After more than a decade of intermittent painting I am back to pretty much were I began in art school- sculpting with paper clay. For my senior project I made these allegorical dioramas with sculptures made from air dried clay and paper mache that I would then photograph. I haven’t done much sculpting since except for some functional ceramic pieces.
I dunno, I’ve just had these loose ideas for projects that wouldn’t work as paintings- if I made paintings of them they would be illustrations of the potential art piece rather than an art piece. I began thinking why not just make a physical, 3-dimensional object out of the form that’s floating around in the back of my mind?
I just needed a sculpting medium that wasn’t a crack and split prone as actual ceramic clay and didn’t need firing. I remembered the Cellulaclay I used for my dioramas and decided to look into that. I had read about ways to make paper pulp out of old junk mail and receipts, and if you can make paper pulp you can make paper clay. So following a recipe I found for paper mache pulp I shredded up a few weeks of junk mail (it accumulates very quickly), soaked it, ground it up to a slurry in a blender and added some glue and calcium carbonate. The first batch was a bit thin and sloppy. I didn’t think to drain the paper pulp beforehand so the clay came out more as a slurry. No problem though, I poured it over a plastic tarp and the resulting textured sheet has already given me ideas that can evolve from this “encrustation”.
I made a second batch of paper “clay” with a different recipe and after draining the paper pulp this time I added glue, drywall joint compound, mineral oil and flour. The resulting clay was very sticky and pasty and would need to be spread over an armature like frosting- it would not work as a real clay would. It did give me an idea though.
I’ve wanted to make an abstract sculpture of forested hills in winter so using some thick aluminum wire I created skeletons of these smooth, mountain ridge-like forms which I covered in a plastic tarp so the “clay” wouldn’t glue itself to them. For the first (the larger) mountain I spread the clay over the armature as the base layer. It took forever to dry and required a lot of clay. For the smaller mountain I decided to use old school paper mache strips whetted with glue water. It was much faster and easier and the paper shell dried much faster. I will soon be applying a top layer of clay. and will hopefully have pics of that soon.
I’ve also started on a long term project using junk mail, receipts and other detritus (like hair, nail clippings and dryer lint) to create a paper sculpture. The detritus will be ground to a slurry with water and starch like regular paper and poured over a drying screen layer by layer throughout the year. Unfortunately I don’t think I put enough starch in the first batch as the paper was very fragile and tore apart as I peeled it from the drying screen- oops. It’s still workable though, and I think as more “deposits” are layered on it should hold together better.
I’ve also begun work with a project using ephemera and memoranda as the base for the paper pulp-
I’ve had this idea for some sort of honeycomb-like object filled with gold for awhile now. I have plenty of gold leaf leftover from picture framing projects and as I was purging old envelopes of receipts (including the receipts for the gold leaf itself) I decided they would make the perfect physical medium for the “honeycomb” itself. I just like the idea of objects describing memory made from objects that trigger memory- like the receipts, car registrations, old xmas cards and so forth. So I shredded them, added a little calcium carbonate (to neutralize the acids in the paper), some drywall joint compound and tons of glue along with a few drops of various essential oils and a cup of German chamomile flowers. The flowers and oils give this piece a distinct spicy, floral, honey scent. This clay was much thicker and less sticky than the clay the other recipe made and I could sculpt with it freely without supports. It also dried fairly quick (and set up like concrete) so I will hopefully be gilding it shortly.