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RE: My 2nd statue - female figure (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: jloppnow on 10.14.2006 at 11:11 pm in Hypertufa Forum

Hi Dena6355,

Thanks! The figure with base is about 6' or so. Of course she doesn't have her head yet so will be taller. I always wait till the end for the head and hands as they require the most detail and I am not as skilled in that area.

My last statue was not too heavy. It was full size as well. I moved it myself to my truck. Getting INTO the bed by myself though was not easy. With this figure, well, I put in in a concrete base so she will be much heavier. It was necessary for balance and safety. I could have used a papercrete base too and she probably would have been fine but I didn't want to take any chances. I can move her around by myself but will have to use a dolly if I am going to transport her somewhere. Still these figures are much lighter than they would be made of solid concrete.

The back is still just flat as I have only worked on the front. I'll take more picts when I have her more developed. I was just excited to finally be working again so wanted to post the front pict now. I like to do some detail work as soon as possible to give the figure "presence". It inspires me to do more.

As to weight, the more paper fibre you use obviously the lighter it will be. I once did a bowl with shredded newspaper and cement and it was VERY light and VERY strong. I can stand on it as a matter of fact.

Answers to some of your other questions are below in something I wrote some time ago.

Cement and Paper Fiber Sculpting

Note: This is not a papercrete recipe used for building. "Traditional" papercrete takes newspaper and other paper, soaks it, shreds it, mixes it into a slurry and pours it into bricks. I tried shredded paper (from a paper shredder, got lots form work). It works too, just soak it. BUT I finally ended up using cellulose insulation. It is a lot less work.


Portland cement (NOT a concrete mix with rocks/sand, just the cement powder)

Paper fiber (I buy the paper insulation (that is used to be blown into attics) I think they call it cellulose insulation. You can get from Lowes. It is already shredded.

Bucket of joint compound

Armature materials if needed


You have to experiment here to get it to the point it feels like clay. Off hand I'd say 3/4 paper fiber to 1/4 part cement. I then just put in a handful of joint compound, add water and mix by hand. If it doesn't feel like clay I add more cement and more joint compound. It is not an exact formula for me so all I can say is try it yourself and vary the balance between fibre, cement and compound.

More paper fibre gives more bulk but less strength, but is fine for roughing out the figure. The higher the paper fiber the longer it will take to dry. Use more cement in the mixture and more compound than paper for the outer finishing layer. It gives a much smoother appearance.

I just do this in a bucket. I've not tried a large scale mixing because a) you can get tired out pretty easily and then you are wasting the rest. I am thinking of mixing a large amount in a wheel barrow as it does not dry quickly so you have time (but not overnight).

IMPORTANT!: Wear a mask and rubber gloves. Cement dust easily goes into the air and it is not a good idea to breathe it. Also, I wear thin rubber gloves. I much prefer no gloves as I like to feel my subject but the reality is that cement will suck all the moisture out of your hands. Also, this mixture gives off an ammonia smell at first. I think from something in the cellulose. It is not strong enough to bother me though.

I've been asked if one can add sand. I've only tried this once. It makes the mixture a lot less claylike and takes longer to dry and will slump easier, but you can do it. The plus side is likely added strength.


I try to avoid anything that will rust as an armature because I just don't know if the paper fibers will wick water all the way through the sculpture. If it does it could cause rust on the armature thus splitting the sculpture.
This may not happen at all. I would say though if using an iron armature to make sure to seal it with paint before applying the cement. This is probably a good idea with any type of cement mixture in any case.

My armatures are made from styrofoam, pvc piping and aluminum piping. If it is a "sqaut" figure, meaning triangular or a column type figure I just use styrofoam but it won't have the strength necessary for limbs. So for my
Greenman figure I used pvc piping.

The Process

Build an armature. Don't be hasty with it. Make sure that it is to the proportions you want before applying cement. I've had to do some chiseling because I didn't take into account the extra width added by the cement and threw a piece out of proportion. I know it's common sense but I don't always have common sense so thought I'd give the warning in case there is someone else like me out there.

I coat the armature from the bottom up, when it is completely covered with one layer I let it set for a day IF it has things like "legs", such as with the Greenman. I needed the strength there in the legs before I could build up the "musculature" with more cement. This technique worked great!

Once you can start adding "muscles", and bulking up the figure you pretty quickly learn if you are adding too much at once so it slumps. Be patient. My experience with papercrete is that you can add additional layers after a
piece is dry and it holds nicely. I've even gone back months later and done more work on a piece. I know this isn't conventional wisdom but it works for me.

Make sure and cover the bottom of the armature as well with cement. You don't want bugs getting up inside your armature. It is said that carpenter ants love styrofoam.

How long does it last?

Well, I did a lion that has been in my backyard for 3 years. It is unsealed and it has had no structural damage at all. There is slight crackling in part of it but that is all. I was worried about water wicking and splitting it in winter, never happened. However, if you seal it with paint it will be even safter. I sealed my greenman with paint, then polyurethane. He is has only wintered once but is still going strong.


For my Greenman piece I used a sponge to paint with. This makes sure the figure gets well covered. I did an enamel base and then added acrylics for highlights. I used spray polyurethane but want to try the kind from a can sometime.

You don't have to paint of course but I still think sealing is a good idea with polyurethane or something else.


clipped on: 09.28.2007 at 12:11 pm    last updated on: 09.28.2007 at 12:11 pm