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Misgivings Day Project: Paper Mache Bust

on September 14, 2012 - 9:47am

I've been working on casting a form from a mannequin (don't we all have mannequins hanging around?) using paper mache. It's the first prop for my Halloween theme this year, and probably the one that will take the most time. 

Thought I would share the process so far. 

Miss Mannequin gets covered in tinfoil. To help keep the tinfoil in place without actually attaching it to the form, I've put tack adhesive putty on spots around her body (especially around the facial features). I want it to stay in place, but I want to be able to remove the tinfoil and paper mache form fairly easily when I'm done.

Covered Miss M with a layer of newspaper using watered-down white glue. Basically, I rip newspapers into strip, coat them in the glue/water mix, and smooth them over the tinfoil. For a more detailed explanation of my technique, check out my tutorial

Since she is so large, for the first layer I used fairly big pieces of newspaper for the torso. After it was completely dry, I added a second layer of more traditionally small pieces. The smaller pieces tend to give a smoother finish and allow you to work around angles. 

Once the second layer was completely dry, I used scissors and a knife to slice down one side of her body. With casting in this manner, you have to look at your object and predict where the toughest part will be to ease it off the form. In this case, it is the front of her head - mainly the chin. I want to cut near the hard part, giving me more wiggle room to remove it. 

I cut up her side (being careful not to slice up my mannequin underneath. A couple of scratches are likely, which is why you shouldn't use something for your base you really care about), over the head, and down to the other side of her neck.

At this point, I gently slipped my fingers in between the mannequin and the paper layer, wiggling it free from the form. 

Now I'm left with an empty cast. The next step is to put her back together again. 

Here is where you need to make some decisions. If you are going to add a heavy clay to this form, or if you want her to be resilient against hard-handed treatment, you should consider your options.

We'll get to that in a moment,

I'm not too worried about Miss M being overly sturdy since a) I'll be using an extremely light clay on her face, and b) I don't think I'll be keeping her for use in future themes. With that said, I crumbled up some shopping bags to fill her head. I'll be able to reach inside the rest of her body easily later. 

Time to tape her up. Using the print on the newspaper as a guide to help you line up the two sides perfectly, tape the form closed again in a few spots. You are going to seal it with a layer of paper mache, so don't worry about using too many pieces of tape. You mainly want it to stay closed, and stay in place while you cover the slice with strips.

Once the paper mache has dried, I fill the rest of the body from the bottom opening with crumpled newspaper. 

If you want the form to be sturdier (and you plan to use a heavy clay on it), I recommend getting expanding foam (like Great Stuff big gap filler). Once your seal is dry, fill the form with it, reaching in to fill the head first and moving back to the main opening at the bottom. Be careful : there's a reason they call it expanding foam. It grows like the blob. Be sure to fill, then stop to let it expand, then fill, then stop. You don't want to get that stuff on your hands. Or your table. Or floor. Or pets. If it comes out of the base opening, let it dry and then just saw it off with a knife.

I need to make sure my stuffing doesn't fall out, and I want her to have a sturdy bottom. 

I placed the original mannequin on a piece of cardboard, traced the bottom, cut it out, and taped it to my form. 

I then put strips of paper mache over the edges.

If you skip the expanding foam part like I did, but are still planning on using a paper clay that has some heft to do facial features, for example, you're going to want to weight the bottom or else your figure might topple over. It's pretty simple. All you need to do is tape or hot glue a weight of some kind - rocks will work - to the top of the cardboard in the middle so it will be INSIDE the form. Make sure it's attached well because once you seal it up, there's no fixing it should the weights become loose. Again, since the air dry clay I use is practically weightless, I'm not concerned. 

Will post more progress pictures as I go along this weekend!



Bonnie (aka RoxyBlue)'s picture

This is very much like the technique used to create a perfect replica of your torso to use as a dress form, usually made with duct tape over an old T-shirt. Sort of like cloning yourself, only without a head since putting duct tape over your face is not recommended:)

Looking forward to seeing what direction this lady takes!

Ghoul Friday's picture

I've always wanted to try the duct tape version, but I don't have any to let me wrap them up/wrap me up. One day I'll insist on Yetch helping me out. 

Marcie  Melton's picture

Ooh! I can't wait to see your end results, this is going to turn out great! Now, to find a mannequin...

Ghoul Friday's picture

Look for a) Retail supply shops and b) stores that are closing. I got mine years ago from a place that was throwing it away. Retail supply shops sell different types at various costs.



Cindy's picture

Wow really cool! I've been working on something similar this weekend, I used a life sized plastic skull and used the same technique. It's turning out pretty good. I also have a mannequin torso ( no head or arms) that I think I will try this on as well. As usual you have inspired me with your Evil Genius (;

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