendation to the process which has proved successful “for me” so I hope you will check back with me later tonight.


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