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The versatility tango

October 23, 2009

Just one of many wonderful and whimsical pieces by FionaArt on Etsy

Just one of many wonderful and whimsical pieces by FionaArt on Etsy

Any artist can say their medium of choice is versatile, and the truth is that all of them are. You can make equally astounding and nonintuitive objects or images with clay, with wires, with painted canvases, with glass, with digital photography, with anything — the sky really is the limit. One thing that I personally enjoy about paper mache is how it can so easily be used for works of differing sizes. From a life-sized dinosaur to a small bead, it’s all game.

When I was little, I always went right for the jugular. I didn’t want to waste my time with vases or picture frames or jewelry boxes — I wanted to make coat-hanger snakes and flying pigs and enough monsters to fill my parents’ house! And there are some ways in which bigger is easier for beginners. Subtle curves or little edges require a lot of patience and a lot of experimentation as you figure out what size strips (1 cm or less? yeah, I’ve done it) will preserve the shape you want without the final piece winding up full of wrinkles and loose edges.

Another great thing about big projects is that you can really go crazy with decorations and mixed media. You’ve just made yourself an awesome canvas — so use it!


I love the expression on this guy’s face. There’s something just truly turtley that’s been captured here.


Day of the Dead will always, always produce totally fantastic pieces. You can’t lose with this holiday.


God, I admit it. I am kind of a sucker for somewhat silly folk art.

Simplicity of form can lead to really interesting and exciting final projects. I imagine you’re all a bit sick of my nondescript, earless rabbit by now: wait until you see how he comes out once he’s painted. Paint, of course, isn’t the only way to play with what you’ve created. This is sculpture, after all!


I am beyond enthralled with the moon hanging on a wire here, not to mention totally charmed by the design. The whole shop is well worth a visit!

Delicate is also more than doable with paper mache, though. I am less practiced with these forms, but I’d love to give them a try. My guess is that both of these were made with pulp, but I do know you can make little clay forms, paper mache around them, then cut them in half to scoop the clay out and seal up the bead.

Have you found any paper mache on Etsy that blows you away? Leave a link! I’d love to see it. Happy hunting!

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