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African Animals Pattern Set.
My Snowy Owl is coming along nicely – the cardboard pattern has now been filled out with crumpled paper and masking tape, and I’m ready to start adding paper mache clay. You can see how it was done in the photos below.
If you want to use traditional paper strips and paste when you make your own owl, that will work just fine, but you might want to cut individual feathers out of heavy paper or light cardboard to make it easier to get the wing and tail feathers looking the way you want them to. If you do that, tape the individual feathers to the cardboard wing and tail patterns before adding the crumpled paper padding. Since I’ll be using the paper mache clay recipe for my owl, I’ll model the feathers with the clay, instead.
Padding the Armature for the Paper Mache Snowy Owl Sculpture
Once the pattern has been transferred to cardboard and cut out (see previous post), you need to pad it with crumpled paper and masking tape. I find that it’s easiest to do if you tear off some strips of masking tape first and stick them on the edge of your table. Then you don’t need three hands to hold down the paper, pull off some tape and stick it on. Be sure you don’t cover the edges of your pattern with paper, since then you’d lose the basic shape.
When the body is covered with a padded layer of crumpled paper and tape, you can add the legs. First, tape the feet to the bottom of the legs, and then tack the legs onto the body. Just use a few strips of tape so you can set the owl on her feet and see how well it stands up. Be sure to find a nice photo of a snowy owl (use the image search on google.com) so you can get the stance you like.
When you have the legs where you want them, tape them down more firmly. Then add small bits of crumpled paper to the insides of the legs. Use the round bit at the back end of the owl’s feet patterns to use as a guide. Tape the crumpled paper firmly to the legs, feet and body pattern, so you have a very strong armature.
When the inside of the legs is done, do the same thing with the outside of the legs. Make the padding nice and full all the way to the top of the legs – your finished owl should be quite round. Check occasionally to see if your armature will still stand up on its own.
Crease the cardboard tail slightly, down the middle. Then tape it to the back of the snowy owl.
Then tack the wings on with a few pieces of tape. If your snowy owl’s body doesn’t seem round enough, you may need to add more padding first. The wings will need to be bent so they’ll fold over the tail. The head is defined by the top of the wings.
Slip a bit of crumpled paper below the leading edge of the wings to make them rounded. Then pad the wings. Some of the cardboard at the wing tips can be left uncovered. Keep turning the owl on the table and looking at all sides to make sure it’s nice and round, because Owl is wearing a very nice down jacket.
At this point, my owl started to fall forward, because there was more paper added in the front. To keep her upright, I borrowed a trick from Monique Robert and added some weight. I just cut a slit through the masking tape underneath the owl between the legs and the tail, and then slipped in a small flat rock. Then I taped her back up. She now stands up nice and straight again.
The wing tips cross over the tail, as shown.
I crumpled up a bit of aluminum foil for the top of a toe, and formed the claw in the same piece of foil. The claw was “sharpened” a bit before I taped the foil onto the foot pattern. A second smaller ball of foil is then added below the front of the toe, for the pad.
Use narrow strips of masking tape for the toes, so you can get the foil completely covered. Also, the joint where the toes meet the leg are probably the most vulnerable part of the sculpture, so extra tape should be used to reinforce the foot at these joints.
At this point, the owl is ready to be covered with paper mache. I made up a batch of paper mache clay for my owl, and I’ll get started on it right away. The one additional thing you might want to do before covering your owl with paper mache is to add a beak, which you can make from aluminum foil. Turn your owl around and look at her from both sides, to decide which side is “front.” Or, your owl could face forward, or completely backwards – I haven’t decided that part yet.
See you in a few days, when my clay is dry.
The rest of the posts in this series:
- Making the pattern for the Snowy Owl sculpture
- Making the armature for the Snowy Owl sculpture
- The first layer of paper mache clay
- Adding the feathers with a spoon
- Progress on the owl (I got a little distracted with my coloring book project)
- Painting the Owl – the project is finally finished!
19 thoughts on “Snowy Owl Sculpture, Part 2 – Making the Armature”
This is so exciting! Thank you for the breakdown for making the armature. I need to make bats. I make cards from my original art and bat-themed crafts and donate them to nonprofit organizations and sanctuaries to sell. I love fruit bats. Any tips on designing armatures for bats? Cant wait to try your no-flour clay recipe.
Hi Sara. Bats are wonderful creatures. And it shouldn’t be too hard to make a pattern for them. You’ll need two views, though – one from the side, and one from the top. It will be easy to find photos from both directions, but it might be challenging to make the patterns match in size.
First, find a photo of your favorite species of bat, taken from the side. You probably want your bat with wings outspread, and they move really fast, but you should be able to find a photo on Google image search. Use that photo to draw the outline, from nose to tail. On a separate sheet or a separate level in your image software, draw the legs. Then find a photo of the wings of that species, taken from above. Draw your outline, and then mess with it for awhile to get the wings to match the size of the body pattern. You would want to use very light card stock or even letter paper for the wings on your sculpture, and use fairly heavy armature wire for the bones.
I hope this helps. I hope you’ll let us see your bats when they’re done!
My friend and I are making life-sized sheep sculptures for a project at work, and we think they’re turning out well so far (your advice on how to create a custom pattern was invaluable), but we’re running into trouble with keeping the legs straight. The cardboard legs (with the crumpled paper added on already) will hold up for a few minutes, but after that they tend to fold. Is there a way we could strengthen the legs without making them wider? Or, failing that, will they hold up better once we get the paper mache mix on top to solidify them?
Hi Carly. For a sculpture that large, you’ll probably want to do one of these things:
Either one of those things should give you enough strength so the weight of the paper mache clay or paper strips and paste won’t make them buckle. Good luck with it – and be sure to let us see your sheep when they’re done! 🙂
hallo, moet je verfrommelde papier aan de twee kanten plakken .
of maar aan 1 kant
Hello Jonni, I’m off on a new journey thanks to your inspiration! I would like to share two recent pieces ~ of which the owl (or rather…your owl) was the most frustrating and exciting 🙂 Thanks for your generous sharing of the world of knowledge residing in your unique brain!
Hi, Can I get the pattern you used?
Yes, you sure can. You can find it here: https://www.ultimatepapermache.com/snowy-owl-sculpture
would this work with other owl??????
Sure. You’d just need to change the colors, and possibly the shape of the face.
Did you finish this owl? I am not seeing the final piece on the site.
Yes, this is a five-part series, and the last post is here.
How do you make the body that shape? With it gettin kinda pointy towards the end?
It’s all done with the crumpled paper added to the cardboard pattern.
in the first photo how did you make the head so round?
I just kept adding crumpled paper until I got the shape I wanted.
Loving this and your book arrived yesterday! YEAH
Great – I hope you enjoy the book. If you make any of the projects, be sure and post a photo so we can see how it turned out.