Stages of a bust in progress

A few pictures to illustrate the development of a work in progress. On first picture the paper mache is still soft.

The second one after the mache is dry.  Though I knew very well the shrinking process will hurt the face, I almost broke down in tears when I saw this:

It looked hopelessly behind repair.  For the first time I was considering giving up on paper mache entirely.  But loved that face and reworked it by patiently adding small pieces of soft mache until the reconstruction seemed satisfactory.

On the next photo she gets ears and a neck:

I couldn’t decide on  hair treatment so started experimenting with different ideas for a headdress:

The twenties look of the above was striking but too rag-like. After two days of frustration I improvised this one.  It seemed right: 

Hiddenamongroots, hope you enjoyed.

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~ by erikatakacs on January 4, 2010.

16 Responses to “Stages of a bust in progress”

  1. fantastic.
    its interesting how this developed

  2. Yes, That was great. I’ve done a little PM and wonder if you coat them with linseed oil when you finish them. I read this made them waterproof. I think you have to put them in the oven to dry. How do you “finish” your pieces?

  3. Thanks KS and Kevin. I use a matte waterbased sealer or varnish, but not happy with any of them. The sealer is shiny and the varnish turns yellowish. I always look for better alternatives, so I’ll have to look into linseed oil. To be honest, PM looks best without any finish. I’ve heard about a sealer called “dead flat”, I need to try it.

  4. Very expressive, erika! I like it a lot!

  5. Erika, working with clay has a similar effect through the drying and firing process. Sometimes pieces look completely different when they’re done. I feel your pain. Glad you hung in there with this bust. It turned out nicely.

  6. Thank you, Danu, I know you’re not just a very good painter, but a good critic too!

    Kim, nice to see you drop by, thanks for your comment.

  7. how would one create a base of a torso upon which to create a paper mache sculpture? wire or some other medium???

  8. Hi Stranded, you’ll need an armature made of wood or wire or pipe, depending on the size. On the wire you’ll need some filling material, such as paper or foam. If you’re using water based clay make sure you stay away from metal or your piece may get damaged in the kiln.

  9. Hi Erika, I found your website at, really love your artwork. Wonderful sculptures! Thank you for sharing your work progress. Warm hugs from Brazil, Chris

  10. Chris, thank you for your kind words.

  11. fantastic work

  12. Wonderful, wonderful!!! Love this face!

  13. Hi Erika – These are fantastic! I am a Visual Arts teacher at an international school in Korea and I am hoping to do PM portraits with my students. I am inexperienced with PM so I wonder if you can help me a little? Do you have to use a very detailed armature (with the nose etc already built) or can you use a basic oval shape and build up areas from there with the PM?
    Thanks for your work!

  14. Andy, it’s possible both ways. I usually build a rough armature with added nose and lips and cheeks, but not much detail. Don’t forget to leave about 1/2 inch for the mache layer on top, the armature has to be smaller than the actual head, don’t forget to calculate that in your mental plan. If you build up all the features directly on the skull, it will take a lot longer for the mache to dry an it will shrink a lot. I would go with the former technique as it will give you enough room to manipulate, shape the planes and features without much shrinkage. The more shrinkage, the more deformed your shapes, so try to keep the pm layer thin, 1/2 inch or less. Hope that helps, good luck with the project!

  15. Thanks so much for your reply! We will embark on our next project soon! All the best for the future. Andy Brown

  16. You’re welcome! Good luck on the project, and if there will be pictures, I’ d love to see them!

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