Sunday, 3 February 2013

Paper clay: making furniture with it

What I've got here is a basic structure for my cardboard chair, which is a cylinder of cardboard.  It's very sturdy and will happily support all the weight it needs to.  But it doesn't have quite the right shape.  So I've used paper clay to build up the surface until it resembles the overall shape I want.  Once I have that rough shape, I can refine it. It's easy to add more clay in some areas and cut it away in others with a box cutter.  Next time, I'll show you how the final sculpt goes, at which point it will actually look like an elephant foot.


Not very exciting yet, but it will be soon.

 
UPDATE:  Here's the finished sculpt.  Much more exciting than that last photo.

Paper clay is an easy recipe.  You soak a toilet roll (minus the cardboard tube) in hot water for a few hours, squeeze out the water, and add flour paste until you have a sticky lump.  There's also a range of different additives people use to stop mould developing.  Since I don't have any kids who might eat the stuff and the cat is far too sensible to eat paper clay, my preservative of choice is bleach.  I would suggest that unless you absolutely can't stop your kids getting into it you really do want to go with bleach, if you want your project to last any length of time.  Paper pulp and flour glue are very prone to mould infection, and there's no point spending hours on a project only to find it's sprouting furry green fungus a couple weeks down the track.  Do yourself a favour and bring out the big guns early.

There's a reason you use flour glue for this clay instead of mould-resistant PVA.  PVA shrinks too much as it dries, leaving a lumpy surface, whereas flour glue shrinks a lot less and you can make it as thick as you like.  For this purpose your glue needs to be really thick - about as thick as Ken Ham ought to do it.

Paper clay doesn't really stick all that well to an armature, I find.  In general I have to suppliment its natural stickiness with PVA, or wrap it all round the armature and hope it will shrink down to a nice tight fit as it dries.  That's why, if you remember (and if you don't here is the link), I wrapped wire around my cardboard core.  These wires act like the steel inside reinforced concrete.  They keep everything together and strengthen the paper clay.

It’s at this point that I sat back and thought, “hmm, the foot seems very large.”  I realise elephants are big animals, but even so it seemed suspiciously large.  So I asked Professor Google for clarification.  Turns out my foot is not too big, elephants are just really large animals.