Waterproofing Paper Mache Clay – the Experiment Begins!

Paper Mache DogsI finally get to start the experiment in waterproofing paper mache clay that I’ve wanted to do for ages. I think I’ve finally found a way to do it that fits with the way I like to sculpt (and with my basic laziness, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue..).

I feel like I can afford to take some time for this project now because my latest book is finished, and (drum roll please) it’s available now on Amazon.com.

I want to thank everyone who offered suggestions for the title. Even though I wasn’t able to use all of your ideas, I wrote out the entire list of suggestions and read them over and over again. The original title was Patterns for 25 Tiny Paper Mache Dogs: Make Them All with Just Wire, Foil, Paper and Paste. With your help, the title changed to How to Make Tiny Paper Mache Dogs: With Patterns for 27 Different Breeds. I think it’s an improvement – shorter, more descriptive, easier to read when shown on a tiny image. There’s still that word “tiny” in there, but I think it works. I hope so, anyway.

So, back to the waterproofing experiment. As I mentioned in the video, I’ve been looking into a lot of different products made for waterproofing concrete, as Rich suggested a very long time ago. I thought that if I could find a product that would go on easily and sink into the paper mache clay instead of just sitting on top, I wouldn’t need to add an outer coat of Quickwall, like Julie did on her mountain lion. I wanted to avoid doing that just because I don’t like direct-sculpting with concrete. That’s just me.

Jackie’s idea of adding the painted-on layer of thin-set mortar to her goddess sculpture came closer to what I was hoping for, and I really like the colors she achieved with the addition of a small amount of paint over the mortar. It makes her Goddess fit in with the natural setting in a way that I like. But I’m getting lazy in my old age, and brushing on the mortar is one more step.

So, when I saw that the Trojan Masonry and Concrete Sealer can be sprayed on with a cheap backpack sprayer, like the one I have sitting out in the garage, I thought “that looks easy.”

But will it work? I sure hope so – because I have visions of the scarecrow, the tin man, maybe the rabbit and the caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland, and who knows who else taking up residence in my back yard. And maybe even my front yard, if I get brave. Wish me luck.

I’ll put up another video in a few days so you can see how the armature looks when it’s done. It will look better than it does now, I promise!

Edit: The next post is now finished, and you can see it here.

Update: The project was finished, but after the first rain, the brim on the scarecrow’s hat was flexible, so it absorbed water. It wasn’t sticky, like it was before the clay dried, but it wasn’t solid, either. At this point, I recommend that you read up on the two experiments shown on this site that did actually work: Julie’s mountain lion, made with Quickwall cement over paper mache clay, and Jackie’s Goddess, made with thin set tile mortar over paper mache clay.

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22 thoughts on “Waterproofing Paper Mache Clay – the Experiment Begins!

  1. Hi. I made lifesize dinosaur skeletons out of wood and put pmc on top of the wood. ( like Gary Feilds Art Prize T Rex) says that he made his with pmc over steel and used marine varnish ( rustolium marine varnish) for waterproofing.will that really work? I want to waterproof my 4 dinosaurs.

    • Hi Stix. Lots of people say it will work. My experiment failed. However, it was sun that ruined my outdoor sculpture, by causing the varnish to crack. Then the rain got in. And I didn’t use that brand. You’ll need to do some serious experiments before committing to a large project.

  2. Don’t know if this comment will be useful buy I’ve been seeing ads on TV for a product by Krylon that makes things waterproof. I can’t remember the name of it, but any big box store should have it. HTH

    • Yes, I’ve seen it but I haven’t tried it. After this failed experiment, and comments from readers who have also tried to waterproof paper mache and failed, I’ve given it up. I think we need to respect the medium and keep it inside, where it wants to be.

  3. Ordered your book from amazon. I own two of the others,. Love your work and find the site always inspirational. I repaired a resin outdoor angel whose wing was broken off and a few bits lost, so I filled with mâché , matched the paint with acrylic and sealed with outdoor spray polyurethane . I’ll know in a while if it worked. Thanks again for you generosity with knowledge.

    • Hi Monica. Thanks for buying the book – if you make a dog from the book I hope you’ll show it to us. And do keep us posted on your angel’s repair. I would like very much to know it it works.

  4. Jonni, congratulations on finishing your book. The title is perfect and very descriptive.
    Good luck on the waterproofing…my that would open up the possibilities if it works. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. I really hope your sealer works. Here in S W Florida the heat and humidity trumps anything and everything I’ve tried. Good Luck! My fingers are crossed.

    • Hi Jonni, I’m really happy that you’re having this experiment on waterproofing as I have the same kind of ideas about a garden plenty of paper mache sculpture. As far as my giraffe is coming along, I’m in the process of putting some marine varnish on it, hoping it will do the job. However, as you mentionned earlier, it does change a lot the color and my giraffe who was white now look yellow. For me, it’s not a big deal for now as the overall effect is ok but I see it could be quite disruptive for another sculpture that would have a lot of color on it. So I’ll follow up your experiment with great attention and hope that you success. I hope to send a final photo of my giraffe outside and varnish soon! Good luck!

  6. Hi Joni,
    I read Jackie Hall’s experiment for waterproofing papermache and believe that she did not use the Paverpol correctly. It is not painted on like a varnish. It must be worked into the fibre until it becomes one. Yes it does soften in the rain and then hardens again if not sealed. It must be sealed to prevent this. Paverpol suggests you seal their outdoor statues with a special Paverpol varnish. I have not done outdoor statues but I believe this product, Paverplast is recommended for outdoor waterproofing.
    http://www.paverpol.com/prestashop/en/content/71-working-with-paverplast
    It might be an idea for you to contact the USA Paverpol people and ask them. http://www.paverpolusa.com/
    However, I have only dabbled with this product. It is fun but expensive. Powertex is the same but cheaper and they suggest using a good outdoor varnish to seal. Do you have a Marine Varnish that they use on boats? The trick would be to completely seal it so no moisture gets in. When Paverpol is worked into the material it changes its feel. It makes it like sticky plasticine. So I believe that Jackie should have made her papermache with the Paverpol, not painted it on. Then sealed it with a marine varnish. Yes it does soften with water, but hardens again once dried. However, if only painted on the figure, the moisture would eventually get through the softened Paverpol coating and destroy the figure. I believe water will eventually get through any coating you apply, so you have to add something to the papermache to change its structure.
    This website might be handy http://www.sculpturesupply.com/list.php?offset=10&sf=category&vl=Textile+Modeling
    Another website that suggests Powertex can be used with Papermache is:
    http://www.artandcrafts.com.au/index.php?target=pages&page_id=PowertexOverview
    It says: Outside Statues:

    • If you wish for your statue to be waterproof quickly or if it is to be constantly in water (such as part of a fountain or a birdbath), then you must use the Powertex activator. A two component adhesive (Powertex plus activator) is always stronger than one component, but once the activator is added to the Powertex you must use all of the mixture within 6 hours. You may choose to also coat your project with Easy Varnish this is also a water repellent and will provide extra protection against the elements.
    • Bronze, Lead and Terracotta Powertex already have an activator component mixed in, so no extra activator is required.
    • If you have used any paint for highlighting your statue, you must seal this with varnish as the paint that you have applied will not be weatherproof..
    • It takes around 2 weeks for the Powertex to cure so do not apply varnish or leave outside until the Powertex has had a chance to dry and harden.

    I have not used Powertex but it could be your answer. Why don’t you try adding it to your papermache instead of white glue? You can buy small quantities. I would experiment myself but, being a silk painter, I have already too many projects on the go.
    This post is like Topsy. It grows and grows. Just found this link on making seaworthy paper boats. Now they should have your waterproofing answer!
    http://www.papiermache.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?id=2181
    Hope all this is useful.
    Cheers.

    • Gosh, that sounds like a lot of work. I think I’ll let someone else do that experiment. Spraying the sculpture with masonry sealer sounds a whole lot easier, so I’m really hoping it will work.

  7. Hi — I was wondering if you couldn’t weight the straw man down by filling the hollow legs with sand.
    Nancy
    ps
    Have you heard of a product called Paverpol? There is a lady out here making cloth outdoor pieces and she outer coats them with Paverpol. It must work she’s been doing it for several years. I live one Vancouver Island, so it can get very wet here for a long time.

    • Hi Nancy. Since my scarecrow is so lopsided, I think I need to embed some rebar or heavy wire down into a tub of concrete. If he were standing like a normal person, and if the wind didn’t blow 50 miles an hour on a regular basis, I thin your idea of filling the legs with sand would work quite well.

      I have heard of Paverpol, but I haven’t experimented with it. However, Jackie Hall did do a very carefully controlled experiment and found that Paverpol failed miserably. It’s possible that it reacts differenly when it’s used with cloth instead of paper mache. Or maybe there’s inside and outside Paverpol? Since she had such bad luck with it, I didn’t think it would be worth the trouble of doing her experiment over again.

      • Dear Jonni, thank you so much for all your inspiration. I love your work. I am sending this message because I believe Paverpol will work but needs to be thoroughly dried out (minimum 2 weeks in ideal conditions (eg not a damp garage but a nice warm dry room) before it can be placed outside. Also, the rain does soften it slightly and cloud it but that disappears again when it dries out according to Paverpol. I hope I am correct but I saw this looking it up on the internet. Not a lot of info as yet but this is what I have found out theoretically so far.

    • Hi Nancy. Since my scarecrow is so lopsided, I think I need to embed some rebar or heavy wire down into a tub of concrete. If he were standing like a normal person, and if the wind didn’t blow 50 miles an hour on a regular basis, I thin your idea of filling the legs with sand would work quite well.

      I have heard of Paverpol, but I haven’t experimented with it. However, Jackie Hall did do a very carefully controlled experiment and found that Paverpol failed miserably. It’s possible that it reacts differently when it’s used with cloth instead of paper mache. Or maybe there’s inside and outside Paverpol? Since she had such bad luck with it, I didn’t think it would be worth the trouble of doing her experiment over again.

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