Make A Paper Pulp Sculpture At Home

Make A Paper Pulp Sculpture At Home


The artist Wangechi Mutu, whose seven-foot-tall bronze sculptures of caryatids were the first pieces of art ever displayed in the niches of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s facade, works in many media, including drawing, painting and video. To fuel her creative output, she constantly experiments with natural materials, many of which she finds or makes from scratch. One of these is paper pulp, an oatmeal-like mush from which she made five orb-shaped “Earth Androids” for the book “Open Studio, Do-It-Yourself Art Projects by Contemporary Artists,” published last year.

Mutu first came up with the formula when adding the final layers to the Afrofuturist sculptures she created for the 2015 Venice Biennale, wanting to recreate the organic look of mud-brick houses traditionally built by women in Kenya. You can also use her basic recipe to make whatever you want: a vase, a bowl or another tabletop object that’s meaningful to you.

Start by tearing the newspaper into confetti-like shreds, and then combine with glue and water. Let the concoction soak in an airtight container for about a week so the paper becomes fully pulped. Adjust the color and texture as you like, adding items that you find around the house — food coloring, ink, flour, glue, salt, coffee grounds or even dirt from the backyard — that can bring a sense of place and identity. Mutu often uses red soil from Kenya to remind her of home. The idea, she said, is to learn about new materials, “allowing them to express themselves as much as I do and being resourceful.”

SUPPLIES

Newspaper

Two cups wood glue

Backyard or potting soil

Liquid pigments (ground coffee or tea leaves or any ink color of your choice)

One-gallon container with airtight lid

Rubbing alcohol

Bowl

Spoon

Sieve

Rubber gloves

Step 1:

Shred enough paper to fill a one-gallon container. Fill three-quarters full with boiling water. The paper will absorb the water. Mix contents with a wooden spoon

Step 2:

Add two cups wood glue, and stir until all shreds are soaked in water and glue. The glue will lighten and fluff the mixture. Cover container with an airtight lid and put mixture aside for a week.

Step 3:

After the mixture sits for a week, it will be time to strain the pulp. Place a sieve over a bowl and pour the paper mixture in.

Step 4:

Press on the pulp in the sieve with a spoon to remove excess liquid; discard liquid. Add half a cup of rubbing alcohol to the remaining paper pulp to kill bacteria. The texture should be the consistency of tacky oatmeal.

Step 5:

Wearing plastic gloves, take a handful of the mixture and form a ball. Knead and shape it in your hands.

Step 6:

Place the ball on a flat surface and sprinkle with coffee grounds, tea leaves or paint pigment on the surface. Compress the ball and add more pigment to stain it further and form a colored coating. Add more liquid pigment to the mixture for additional color.

Step 7:

Shape the clay mixture into a sphere, a sausage or whatever shape you desire.

Step 8:

To turn your clay into a keepsake bowl, place a small bowl upside down on parchment paper and cover with cling wrap. Mold the clay over the bowl pressing tightly.

Step 9:

Set the form to dry (ideally outside in the sun), where the colors will change and cracks may form. Once dry, remove the bowl and cherish your new sculpture.



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