Walrus is Done, Finally

Remember the walrus I used as an experiment to see if you can use the paper mache clay in a mold?  It took me a while to get this guy finished. (Arabian Oryx still isn’t done…) That’s the problem with my little experiments – once I know for sure the idea works, I get bored with the whole thing and I’m off to another project.

The clay mixture I used was slightly modified from the “regular” paper mache clay. However, the only difference is the substitution of glycerin for the linseed oil. I found that you can get a fairly decent impression with fewer voids with the glycerin than I got with my first tries using linseed oil. I gave Walrus a final coat of gesso, but I made sure it didn’t smooth out the slightly rough texture of the clay, which gives him a nice “organic” feel.

The tusks were added using a U-shaped piece of galvanized wire covered with aluminum foil and masking tape. They were firmly attached to the inside of the piece with more paper mache clay, and when they were well-attached I added the final coat of clay to the tusks. They were made nice and smooth with several coats of gesso. I didn’t paint the tusks, although I might go back and stain them with ivory-colored paint to make them look a bit more natural.

After seeing some of the wonderful paper mache masks that people are making, I can see some real commercial potential for using molds with the paper mache clay. You still have a hand-made, hand-painted product, but some of the time-consuming design work only needs to be done once. I think someone with a bit more entrepreneurial enthusiasm than I have could do well on Etsy or at next year’s art shows with this idea. If you try it, be sure to let us know how your own molded paper mache pieces turn out.


19 thoughts on “Walrus is Done, Finally”

  1. Hi! I’m loving looking at all your videos and can’t wait to get my hands dirty but the reason I am writing is to see if I can help w the glycerine issue. I have used for years to preserve fresh flowers – keeps them looking fresh for years and how-to will be at end of this note for anyone interested. But I believe many people are having difficulty finding it. Yes michaels does sell it but its way higher priced and no different than the a generic drugstore brand.
    First of all, it is used to moisten skin and I have found by the witch hazel in the pharmacy area. it is in a plain bottle much like rubbing alcohol. However, if you do NOT find it, ask the pharmacist! Glycerine is also used to make bombs, or at least was, so many drugstores took to keeping behind the counter and may make you sign for it much like Sudafed. I am not certain how it is used in bomb production but that was what a pharmacist explained to me out in CA about 10 years ago. There had been quite a few terrorist attacks on planes during that timeframe and since terrorism is still a big concern, that may be why some people are having trouble finding it. Worth making the inquiry though as it is significantly cheaper than the craft store variety!

    Floral/plant preservation: mush the stem of the flower or plant w pliers and put into a mixture of half glycerine and half water. Then just keep eye on it, adding more water when necessary to keep mixture thin enough for the plant or flower to absorb. When flower/plant quits absorbing any liquid, preservation is complete! Throw out water and enjoy!

  2. Wow!! I am so impressed with your work! It looks like you love what you do. Funny thing, my son (11yr old) and I wanted to build a paper mâché walrus and who would have guessed I would find such perfection on my google search.? We were wondering, what your finishing layers were. Paint first, then verathane with paint in it, then gesso? Or, just verathane with paint in it? I will send you a picture of our fun attempt when we are done. Thank you for being so creative and sharing it with us! Liz

    • Hi Liz. I can’t actually remember how I painted the walrus, but if I did it again I’d use a product called Golden Glazing Liquid instead of adding paint to Verathane. This is the steps I’d take to get the texture to stand out: First, paint the basic color as an undercoat. When it dries, I’d mix a bit of burnt umber to some glazing liquid, brush it on, and then rub it off to leave the dark stain in the deeper sections. Then cover with an acrylic varnish – or Verathane, if that’s what you have on hand.

      If you don’t have any glazing liquid, you can mix brown paint with water and then rub it off – but it dries so quickly that you may have a difficult time getting it to look the way you want. The glazing liquid slows down the drying so you have more time to play with it.

      I hope you’ll let us see your son’s walrus when it’s done. (I’d also make the walrus a different way if I did it over. I’d use the fast-setting paper mache paste and shop towels over a modeling clay form, like I used in my new mask book. You can see the process in a video series, including the recipes, here. That way, you don’t need to make a mold, which can be kind of tricky.

  3. Really nice Jonni, I love the skin texture, the folds and as Mike said the “look of life”!
    Is it just me or does the walrus have the same stare as Daisy, was there a chicken behind you when you took the picture of the walrus? 😉

    Bob C.

    • 🙂 Poor Daisy is getting a bum rap – she actually started guarding the chicks when I first brought them home, and now she follows them around, sniffing butts and trying to be motherly. Chickens don’t seem to like that…

      The Walrus, of course, would be happy to snack on feather sandwich.

  4. You really capture that look of life in your art, I’m always amazed at how well your paint your projects. I can see it in the eyes, the life. Kudos, looks great!

  5. Jonni – where do you get the glycerin to change the original recipe? I’m excited to try the mold procedure

    • Heh – I looked all over town, and I think I finally found the very last bottle in the county, in the laxative department of the local RiteAid. We don’t have a craft store, but I’ve been told that you can also find it at Michael’s and other craft stores. People use it to make soap. My bottle cost about $6, but since you only use a tablespoon or so, the little bottle will last a long time.

      I noticed that my oryx mold, which has a deep face, was difficult because it was hard to get my hand inside to press the clay against the urethane mold. The ferret and walrus were much easier. I think if I did it again I’d do the oryx in two halves, and put them together after the clay was dry.

      Good luck with your molds – I think you’ll have fun with them. And let us know if you learn anything new about this process – we’re forging new ground here…

  6. Another beautiful piece Jonni! I love it. I forgot to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. Definitely a must have for any serious paper mache artist. Great projects wonderfully illustrated and explained. Congratulations!

  7. Love the walrus! And the insert about the chicks and your dog are great, too! Thanks so much for sharing all of your expertise and your ideas. You’re awesome!

  8. There is never any excuse needed for a little chicken and Daisy. 🙂

    Your sculpture is so inspiring, and accessible! I’m going to try out your recipe. I’ve always loved the idea of sculpting but found the necessary materials a little daunting. This solves that problem. 🙂


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