Where Papier Mache Sculptors are Important

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This post is a compilation of news and interesting papier mache artwork that I found while surfing this morning.

My online journey began with this  news item: Malta is celebrating Carlo Darmanin, Malta’s most important papier-mache statue maker, with an exhibition of his work. Naturally, my reaction to this news was “What? Papier mache sculptors are important in Malta? I want to go there!”

The great sculptor died 100 years ago, but they still think papier mache is important. Lectures included in the celebration will include::

Renzo Gauci, a Maltese papier-mache statue maker who will be speaking about the art of papier-mache, and another by Victor Caruana, who has carried out in-depth research about papier-mache and artists who use this technique.

Darmanin created statues for use in churches and sanctuaries. I’m guessing, but it looks like the works were made with the traditional “chewed” paper, or papier mache pulp. If I happened to be in Malta I’d make sure to attend that lecture so I could know for sure.

And in case you’re wondering, Malta is in the Mediterranean, due south of Sicily – and it looks like art of all kinds are important there.

I looked for photos of contemporary papier mache in Malta to see what they’ve been up to lately, but I was unsuccessful. However, I ran across these small statues of Keith Richards and Woody Allen (in Barcelona – Google isn’t perfect). It’s interesting to see papier mache used to create human figures in completely different styles – both sacred and profane. The profane ones are below (I’m not sure I could live with this likeness of Keith, but Woody is kind of cute:

Keith Richards and Woody Allen in Barcelona
Keith Richards and Woody Allen in Barcelona

You can also find a photo of a bust of John Lennon, Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), Marlon Brando and a few other figures, all in paper mache, on the Barcelona Photoblog. The blogger does not give the name of the store where these works are found, or the artist’s name. If you happen to know, please tell us.

Also be sure to check out the giant paper mache troll statue, made by Seattle artist Kim Graham. It looks like a knarly tree with a personality. According to the artist, this statue was made to look great when you get your photo taken in front of it. Her site doesn’t say how the sculpture was made or if it’s waterproof. Again, tell us if you know.

21 thoughts on “Where Papier Mache Sculptors are Important”

  1. Dearest Jonni, you really need make a little tour around those webs to see the importance of paper mache in Spain, The key place is Valencia which is held annually LAS FALLAS. Within the framework of the festival breaks MASCLETA (masclet is a kind of firework) roughly translated as July 4 bestially way or Manolito way -this is a reference to the comic “Mafalda” created by Joaquin Lavado (Quino) -. They use what they call fallero cardboard is a little harder than wood colored craft paper but thinner than a therefore also more malleable cardboard. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falles)
    With that material they made colossal statues. They become true artworks that represent metaphors of politics/economic current issues or on various subjects like mythology, television, beauty or childhood. They are judged and the losers are burned in the culminating night FAULTS called the “Nit de la Cremá”. The winners will exposed in an ad hoc museum. There is a children’s version of this contest. A well-structured organization of all Valencia’s neighbors that decides the general theme of the year. Each district decides to turn what guidance will be given to this issue. Wikipedia is pretty well explained -in its translation into English- how to raise funds for such a celebration.
    This video is the “Nit de la Cremá” 2015 http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/fallas/nit-crema-2015/3071838/.

    Sorry for my mistakes because I have not studied English formally in my life and I turned to Google translator for to give me a hand … the neck. A very loving greeting from an argentine mad cow living in Madrid with a suffered husband Made in Spain.
    Thank you for giving me inspiration!!!

  2. I was googling that store in Barcelona because I want to get the John Lennon one for my husband for xmas. Does anyone know where else I can find them? I have the street name of the store but cant figure out how to find the store name. 🙁


  3. The store in Barcelona is 2BIS. It is not too far from the Columbus Square and right next to the old Catherdal (Caterdal). It is a great store. The service is ok but the selection is great.

    • I finally got an email from them. They told me shipping would be 186 euros for one doll. Does anyone know if there are any secret shoppers in Barcelona or if I can get it another way? Or from somewhere else?


  4. A hint: paper mache in Maltese is ‘karta pesta’ – probably meaning ‘paper paste’.

    Religious (Catholic) statues used in village feasts for processions are usually paper mache, with some exceptions (wood, etc.).

    Good Friday procession statues are also usually paper mache e.g. http://www.goodfridaymalta.com/thestatuesoverview.htm

    Paper mache statues are also used extensively to decorate streets for the days of the parish’s festival in honour of the patron saint.

  5. Hi skelectica. For some reason I couldn’t pull up any photos with your link, but I found this one. I grabbed one of their images below, but be sure to click on the link to see them all. Incredible. Are they really paper mache?[img]http://z.about.com/d/gospain/1/7/Y/L/-/-/DSC_2484.jpg[/img]

  6. those are some beautiful pics you posted – and this post reminded me of the fallas festival in valencia, spain. it’s a week long celebration, with about 700 (i can’t remember where i saw that number..) different paper mache and polystyrene sculptures all around the town.. and on the last night of the festival, they BURN THEM!!

    but there is some stunning work – i never would have guessed that the statues are mostly made of paper!
    definitely worth checking out..

  7. Did you get the sense that the “sacred” sculptures were done with molds? The smoothness and detail are pretty remarkable, if it was all done with direct sculpting, maybe sanding down to the final surface? Makes me want to try a human figure …

    First: CATS!

    I love that troll! I ran across that awhile back. Her armature structure and build-up isn’t that different from yours, it looks like, except in scale. I wonder where it ended up?

    • I wish I knew how he made those saints and angels. I suspect you’re right about the molds. It looks like the paper mache they’re using is like the old composition material that doll heads were made from. Since both paper mache and composition are, basically, a way to rebuild wood from particles of cellulose, the end result is very strong. The Mexican paper mache sculptors often use strips of paper and flour paste put on on the outside of a wooden mold, and they sometimes have remarkable detail.

      I’ll go back to the troll-lady’s website and see if she has a contact page. Maybe she’ll let us know if it found a permanent home. And if it’s waterproof…

      By the way – which big dog event are you showing at next week? Do they have a website?


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