At the beginning of summer I made a Ploughshare tortoise out of paper mache clay, to test how well it would hold up out in the garden. For many months it did just fine – through rain, downpours, sprinklers, and lightly filtered sun. He lived under a rose bush, since I didn’t think he’d want to be out in the middle of the path, where some clumsy old lady (who could that be?) might trip over him.
Then a few weeks ago I moved the rose bush, and the area around the tortoise was temporarily bare. Within just a few days I saw the flaking that you can see in the photo above. The direct sun caused damage, even though all the rain did not.
I guess that means he’s waterproof (I used spar varnish) but not weatherproof.
Dang – I had a whole menagerie planned for my garden and yard. I thought it might keep me busy this winter, when I couldn’t be outside digging in the dirt or hanging out with the chickens. More research is needed.
This should not be insurmountable. Boats have been made out of paper, and they were fine, waterproof craft. And paper mache is not much different than any composite wood product.
Britta left a comment today, including a photo of her new Indian elephant, which she made the same way as the one in my elephant video, but using mortar instead of the paper mache or paper mache clay. If some concrete waterproofing stuff was painted over the elephant, she should last a very long time outside. But can the mortar be painted for brightly colored storks and other odd critters?
The failure on the tortoise is in the paint and varnish shell, not the paper mache clay beneath it, so perhaps acrylic paint would cause the same issues on a mortar sculpture. In fact, maybe it isn’t a problem of weatherproofing paper mache, but simply a matter of finding the right kind of paint to go on over it.
Any ideas? I know there are a lot of folks out there who want to use the paper mache clay or traditional strips and paste for outdoor art, but so far I haven’t found the solution to the weatherproofing problem. Your ideas will be much appreciated. (I think a sculpture garden would be so much fun!) If you think you know the answer to this problem, please leave a comment.