“The Lodge Brother” Cast Paper Mache Wall Sculpture

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Cast Paper Mache Wall Art
“The Lodge Brother”

I made the short video in this post to say “Happy New Year,” and to show off the cast paper mache wall art I worked on this week. I’m calling it The Lodge Brother. (I thought it sounded better than Old Geezer With a Bear on His Head.)  🙂

As I mentioned in the video, I’m having a bit of trouble with the plaster molds. When I pull the cast paper mache (Li Qua Che) out of the molds, thin details break off so I can only use them once. If you have any ideas that might keep that from happening in the future, please let me know.

The first time I painted this guy, I used the bronze coating that I previously used on the Ballarina Bunny. I hated it, so I repainted the whole thing. I like it much better now.

I’m really happy with the bronze hanger I used on this piece. They’re made to be pounded into a wood frame, but they also work when pressed into wet paper mache clay. I’ve added hangers with hot glue before, but this was the first time I embedded one directly into the paper mache clay. I was worried about the clay possibly shrinking and making the hanger too loose, but I think it actually worked in the opposite way, making it hold even tighter as the clay dried. Now I have a whole package of them, so I have to make 99 more wall sculptures.

Be sure to let us know what you’ve been working on, if you weren’t too busy with holiday festivities or shoveling snow. We’d all love to see what you’ve been up to.

28 thoughts on ““The Lodge Brother” Cast Paper Mache Wall Sculpture”

  1. Hi Jonni,
    I’m sorry to say that until I found your tutorial on you tube and then your website I always thought of paper mache as being a kids craft, not something serious artist would use. Thank you for showing me how wrong I was. I now have your book on making baby animal dolls. It’s been great to see how you work through problems you have with materials, creating your own product recipes and how generous you are to share what you learn with others, thanks so much. In going through some of your past articles I noticed that at one time it was hard for you to find Liquache until someone told you it was available at Amazon. Years ago I found out about Liquache on the Activaproduct.com site. The price seems to be the best I’ve found and they carry tools and armature supplies as well. They also have a fun projects section full of ideas and information on all of their products that are downloadable. They have been a great resource for me for info and ordering supplies. I hope you may find this useful. Thanks again, I’ll be watching for more great ideas. Lia

    • Excellent advice, Lianne. I’ll check out that site. And I’m glad you’re enjoying this site, as well. 😉

  2. I may have the solution to your mold making problem, if you haven’t found one yet (old post). We used to use plaster molds to cast latex rubber pieces for costumes and had the same issue with details cracking. The alternatives seemed overly complicated and expensive. Then I found a recipe for Oogoo on Instructables. It’s the bomb! It took a couple of days of experimenting to get the amounts and timing down but now we use it all the time and teach other artists to use it too.
    The materials are easy to find in most places – silicone caulk (100% type 1) and cornstarch. Try it out, I’ll bet you’ll find all kinds of cool things to do with it.
    Thank you for sharing your skills and kindness on your website! I plan to be a grandma like you – sculpting and gardening every day!

  3. I may have the solution to your mold making problems, if you haven’t found one yet. We used to use plaster to cast latex rubber but ran into the same issue of small details cracking and the mold just wearing out after 10 or 20 uses. Alternatives seemed overly complex and expensive. Then I found a recipe on Instructables for Oogoo. http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Make-Your-Own-Sugru-Substitute/
    It took a couple of days of trial and error but now we use it all the time. It’s cheap, fast, non toxic and made from simple materials found in a hardware store – silicone caulk and cornstarch.
    The resulting molds are semi flexible so you can get away with some under cuts too. I am now trying it out with a slightly altered version of your paper clay.
    I love your site. Thank you for sharing your skills and process. I plan to be a grandma just like you, sculpting and gardening!

    • Thanks, Jennifer. I’d never heard of the stuff, but now I have to go check it out. It might not work with the Li Qua Che as a mold substitute, because this stuff needs the porosity of the plaster. But I’ll bet it would make great molds to use with paper mache or the home-made air dry clay. Do you know if you can use a release on it to keep things from sticking to it?

      • I don’t know about using a release with paper clay. Oogoo doesn’t need it with liquid rubber as a casting medium. You have to let the rubber sit for a while to set up. We do it with many thin layers to get a strong cast so it can take a whole day to get one but the molds never seem to wear out.
        We set the mold on one of those plate warmers and that speeds it up.

        • I can see from your website that you do amazing work, and your process would be not only beautiful but also comfortable to wear. As soon as I move to my new house I’ve got to play around with this technique. Thanks so much for telling us about it.

          • Thank you Jonni! My husband developed most of the techniques we use through experimenting with materials, like you do. I think you will enjoy playing with oogoo. I’ll let you know how my paper clay casting works. Hope your move is nice and easy.

  4. Another thought on breaking mold details. Try using Rapid Set taping mud. It comes in several set speeds. Five minute (almost too fast), 20 minute, and 90 minute. This product is used in the drywall industry for quick patching. It gets extremely hard. It is a powder sold in 25# bags and has water reactive glue so it does not break easily.

  5. You mention having trouble with plaster cast details breaking off. The best way to overcome this is to coat the model with several layers of latex, letting each layer dry completely between coats. Make sure that all those deep details are filled with latex. After the final coat is cured, make your plaster cast over the latex covered model. After the plaster has hardened, remove the cast and gently peal off the latex and place it into your plaster cast. Then, you are ready to make your reproductions with whatever medium you choose. After that medium has set, you can remove the plaster cast, peal off the latex and the detail will be well preserved. The cast will be undamaged. Replace the latex mold back into the plaster mold and you are ready to re-use it.

    • Hi Jolie. Your technique with latex inside the plaster mold would be perfect for traditional paper mache, but it won’t work with the pourable paper mache (Li Qua Che) that I used for this project. It works just like ceramic slip, and needs the plaster to pull the water out of the solution, to create a skin. I tried the Li Qua Che in a silicone mold (which would be similar to the process you described) and it didn’t work at all. Some people say they’ve had good luck with the air dry clay recipe in silicone molds, so it would probably work well with your technique, too. I hope to try it some day.

  6. Jonni, I’m not familiar with the Sax pottery plaster, but I have used various dental casting plasters. such as Hydrocal and Dentastone. I’ve used both of these to make moulds to cast water-based materials in, such as paper clays and castable papier mache. But the best I’ve found (for not only moulds but for casting nearly indestructible plaster items is something called Excalibur. We used it extensively to create items for the community theatre, because they would be used frequently (and treated none-too-kindly by overworked volunteer stage hands). It’s great for making production moulds, as it holds up well to repeated soaking from water-based materials. A work of warning: if I recall correctly, this material dries nearly as hard as cement, so you only get one chance to cast a mould from your original. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) But I have several moulds made from this material that I use with paper clay and papier mache that are still going strong after 20 years.) I don’t know the company’s web site, or even who makes it, but look up Excalibur dental casting plaster and there should be something about it online.

  7. Love your work. Plaster being porous and water based gets soft when wet, try sealing the plaster with sanding sealer or polyurathane. It should make it retain your smaller details but will slightly retard your drying time. After you fill with your paper pulp try blotting on it with felt. It should help wick more of the water out and the plaster being sealed should protect it from softening and harming your mold.

    • Hi Genie. Thanks for the advice on the molds. Your plan would work well for any type of paper mache except the castable Li Qua Che. The pourable product works like ceramic slip, and it doesn’t work at all in a mold that isn’t porous. I tried it in one of my old silicone molds, and it just doesn’t work. It needs the water to be pulled out of the liquid paper mache by the mold itself.

      One of these days I want to try sealing a plaster mold as you suggested and using a release, then using it for a traditional paper mache sculpture. They do it all the time in Mexico and Italy, but I haven’t tried it yet. It’s on my to-do list. 😉

  8. Happy New Year to you and all your followers. I know I have learned a lot from you this past year. People tell me that I am doing a lost art doing paper mache.

    I am working to build up a inventory so I will be ready for our Farmers Market in the spring. Being in South Carolina it comes sooner than South Dakota.

    I had to order Golden soft gel off of e-bay because our craft store didn’t know what I was talking about.

    • Hi Dodie. I have to order all my art supplies, since we don’t have a craft store here in town. I think the university might have art supplies in their book store, but they always seem to raise the prices in those stores, so I go ahead and order online. It’s making me lazy, since I hardly ever have to go anywhere anymore. (It’s -20 outside right now, here in SD. Spring can’t come soon enough!)

  9. Why not add the details after you’ve cast? Using either Creative Paperclay or Apoxie to add details to anything is easy and fast. Both materials will attach to most anything. Apoxie is perhaps much better mechanically. Both dry hard and paint well.

    My work is now sans paper, clay. The real stuff. Here’s a somewhat recent piece: “CAPTAIN OF . . .” (industry) and is 17″ x 10″ x 7-1/2″ in size.

    • Nice sculpture Jim. Thanks for showing him to us.

      I can’t add the details that I’m losing from the molds. I’d need to use a carving knife to replace the incised lines. It’s totally doable, of course, but I’d like to find a way to keep the problem from happening in the first place. There must be a stronger plaster I could use. Or maybe I’m just not mixing it right. I’ll do some online research and see if I can find a clue…

      • Blick has pottery plaster and I don’t know how much you want, but I have ordered a gallon of glue and 4.5 lbs of plaster of paris and it didn’t cost more for shipping.

        • Interesting. I have the Amazon Prime, for free shipping. Maybe I’ll check and see if they have any. Do you know if the pottery plaster is harder or stronger than Plaster of Paris?

        • I just checked, and they do have 50# bag of Sax Pottery Plaster for $24. The plaster of Paris I buy at Lowe’s costs $10 for 25 pounds, so this isn’t much more. I wonder if I can pick up a 50# box and move it from my front porch to my studio upstairs? I’ll probably have to break it up into smaller containers, but that’s OK…

          Oh, what the heck – I think I’ll go ahead and order it. It will save me a trip to the hardware store in this miserable weather, if nothing else. 😉

          • Good for you! At least it won’t go bad even though 50 lbs is a lot of dead weight. 😉 Pottery plaster IS harder than plaster of paris, but not as hard as Densite.
            I sure hope it works for you.

          • Dear Jonni,

            I am working towards a similar end as you with this project as well and can tell you that any type of “plaster of paris” type plaster is too soft for what you are after.
            I intend to try using Hobby Lobby’s version of the USG no. 1 Pottery Plaster (which is made for slip casting) and see if that works, if that doesn’t work I will be looking for a step up in terms of hardness. Unfortunately, I have also had trouble finding sources of good pottery plaster locally (if the hobby lobby stuff doesn’t pan out) and the shipping for 50# bags of anything I’ve found that seems desirable is usually three times the asking price.
            I was more looking now for a good recipe for paper slip so that I could try out my forms. Anything you have regarding that I would love to hear and would be happy to share my insights moving forward with these methods.

            • Hi Neil. The only paper-based product I know of that will work nicely in a plaster mold is Li-Qua-Che. I love the stuff. It isn’t’ perfect – it shrinks, and often in only one direction, which will distort the shapes slightly. And it certainly isn’t as hard as plastic. But I do enjoy working with it. I made my Wolf Man and Lodge Brother using plaster molds and this product. I had to switch to pottery plaster to get a mold that didn’t lose its finer details when removing the casting from the mold.

  10. Happy 2014 Jonni! I hope you have an AMAZING new year with New and delicious ideas to continue sharing with ALL of us. I cannot imagine what the world would be without your work,tutorials and gift of art making. As a fellow sculptor and art guy….I am eternally grateful for your website and Youtube videos. They make me feel right on track and encouraged to make more works and continue no matter what. Its tough to express my gratitude but rest assured that WE love ya more than we can express. Happy New 2014, here’s to a new year and new ideas! Here’s a picture of my Grinch from the cartoon that I created using your recipe!

    • Thanks, Jamie. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. Do you have a website, by any chance? I’d love to see more of your work.

      Unfortunately, your Grinch didn’t get attached to your comment. That usually happens when the image is too large. Could you save the image to a smaller size and try again? For adding more images, you just need to add additional comments. I think you need to put at least one word in each comment text box to make it work.

      I can’t wait to see your Grinch!


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