I am working on nothing but Papier Mache items right now, and here in Texas it is currently about 200% humidity. It has been raining on and off for 3 or 4 days and it takes a long time to dry anything. So I am only getting one coat of mache on each object per day… and I like anywhere from 5 – 7 coats per object depending on size. So, I’m obviously getting frustrated, and wanting to make something.
To keep me going, I made a quick batch of bread dough clay today, and made a little primitive skull for tombstones later.
If you haven’t made bread dough clay, it is easy, free, and fast. My kind of material. Take a piece of white bread (the older the better) and remove the crust. Feed a bird. Shred the crustless bread in small pieces into a paper cup, butter dish, or any kind of container. Per one slice of bread, use one Tablespoon of white or Tacky glue… (Note: I personally don’t like mixing this in a baggie because it is sticky at first, and almost impossible to get it all off the plastic once mixed). Mix the bread and glue together with a craft stick, plastic spoon, or whatever you have. Mix til it makes a ball and holds together, remove from dish and roll/knead in your hands. You will get a non sticky, firm, workable clay.
Shape as desired. If you notice it starting to dry out, you can wet your fingers and it will become pliable again.
Once you get the shape you want, you can carve out any details you want. In the picture above, you can see a toothpick at the top right… I get these at Cracker Barrel restaurant, and they are my favorite craft tool. One end is sharp like a normal toothpick, and the other end is a little barrel shape with a flat end. So I use one end to dig out the clay, then use the flat end to make a smooth surface. Sometimes you might notice after digging the clay out, it might get brittle or start to ball up, thats why I have the thin paint brush in the photo – I will wet the brush and run it along the rough areas to smooth them out.
Let it air dry, there is no need to put it in the oven.
Note on color – The skull is bread dough as it is, without color. You can also easily tint the clay by adding a drop of acrylic paint during the mixing phase. Just note that your hands will get paint all over them during the kneading process. I make a lot of bread dough roses for various girlie things, and I always tint that dough, because who wants to try to paint all those swirled up petals later? But for this skull, it will just be glued to a styrofoam tombstone later, and can be easily painted with the rest.
This method is definitely not for items with small details that need to be carved out. (Although it rolls well, and I love using it to make tiny little roses to embellish boxes, etc… they are small enough to fit on a dime). There are numerous homemade clays out there, some recipes use flour, water, and oil… some use salt, some use powdered corn starch…. and of course the recipes that use paper mache paste mixed with fiber insulation (which I love too)… this is just my easy go-to recipe for a fast clay when i want a good strong piece, quick and cheap.