Making Phantoms With Paper Mache

Typically when people hear paper Mache what they think of is dipping strips of news paper maybe in some kind of starchy substance and then wrap it around a rubber balloon or something.

So for this project Mark came to me primarily with drawings, specifically how he wanted this exhibition to look like overall. Some of these refer directly to the exhibition itself, specifically the boar piece. This is a photograph that was taken during an expedition and we’re mirroring it again, Mark and his sketch here and then in the final iteration of it will be the Mache sculpture.

The first step in all of this is making up a batch of the Mache. The material that we are using for this project primarily is called celluclay, it comes in this powder dry material. So we have a mix like this even though it’s a little bit runny, it’s perfectly fine for when we’re first starting out.

Most of the objects that we start with that are on display here have some kind of armature underneath them so you’ve kind of formed your basic rough, how like basic shape of what this object will eventually be, which is a tea pot. And then just very gradually and very evenly put this mix on it, because we call that mudding.

But kind of slowly build along here over the course of a day, or several days, sometimes even a week. And we’ll just get the Mache just kind of building on top of the dried mache because nothing sticks better to the Mache than other dried mache.  

Once we have the entire object covered, the entire armature covered,  it has a kind of rough quality like this, so usually at this stage what we’ll do is we’ll go into the sanding room and we’ll apply like a power sander or even a hand sander if it’s on a smaller, more manageable scale.

So you can see even after we sanded this down we still have these kind of pitted areas, these kind of low points, we have points that aren’t quite as defined so well and then at this process it’s really just as simple as doing things like taking an exacto, defining out certain features.

Even though it might look a relatively finished state, we still need to bulk it up to overcompensate for things like the pitting that are in here, the spout could be more defined and it could just be more kind of like voluminous in general so we’ll ad another layer of the Mache.

The final stages of an object like this we’ll just use things like pieces of wood or wood tools wrapped in sand paper and just doing this by hand very slowly and very carefully, very intentionally, finding the spots that need some attention.

This particular material demands patience. It demands forethought. How do you keep sane in this situation? Music, this is a big, big, big thing. Podcasts tend to be king here, yelling at NPR is really good too.

This particular project has taken the better part of six months from start to finish and that’s not doing part time here and there. This is eight hours a day, often with a team, working in concert with each other and we needed every minute of it.



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