The Ballerina

Made by Jon Keller

I have always admired the work of Degas ….especially his work with ballerinas , both painting and sculpture. It was that which inspired me to make a paper mache ballerina.

The base is a cutting board , a cheese cutting board to be specific. I drilled a hole through it and used a solid metal knitting needle for the main “backbone” of the frame . It was a tight fit and had to be hammered in . I then let some liquid super glue seep into the very tight space in between the needle and the wood. For the rest of the armature I used wire. I save the wire handles from Chinese food containers, they are srtong and malleable and can be used for many things. By twisting two pieces together it made very suitable armature sections. After I assembled my frame I used paper tape to secure all the joints. The next step was to wrap most of it with aluminum foil followed by more paper tape.

For the paper mache I used brown paper bags . I tear the bags into small pieces, soak the pieces in water overnight , and then , using an immersion blender , blend it until it is the consistency of watery mud. I squeeze out the water through a piece of linen and knead it with a generous amount of white glue.

The paper mache was applied to the frame using manly a butter knife , with the detailed areas done with a clay sculpting tool. It was applied a little at a time, with overnight drying in between applications.

The skirt was made from cheesecloth and the tank top was made with linen ( a cut bedsheet ).

I may or may not paint it. Originally I was planning to put a metallic bronze finish on it , but I like the way it looks as raw paper mache.

"The Ballerina" by Jon Keller

"The Ballerina" armature


10 thoughts on “The Ballerina”

  1. Jon, Have you ever played around with paverpol? It is a fabric stiffening substance that is waterproof and comes in clear, bronze and black. It may even come in more colors now as I tried it years ago. The reason why I asked is because I also did a ballerina very similar to yours and covered it with Paverpol. I did it for the same reasons you did…love of Degas and built it similarly to how you did, Deja vu! Yours is a beautiful sculpture. You know I am a big fan!
    I have already posted the ballerina I had done years ago but I will repost it just to show you. There wasn’t a way to show this pic in the reply to you. Nice work. I do like it as is though.

    • I have never heard of Paverpol , but I did just Google it. It looks like something that I would be interested in , thank you . I keep a lot of different art supplies on hand and something like that would certainly fit right in.
      Please do re-post your ballerina , I would like to see it , and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts .

        • Thank you Jonni. And again , thanks for this wonderful website. Your website is truly a gift to all of the paper mache artists spread out over the world . In my “real” world I don’t know anybody that works ( or even thinks about ) paper mache…… but in here there are dedicated paper mache artists. It’s a really great website ….. thank you.

  2. Agreed on the finish – keep it as is.

    Jon – you are so prolific, and your work is both amazing and inspirational. I am very thankful you share it here!

    • Thanks for your very thoughtful and encouraging comment .
      While I have been doing art my entire life it is during the past few years that I have become very prolific. When the pandemic began I started working form home , which has given me a lot more free time than I have ever had …… and I use that time to do art projects. I keep busy doing painting , drawing , wood carving , paper mache , and some special projects that don’t fall into any particular category .
      I wandered into Jonni’s wonderful sight last year and am grateful that she provides a venue where people that enjoy creating with paper mache can share their projects , ideas , and knowledge.
      When I receive such thoughtful feedback , such as yours , it makes doing art even more satisfying than it already was.
      Thank you ……


Leave a Comment