I’ve been wanting to try a timeless technique of using an air dry paper mache clay (p’clay for short), not to be confused with the paper clay used by potters that requires kiln-firing. The downside to this clay is that water completely destroys it. However, there are many artists experimenting with homemade recipes to improve sturdiness and water resistance.
Before mixing up one of those many homemade clay recipes, I thought I’d start with a commercial product called CelluClay to learn the properties of p’clay. I am a mixed media maker so I need a clay that can adhere to most surfaces and be waterproof. My experiments started out with all the “DON’TS”: mixing glass, plastics, and metals. It is possible for p’clay to peel away or crack and chip off from any non-porous materials once it has fully cured. I used a variety of glues and finishes that I know to be outdoor quality or at least water-resistant along with the p’clay. Follow along while I make a mess . . .
My first experiment was using p’clay over a 6″ tall glass pickle jar to create a little tea light fairy house. I covered as much of the glass as I could with a thin layer of the p’clay. I used 1/4″ hardware cloth to form the planter boxes under the windows and the awning over the door, then covered with the p’clay. I used hardware cloth to form diagonal window grids, too.
Lid – Roof
I used plastic drinking straws to form the chimneys and cut them to size after the p’clay had dried. I covered the ends and a little of the insides of the straws to hide and prevent the plastic from moving.
Awnings & Roof Additions
I used cereal box cardboard and outdoor wood glue to add awnings over the windows and more layers to the roof for more of a mushroom look. The cardboard proved to be strong enough after covered with the p’clay making the hardware cloth overkill for tiny surfaces. I fashioned the mushroom gills into dovecotes, or dove houses. Although, in this case, they’re more like bug homes (is bugcotes a word?).
Prime & Paint
I used Outdoor Mod Podge as a primer/sealer to preserve and help waterproof the p’clay before attempting to paint the little house. Zinsser’s 1-2-3 Bulls Eye or Gesso is commonly used as paper mache primer/sealer. I used what I had on hand. I didn’t like the primed surface at first, but in the end, I was really glad I hadn’t skipped the priming step.
After priming the p’clay, I could scratch the surface and apply water to soften the dried clay. This allowed me to carve, smooth, and add more p’clay to make alterations. I made slight modifications to the chimneys and completely changed the style of the door awning.
Finish & Details
I applied two coats of clear matte varnish to seal the fairy house after painting, then glued dried mosses into the planter boxes. A climbing shrub made from twisted floral wire and loops filled with nail polish was planted in a section of acorn cap on the rear of the building.
I added a few metal parts from a Spam can and mesh filter to form the BBQ grill (base of outside chimney) and the chimney supports.
More metal, beads, and wires created the door handle and door bell. I was thrilled to find such tiny bells with clappers at a craft store! By the way, only fairies can hear the ringing bells! A battery-operated tea light placed inside the jar makes the Fairy House comes to life!
I hope you enjoyed the results of my first adventure with paper mache clay to try it too!!