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I am on another list--that of puppet makers/performers, and they are
discussing paper mache methods...thought some of you might be interested
as they are using common ingredients that would lend themselves to
everything from puppets to sculpture in both the elementary level and
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Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 16:49:07 -0500
From: Dave&Ann Yates <monet>
Subject: Re: PUPT: A broader query on plastic wood
For strengthening in -between papier mache layers- I use gauze dipped and
wrung out in watered down Elmers- also cooked and strained flour glue works
well. I also use a paint brush to mold it into detailed areas. You can buy
assorted gauze mesh through theatre catalogues.
Another use is to paint with glue-stretch and DRY the gauze layer onto wax
paper. After it dries it can be painted and then let dry again. when it is
dry shapes can be cut and then stitched onto exotic puppets.* Sews up like
fabric and with aniline dyes it creates beautiful color effects. Saves
purchasing expensive fabrics. It also can be rolled and twisted even
knotted while wet - Great for scenic effects too. If you want
"gauzier"effects-peel off the wax paper layer..
>If you want a light hand puppet head with good detail and a reasonable
>amount of durability to withstand a summer season of performances and have
>limited funds available (I assume this since in past queries you rule out
>Neoprene because of cost - too bad because it is a great material to work
>in) I would suggest that you use a stronger version of paper mache using
>straight elmers glue and brown paper grocery bags. Yes - you can get
>wonderful definition of facial detail if you remember the following:
> When working with brown paper bags you have to 'prepare' it first.
>Tear large pieces, 'work them' so that they are totally limp and floppy by
>repeatedly crumpling them, rubbing them against each other etc. until they
>are very floppy and this side of disintegrating. This now leaves the once
>stiff paper very receptive to absorbing the glue. Put Elmers glue on both
>sides, working it into the paper and let it sit for a couple of minutes so
>that the paper has a chance to absorbed the glue. You will find it will
>be a very, 'light leathery' consistency. Scrape off excess glue that does
>not become absorbed - you don't want it 'gooey'. Start tearing off small
>pieces and start working each individual piece over the clay
>sculpture/carved styrofoam overlapping each piece. Cover the entire head
>with a thin coating of glue and let it dry thoroughly. Do a second coat
>putting a little coloring into the glue so that you know which coat is the
>second and which is the first. Let dry thoroughly. Do a third coat. Let
>dry thoroughly. To hurry the drying process along we have, on occasion,
>used a hair dryer.
>When the head is thoroughly dry, and if it is paper over clay, cut a hole
>in the back of the paper mache head, remove the paper mache 'cap' and
>scoop out the clay. The reason I suggest using the 'cap' method instead
>of cutting it in half is for strength. No side seams to cause weakness.
>If it's a LARGE head then you will have to cut the paper mache head in
>half, separate it, remove the clay and then glue and patch the seam. If
>you've done it over styrofoam then leave it.
>Give a light sanding to the whole head, keep filling in the little
>imperfections with plastic wood/dap (you won't need much) until the head
>'is as smooth as a baby's butt'. This has now 'opened up' the mache for
>dampness. To seal it give a couple of coats of a good wood sealer. The
>head will 'drink in' the sealer which, when dry, will protect the paper
>mache from the possibility of getting soft if it is exposed to dampness
>which, doing an outside show, it will be. If it is a hand puppet I would
>also suggest giving a couple of coats to the inside of the head before you
>glue the cap on since a sweaty finger will also cause dampness to be
>introduced into the head and possibly causing softening of the mache over
>the summer. No need to sand the inside.
>We have used this method on several of our figures - NANA from our
>production of Peter Pan has a mache head WITH a moving mouth - we have
>never had any problems with them. They are light, strong and after
>several years of touring and doing shows almost every day they show no
>signs of breaking down.
>If you work the mache carefully over the clay/styrofoam you will get
>lovely definition of features - not what is usually associated with 'mache
>heads'. It's time consuming. Haven't found any short cut in preparing
>the brown bags for the glue. Nice to do while listening to music or
>watching TV. Extremely cost efficient and non-toxic.
>Does anyone else on the list have anything to add to this method?
>David Syrotiak (the elder)