I love sculpture! And nothing makes sculpture more accessible than paper mache! Even a total beginner like me can make a masterpiece! But knowing where to start is half the battle! So I took the Instructables Paper Mache Class by MikaelaHolmes , and girl, am I glad I did! Really found my inspiration.
Anytime I am messin' around with a craft project, I am real informal and experimental. But as soon as I am making something within parameters of some such sort, like a contest, I get all red-eyed and twitchy, doubting my process, analyzing the results before I even begin. It's all very inconvenient, time consuming and uncomfortable. But it can make for some valuable inspiration towards creative goals. Taking the class gave me the launching point and confidence I needed! Creativity is my very being and heartbeat! And nothing is better for my creative life than inspiration from my invisible playmates on Instructables! So thank you, Mikaela! It's the marvelous people like you who uphold new and more fantastic levels of achievement by sharing the processes of creating! I hope my project proves that!
This paper mache character from the Dr. Seuss book, "The Sneetches" is made from a couple balloons, reclaimed paper goods, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cardboard core from vinyl sheeting, newsprint, starch, paint, pipe cleaners, glue and creativity!
If you like projects that may have many stages and need plenty of time to cure in between, then this is for you! Paper mache isn't an instant gratification project. It takes planning, prep and down time while the starch dries so you make a piece that wears well. How deflating to put time and effort into a project only to have it spoil by improper technique! But don't be discouraged! This is so easy! I will show you how I did it!
Start first by eyeballing all the stuff going into the recycle bin and trash that may be reused for a project. Think outside the cardboard box and into the realm of possibilities! Everything you ever wanted to make can be boiled down into basic shapes. Rectangles, triangles, squares, circles and more. A paper towel tube becomes a giraffe neck. Flour and water become glue. A foil box becomes a sarcophagus. You become Edward Razorknifehands. A cereal box becomes a...?... as you slice and shred and measure twice, dice, crackle, snap, POP! Don't forget the paint drop cloth! You're on a roll now! Did you know you can even make the world!? It's all in the lovely glue, my dear! If love is the glue that holds the world together, then it's perfectly fine to have a small taste of the irresistible paste! All you paste eaters get your smocks and aprons on! It's time to make alchemy happen and get our hands dirty! Don't be afraid! Can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs! Ask Humpty Dumpty! He knows that's the way!
Step 1: (Toilet) Roll Call!
Gather your devices of mass construction-let the materials inspire you! This is the most difficult part for me! What to do!? What can I make? What is the inspiration from this shape?What do I have on hand? If you want to cover all bases do a who, what, where, why and how! Most important- GO FOR IT!
trash-TP rolls. newspaper, boxes, cardboard, containers
alchemy-white flour/water or bottled starch, big pinch of salt
razorknife and/or scissors
paint acrylic -yellow, green, black, red
dropcloth or newsprint
apron or smock
large mixing bowl
Once you have your idea of what to make, figure out what shapes are needed. In the case of the Sneetch, I needed 2 circles or ball shapes. One for the head and one for the body. I sized the balloons accordingly by blowing them up and tying them off and taping the knots down like Mikaela taught me to in her DIY OWL
In a large mixing bowl, mix until smooth-1 cup white flour with 1 1/2 cups warm water and a big pinch of salt as a preservative. Alternately you can add some essential oil of cinnamon to preserve. (If you don't want to make your own starch, you can buy a jug of Vano starch in the laundry soap isle of your grocery store).
Use this to moisten your torn newspaper strips. As you build your sculpture in layers, change the direction of the strips to add strength to the pieces. Tear the pieces versus cutting them to open up the fibers and make them easy to soak up the starch glue.
Test dryness by touch-if it feels cool to the touch, there is still moisture present. Rotate the piece as it dries. Use a fan to circulate the air if you want to speed up the process a bit.
You'll find you have some variables in your materials list by what you make. You can decorate paper mache with just about anything including but not limited to fabric or paper or other material pieces, feathers, paint, textured paints, magazine pages, yarn, buttons, dry leaves, corn husks, raffia, heck you can even mosaic it with cut up compact discs if you have a really good pair of scissors and some time!
The main concerns are design, materials, weight, purpose and use. You will want to take special steps if your piece is going to be displayed outside for any length of time like say a Halloween decoration or yard ornament.
This technique lends itself perfectly to large projects that can be easy to mount, move and install. Use any type of chicken wire, tomato cage or other form. Need a giant sphere? Use a yoga ball! Need a mushroom shape? Use some chicken wire stuffed with crumpled newsprint that you have fashioned into shape. To remove from the form, just cut down the side of the project, remove from mold and glue the pieces back together! I learned that here! I had no idea! Mine wasn't made that way I just wanted to share some of the spectacular ways to build with paper mache! There's no end to what you can do with old newspapers!
Step 2: Destroy, Build, Dry, Repeat
Over the course of several days I added paper strips (torn, not cut) to each of the body pieces. I put about 8-10 layers thick of newsprint/craft paper, letting them dry in between on the body. I went a little thicker on the head because I knew I'd be fastening and molding contours on it. The head took a long time to dry due to the enclosed nature of the beak. I placed it on a hot rock on top of the wood stove until I didn't feel any more moisture. I dried it longer than necessary because I didn't want my work to get wasted and ruined with mold. I added a little salt to the homemade glue to act as a preservative.
It's really rewarding to watch the piece take shape as you add layer after layer of paper. I added less layers of paper to the arms and legs since they started out as TP rolls. TP rolls are the end all, be all of my paper mache world. Throw one of them away and you hear from me.
Step 3: Built Paper and Glue Tough
I built the rock/base over a cardboard box that had a brown paper bag over it. I cut a hole in the box to fit the large cardboard tube in.
I filled the tube with some useless metal shower curtain hangers that I bought from the thrift store that didn't work out for their intended use. They are heavy enough to keep the finished piece from tipping over. I surrounded the tube inside the tube with strips of cardboard to keep it all stable and from wiggling.
I also needed toilet paper rolls for 2 wing/arms, 2 legs, 2 feet, the beak and the marshmallow & frankfurter props. I used a twig from a bush in the yard to keep with the theme of recycled materials for this project. I made each piece individually, painted and finished them with a coat of matte Mod Podge to seal.
I made the arms and legs with flap extensions on the ends so I could fasten them on later. The legs I just fastened the flaps right to the outside of the body and held fast with more layers of newspaper strips. I made a slit in the side of the body where I wanted the arms to go and carefully inserted the flap. I hot glued them to the inside of the body with a separate piece of cardboard to hold it fast.
The arms are mismatched since one lays by the side of the body and the other is holding the stick prop. The prop holding arm is made with 2 tp rolls and has an elbow. The prop stick fits right down inside the tube I put in the palm of the hand/wing The toilet paper rolls shape into whatever I want very easily. They were easy to cut with the scissors too.
I used the curve of the tube to contour the beak, feet and cheeks. The paper towel tube worked perfect and were the right length for the neck. The tube in the paper bag and box 'rock' that the Sneetch is sitting on fit just right in the hole I traced and carved out of the bottom of the body. The different diameters of tubes I filled with strips of cardboard that I rolled around the tube to make a snug fit. I was so tickled they all fit into each other so conveniently! I put several coats of the homemade starch water flour glue on the tubes to give them more strength. This ain't no pinata! We want this built to last.
After all the building and drying, time to paint!
Step 4: Building the Perfect Sneetch
I painted all the body parts yellow. I used at least 2 layers or more of paint to cover it well. The black details were mostly painted but some detail like the eyes, I just drew on with a sharpie. I then sealed them all with a coat of matte Mod Podge to finish.
I added black line details to the Sneetch to portray the art work as best I can. I took some creative liberties by 'toasting' the marshmallows to add some character to the props. I painted the frankfurter and gave it a wash of black to make it look roasted and toasty.
I cut the top off of a gallon plastic milk jug to make the collar/shoulders. It worked great and created the perfect fill in the gap between the body and the neck. I used black Sharpie pen to detail.
I was tickled how all the tubes worked as the skeleton of the piece fitting within each other like a puzzle.
I also learned that hot glue doesn't want to stick to Mod Podge. I think it is just too slick.
Step 5: The Delight Is in the Details
Once the wings and legs were attached, I was ready for all the finishing touches. I made the star from the circle I had cut out of the bottom of my Sneetch. It worked perfect and had a nice curve to it, fitting against the belly perfectly.
I used pipe cleaners that I measured and curved along the edge of my workbench for the tussle of hair on the top of the head. I made a small hole in the top of the head to insert the wires in securely. I dripped in some hot glue from the inside of the head right on top of the pipe cleaners to secure.
After the neck piece was painted, I put the yarn in the starch to decorate the neck. I used the same starched yarn to decorate the rock, dried and sealed with Mod Podge. I found a small cardboard tube core from some bakery string and used that to glue an insert into the rock for the marshmallow stick to fit in to make it extra secure.
I traced and cut a couple pieces of kraft paper and Mod Podged it to the bottom to finish it off. I cut it just 1/4 inch larger than the base rock piece and turned it up to finish it all real nice and neat looking.
And there you have it! Straight out of the storybook. If you aren't familiar with the story, here it is on You Tube This story thrilled me as a kid and I still love it! The message is timeless and relevant. Check out the Seuss WIKI page for more info.
The book was translated and distributed to children in Bosnia and Herzegovina by NATO to teach tolerance. WIKI
But wait, we aren't finished yet, One more thing...
Step 6: Final Touches
I had a few days left until the contest. I had so much fun doing this so I looked back on the page to see if there was anything else I could make to go with it and out jumped the bonfire! YES! So I found twigs in the firewood pile, and a piece of lumber to look like the illustration of the bonfire in the book. I traced the fire pattern on some copier paper to make a pattern and cut out the flames from some red construction paper. I Sharpie'd the edges of the paper coated it with Mod Podge and lined the wood in black to look like the firewood/lumber in the illustration. I curled the edges of the paper with a pencil and glued them to the bottom of the lumber piece. I hot glued the small twigs sandwiched between 2 pieces of cardboard and painted it red and glued it to the lumber.
I couldn't stop there.
I wanted a box for storage & display. Since the book I used was a discard from the library, I razor bladed the pages out and dipped them in the starch and covered the box in the pages. I Mod Podged the book cover and back to the box too. A perfect finish!
Seuss was told by his art teacher that he would never have a career in art and should just quit the class! Isn't that incredible!? And he went on to make all these fabulous books and illustrated almost every one of them. So much for telling someone you can't do something! Sounds like a good way to be shown otherwise!
The art of Seuss was a joy to reinterpret in this fine art medium and I am already dreaming, what will I make next?