Steve’s Latest Sculptures

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We were just talking about Steve and his sculptures a few days ago – and just this morning he sent in more photos of his latest creations. I’ll let him tell you about them down below the images.
Steve Sack's Paper Mache Fish
Steve Sack's Paper Mache Monkey
Steve Sack's Paper Mache Herd of Cows
Steve Sack's Paper Mache Cowboy
Steve Sack's Paper Mache Cows

Hello Jonni and all,

It’s been a few months since I posted…basically because I’ve been experimenting with different recipes and techniques, and every sculpt I make has been a different process. Hopefully the links above will show a few new pics.

The fish and devil were basically traditional paper strips over balloon shapes, with your paperclay(plus some air-dry clay) added only on facial details. I no longer use the paperstrips for anything but the bottom of my bases.

I made the monkey after looking at your rubber mold tutorial(was impressed with the detail you got on your ferret and walrus)….making the monkey face with clay and then casting paperclay plus Plaster of Paris added in a rubber mold taken from the clay sculpt.

I also tried some harder plasters, such as Hydrostone, which made them considerably stronger and requiring less plaster. The molds are nice to make multiple copies, but even for single sculptures I will continue to model in clay and cast molds because I like the detail it offers, and for me modeling clay is so much easier. I keep the casting thin, then after it dries I smear a layer of your regular paperclay on the inside for added strength. I only cast certain parts, not the whole thing….for example on the cattle drive piece I cast the cows heads and bodies separately, then connected legs and necks individually for posing and making each one an individual personality.

The cowboy was cast in three pieces…the cowboy’s head, cowboy body and horse body as one piece, and the horse’s head. Legs were added with paperclay over wire armatures.
Besides wire I’m also using rigid foam a lot in my armatures.

Jonni you mentioned somewhere you were experimenting with pottery clay that is not air-dry…I have doubts about how strong that will be. Maybe the glue will hold it together. My experience with non-airdry pottery clay is that it’s very fragile until fired in a kiln. With any clay added to paperclay you should be careful to allow it room to shrink as it dries(it would certainly crumble under just a wire armature, methinks).

Other quick notes…I definitely recommend folks find an old blender at a thrift shop to shred the toilet paper in water, then squeeze the water out and use a hand mixer for the paperclay mixture. Makes it infinitely easier, faster, and non-lumpy. Also get a small heater fan to speed up drying(mine cost about 12 bucks at Target. Set at low heat and put in a small room or closet…not only dries stuff superfast but smells like baking bread. yum!

Let me thank you again for this informative site…I have learned so much here. I’m also using your website creation tutorial to build a site to display my stuff (hopefully operational in a few days).
Hope this wasn’t too rambling. Happy Mache-ing everyone!

By the way, you can see more of Steve’s creations, including his cartoons, here. And read his other comments here, here and here.

21 thoughts on “Steve’s Latest Sculptures”

  1. Been having a good look at Steve’s sculptures, fantastic!
    What sort of size are they?
    Seems everyone is switching to paper mache clay, it must be good stuff. I think it may have worked well when I made my little red dragon.

  2. Love your work Steve, inspires me even more. I have found mixing the toilet paper with lots of water. using the normal hand held mixed, ( just like making recycled paper) gives very fine texture, I just strain it, then squeeze out excess, gives a very smooth pm clay. Takes no time at all, I then mix all the “wet ” ingrediants first, with the paper, then add the rest. Just my way of doing it, I am all for finding the easy way to do things. Chris . Australia

  3. Here’s another “experiment” that used the revised PM clay recipe –
    I gave up on the little print project I was working on, but I kind of like this little guy. Until he was all put together, and I saw the first image at the top of Steve’s post, I didn’t realize he might remind people of another little red guy with a tail…

    I didn’t think that paper mache could be used for stop action video, but now I think I’ve changed my mind. If he was wearing trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, and if some simple joints were added for elbows and knees, I think you do some fun things with it. If anyone tries it, please let us know.

  4. Love the synergy of all the talent and experimentation!

    Steve, the funny concepts behind your sculptures gives them such life. After looking at your cartoons, I wouldn’t expect any less. Going 3-D is so perfect for your style! I think we definitely need some step-by-step tutorials from you, too.

    Jonni, what are you making with all these experiments? I wanna see!

    • Steve’s cartoons look almost more 3D than his sculptures – what talent that guy has. Whew!

      The only “experiment” that’s actually done was inspired by Bob’s egg. (I can’t find the photo of his egg now – but it’s in the comments somewhere…) I’ve heard that chickens will get the idea of using a nest to lay their eggs if you give them a fake egg. So I made them one for their new nests (still no real eggs, though). Since a golf ball is reputed to work as well, I figure the chicks aren’t very picky, and I didn’t try very hard to get it smooth. I dropped their egg at least once (not on purpose – I’m just clumsy), and it didn’t break. This is the regular PM clay with 3/4 cup of ceramic clay added:

      Paper mache egg

      Just because I now have an excuse, here’s my girls almost all grown up:

      Light Brahma Pullets

      The little figure I was working on to use as an artist’s model is almost finished. He did his work, but then I redesigned him a little so it would be a bit more stable. My funky wiring plan didn’t work very well for his joints. I might show him off later, when he’s all done. And I’m now working on a baby rhino, which is great fun – so I’d better get back to work. (Your portraits are really coming out so well, Xan. I love the face on your latest model – what a sweet dog. And I like your blog redesign, too!)

      • Ah! I wondered how your chickens were getting along! Are they pet-like, or yard-ornament-like, or something in between, now? Do you expect them to start laying soon? (I know just about nothing about chickens.) That’s pretty interesting about modeling nesting with just an egg.

        Did you take any pictures of your manikin in his developmental stages? I’m curious about the failed joints.

        Baby rhino! Perfect. You manage to get both cute and realistic into the same creation so well, that’s a good match for your style! Can’t wait to see her.

        Speaking of getting back to work, I did take yesterday off (to set up a fundraiser for The Gentle Barn: http://www.xans-art.com/strokeofgreen.com/strokeofgreen/Fundraiser.html ) from my whippet portrait. I’d like to finish him up today. Thanks for the compliments, Jonni! I wasn’t sure anyone noticed the blog re-design. 🙂

        • The group you’re doing the fundraiser for looks very worthwhile. I hope you raise a ton of money for them.

          No photos of the little manikin yet. The joints failed simply because each knee or head or elbow could turn 350 degrees, so he wouldn’t stand up or “behave.” The armature ideas you found would have worked much better. It was just a silly project though, and they don’t all need to work, do they? I was just playing with the idea of creating a character, after reading Vincent Woodcock’s book. Cartoon characters are a lot harder than they look 🙂

          And the chickens are just chickens. Not pets – although they probably would put up with a bit of petting if I worked at hard enough. They are pretty, and they get to wander around the lawn when there’s not too much snow – but I’m not sure how “ornamental” my neighbors think they are. They are definitely improving the fertility of yard and garden – their primary job until the laying starts, which should start happening around Christmas. I like chickens – I wouldn’t mind having 20 or 30 more…

          • Cartoon characters … I’ve come up with the brilliant idea of doing a little video story for my grand-niece; telling the story while drawing the illustrations. Sort of cheap-o animation. By necessity, the drawings will have to be simple, cartoony, so I can do them fast enough to keep up with the story. Simple isn’t really my style! It WILL be a challenge!

            Gee! With that many chickens (20 or 30) you could have pillows, feather beds, eggs, chicks to sell, high cholesterol, a flock to rent out as pest control to your fellow gardeners (like the rental goats used for brush control!), and lots of wonderful compost! Be careful what you wish for, eh? 😉

            • Ooh – are you going to use Camtasia or other screen capture program for the animation? I love your idea. Will you share it with us when it’s done?

              My limit on chickens is the current 5. Unless I actually sell the house and move to a bigger lot, of course. Maybe a goose would make a better bed, though, and guinea fowl for the bugs. I can see it now – a zoo on wings. (How do they get the feathers off the goose? Do they hold her down and pluck, or do things happen that I don’t want to know about?)

            • Oo! That’s what I was looking for! Too expensive, though. Looking for free alternatives now … Fun!

              I don’t think they ask the geese kindly for their feathers and down. I believe it’s a, shall we say, by-product of meat production. 🙁

              I wonder if you could have a bigger flock on Hawaii. (Thinking a lot about tropical paradises at the moment!)

            • You can download the Camtasia program and use it for free for 30 days. If you don’t think you’ll be going into the animation business, that seems like the best route.

              OK – sorry I brought up the goose thing – I really like geese.

              If you have enough space you could probably have several hundred chickens on Hawaii if you wanted them. I found some very affordable places listed on the big island, some fully set up for off-grid living, (in communities that look like they might have some very interesting characters), with several acres, under $70,000. But getting family members to move, too, doesn’t seem to work very well. With oil prices bound to rise in the near future, getting back and forth would be kind of expensive. But it’s a very interesting thought…

            • My mac isn’t up to Camtasia, unfortunately (needs the intel chip), but I’m messing around with a freebie and a trial version of a low-cost screen recorder. Neither is at all perfect, but might work for this little project.

              Hawaii still looks pretty good to me. I wouldn’t necessarily mind being marooned on a tropical island with my husband and pets, even if family didn’t come with us! 😉

  5. Inspiring photos, aren’t they?

    Steve, about the pottery clay I’ve been experimenting with – I had all the same concerns that you mention in the post, so I did an experimental batch. I wasn’t expecting much, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. Since the clay is only a small portion of the revised recipe, I think it may simply act as a filler. I can’t imagine that it would work well in a solid piece – it might take forever to dry all the way inside, so the outside layers would crack. But I could be wrong…. (What, exactly, is in commercial self-hardening clay, anyway?)

    I mixed it a loooong time, to make sure all the little particles were coated with the glue and joint compound. The result is not quite as strong as the original PM clay recipe, although it still takes considerable effort to break it after it dries – and it’s very hard, although it’s easier to sand than the original. I dried mine in the oven at 200F to make sure it was dry all the way through. I’ll play with it some more and let you know what happens. If anyone else wants to experiment, too, let me know and I’ll give you the exact recipe I used.

    • Here’s the scoop on Self-hardening clay:
      According to the article maybe adding a little cornstarch would help add strength to your clay.

      I don’t do the entire piece with the self-dry clay additive…I make the rough form with your original recipe, and once dry go over that with the self-dry clay/mache mixture to do details…that way the strength of the Jonni clay reinforces the self-dry clay mixture. The idea is to work in layers as opposed to a complete sculpture in one sitting.

      There is a company called Aves that makes something called Clay Shay…a clay and paper mache combo. Just add water, feels like clay, and sets in a couple of hours. Gets hard as a rock too, but unfortunately is too brittle when used for detail or thinner applications. If you intend to make thicker designs I would recommend trying it. Sometimes I mix it half and half with Jonni’s recipe.

      Thanks folks for the kind comments. I’m too shy to do a youtube tute tho!


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