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paperclay puppets

updated sun 30 dec 01


The Mask (& Puppet) Studio on sat 29 dec 01

I use paperclay to make light puppets (of all sizes) by using it to
build up contour and features over Styrofoam shapes (which I build
up like
lego or Mr Potato Head) held together with birchwood toothpicks
and bamboo skewers glued together with pva(craft) glue. I find that
toward the core of the figure I can
use paperpulp mixed with small portions of paperclay to make it
workable ( I haven't settled on the exact formula yet). I then finish
with a thin paperclay layer and slip.

I get a very light puppet this way which is very durable -- even more
so than having been carved from softwoods. I also find that the
Styrofoam/pulp layers let the paperclay breathe/dry inwards so I
can work very quickly and coat/paint without worrying too much
about drying times.

I also use paperclay in my mask making. While I sculpt my
templates from paperclay, I have developed my technique further by
incorporating paperclay in the mask itself.

I make my masks from commercial felt. I soak this in a PVA
glue/water mix and stretch it over a template. I then pat it to shape
then I coat this with a paperclay slip blended with wallpaper paste
(as it's cellulose based). I stretch the pulp proportions and reduce
the clay but the slip works a treat forcing the felt to take up all the
contours of the template design. (I don't use moulds and negatives
this way).

Despite the stiffening as it dries I can easily remove the mask from
the template (regardless of undercuts as I also often build the
mask over a wet template --separating mask and template with
clingwrap. )

To protect the mask -- as well as a full strength PVA glue coating, I
apply bees waxes(encaustic), shoe and floor polishes often by
using a hair dryer. The end result is a very light mask, that's strong
but can be pliable through the addition of heat or a wet rag.

I use similar techniques to the puppets. The effect, esp with the
encaustic, is very ceramic like. I call them pottery for the face.

Now I'm trying to deal with the question of creating items that I can
put outside -- like totems. (For one thing I am running out of
storage space for my big puppets). So I gotta ask you: how can I
waterproof my paperclay sculptures since I don't fire them?

While i will experiment more with the beeswax blends (the ancient
Greeks used encaustic to waterproof and decorate their ships) I've
been wondering about coatings and additives to the mix. There are
quite a few blends used in cement industry. Cement scupltors don't
seem to want to discuss my approach so I need to find my own
way there (& they tend to use form work).

After studying adobe and haybale walls I do believe that I can adapt
some of the preventive approaches employed there -- such as the
addition of asphalt to a slip.

Is there any reseach/experiments in this regard that you know of.

I'd love to hear about any.

Currently I am experimenting with a coating of Boncrete as a
sealant/waterprofing agent and have been much impressed with
the ease with which it blends with the top layer of the paperclay..

DIY info is on my web pages


Dave Riley
Dave Riley
The Mask (& Puppet) Studio
P.O.Box 103, Northgate QLD Australia
Tel: (07)32664281