Yesterday’s post was about the class I took at NIADA from Connie Smith. This one’s about the one I took from Ankie Daanen, who is a miraculous doll artist working in paper clay, and the beginning of my paper clay ducks and frog project. Paper clay is an air-dry product. You can carve, sand, a paint it. It’s remarkably strong, but needs to be sealed against moisture.
In Ankie’s one-day class we made a human doll body. We began by firmly stuffing a sewn cloth body then running wires through it – one on each side of the body from the hip to the shoulder for the legs and arms. To get the paper clay to stick to the cloth and wire body we wrapped it tightly with stretchable gauze (the kind used for bandaging) then sealed the gauze with a coat of Mod Podge. After the Mod Podge was dry, we began coating the armature with thin sheets of paper clay. To make the sheets we flattened walnut-sized balls of clay to about 3/16″ thick. From there it was just a matter of building up the form in layers. At the end of the class Ankie talked briefly about a fish she had done. Rather than a cloth and wire armature, she made the center of the fish by carving a Styrofoam form. After covering the Styrofoam with gauze and sealing the gauze with Mod Podge, she was ready to proceed with the paper clay in just the same way as with the cloth and wire armature.
I had signed up for this class simply to fill some open time at the NIADA conference, but I’m very glad I did and have found paper clay to be a responsive medium. When I got home, I decided to make a grouping of two ducks and a frog. These ducks will become the Lady of the Lake from the King Arthur legend and one of her attendants. The frog will either be a poor beggar frog or a travelling silk merchant – I’m not sure yet which.
This photo shows the styrofoam core I carved and coated, and the beginning of the process of covering it with the first layer of paper clay. I used pieces of cardboard for the bill. The legs are wooden skewers wrapped with paper. Several layers followed this first one, with each drying thoroughly before adding the next. Because of all the drying time, it’s a somewhat slow process. One layer might only take an hour, but then the piece needs to dry for a day But there are benefits to working slowly, like having more time to hopefully spot errors before one is too committed.