Weatherproof Paper Mache Clay for Outdoor Sculptures

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Play Video about Weatherproof paper mache clay recipe for outdoor sculptures

I’ve been experimenting with two new recipes for weatherproof paper mache clay.

I should have done these experiments way back in 2013, because that’s when Warren Eggleton wrote a guest post for this website. He showed us how he made his giant pots using a version of our paper mache clay recipe, with the addition of Portland cement.

The last time we heard from him, his pots had been outside for six years, in Australia.

  • I recently made a casting of a leaf with this mixture.
  • And I sculpted a garden toad to go on the leaf. The new sculptures will be left in my garden over the winter, to see how well they hold up

I made some changes to Warren’s version of weatherproof paper mache, just to make sure every batch comes out exactly the same.

I also created two different recipes. One of them contains all the usual ingredients for paper mache clay, but the flour is replaced with Portland cement.

The second recipe leaves out the drywall joint compound, because it’s hard for some people to find.

Note: You probably noticed when you watched my video that I kept mentioning that my new paper cement clay recipe is experimental! We haven’t had time to test it out in the real world, so we don’t know how well it will hold up in your climate. Please keep that in mind if you decide to make some outdoor sculptures with it.

We just found out that sculptor Lee Bell has written a brand new book that includes her own time-tested cement-based recipe. Her method has been used for years, and her sculptures appear in many public outdoor installations. If you would like to use a cement-based recipe that’s already been tested (and isn’t experimental like the one on this page) I recommend reading her book first.

I tested both of my new recipes by spreading small samples onto cardboard every 30 minutes, to see how long we could continue to use them before they stiffened up too much.

The mixtures will eventually get hard in the bowl because of the Portland cement, but I was able to continue using them for at least 3 hours, with the room temperature at 76° F (24.4 C).

Warren told us in his post that it will get stiff faster in warmer weather.

Test pieces for weatherproof paper mache clay recipe with drywall joint compound.

Test pieces for weatherproof paper mache clay recipe with drywall joint compound.

Test pieces for weatherproof paper mache clay recipe without drywall joint compound.

Test pieces for weatherproof paper mache clay recipe without drywall joint compound.

How the two recipes are different after they dry:

Difference in texture with paper mache clay for outdoor sculptures

The texture of the recipe that includes the drywall joint compound is smoother – you can see that in the test piece on the right in the image above. However, for an outdoor sculpture, the difference may be so small that it really doesn’t matter.

Try the recipe that you think you’d prefer, and put your sculpture out in the garden.

After it’s been out there for a few months or a year, please come back and let us know if the rain, snow or sun has caused any noticeable damage.

Weatherproof paper mache clay recipe with drywall joint compound:

Note – be sure to watch the video at the top of the page to see how the ingredients were measured and mixed. If you want to make a larger batch, you may want to mix it with a paint mixer attachment on an electric drill.

Mix together:

  • 1/2 cup drywall joint compound
  • 1/2 cup Elmer’s Glue-All (PVA glue)
  • 1/2 cup damp toilet paper or recycled paper*

Mix until there are no lumps of paper in the mixture. Then add and mix well:

  • 1 cup Portland cement.

*To see how to weigh the damp paper, watch the video on this page, starting at the 3:06 mark. You’ll need to scroll down the page to find the video. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, soak the paper in hot water, then squeeze out most of the water (but not all of it) and use 1/2 cup of the damp paper.

Weatherproof paper mache clay recipe without drywall joint compound:

Mix together:

  • 1/2 cup Elmer’s Glue-All (PVA glue)
  • 1/2 cup damp toilet paper or recycled paper*

Mix until there are no lumps of paper in the mixture. Then add and mix well:

  • 2/3 cup Portland cement.

More experiments needed!

Warren had great luck with his pots outdoors in Australia. But I can’t know if these recipes will work here in Minnesota until I make a sculpture and leave it outside to see how well it does in our crazy weather.

In fact, we all need to consider these experimental recipes until we’ve had a chance to try them ourselves, in our own climate.

If you experiment with one or both of the recipes, please come back after a few months and let us know how they worked! 🙂

45 thoughts on “Weatherproof Paper Mache Clay for Outdoor Sculptures”

  1. Jonni, your articles and videos are such a huge help! I am interested in making some hanging jack-o-lanterns and am considering this recipe (and the bag of rice method in Rex Winn’s guest post) so they will hold up during the Halloween season. But with the concrete in the mix, will it still be possible to cut a panel to remove the bag of rice (or to cut shapes from the pumpkin to create the jack-o-lantern face)? I just want to make sure it won’t make the figure so stiff/hard that I can’t cut into it. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Kristina. I haven’t tried doing that, so I can’t say if it’s possible to cut the dried paper cement or not. The original paper mache clay dries really hard, too, so if I was doing it I would make some kind of ‘dam’ to create the hole while adding the material. Maybe tape a strip of plastic around the bottom, rub some oil on both sides, and add the material to the pumpkin. Then when everything is dry, you could pull the two pieces apart.
      Do remember, though, that this recipe is still experimental! That’s especially true if water could get inside your pumpkins and stay there for a long period of time. And cement is not waterproof, so be sure to seal them. Watch them carefully, and if they get rained on and then start to feel soft, bring them back inside to dry off. I’m hoping that we get lots of experiments going, but remember that we don’t know how well the material will hold up yet, until we all try it to find out. My toad has not been through three rainstorms, and he’s still doing fine. But it hasn’t had a chance to freeze yet.

      Reply
  2. I love your work and I watch most of your shows. I wanted to ask you if you have ever tried Engine Enamel, its of course it’s for car engines but they said it sealed the medal, like it might make your work waterproof in a spray. I am sort of house bound, so I can’t try it, or I sure would. I work every day with the clay, love it.

    Reply
    • Hi Bev. I haven’t tried engine enamel. In fact, this is the first time I’ve heard of it. But I did use Rustoleum Matte Clear Enamel on my toad. I’ve never used it before, but the ad for it was convincing, and now we’ll find out how well it holds up outside. I’m working on that video now, and it should be online today.

      Reply

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