Time To Get Crafty : Paper Mache Giraffe Tutorial

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The first Christmas after my son was married I wanted to make an extra special gift for my new daughter in law. I knew that she loved giraffes, but I also knew that no “off the shelf” trinket would do to welcome her to our family, so I decided to make her this personal gift- a giraffe sculpture.

It is 22 inches tall and I tried to make it look more realistic than whimsical.

It took two weeks from start to finish, primarily because of the drying time between layers of paper.

I would rate it an easy project because hardest thing about it was waiting for it to dry between layers of paper before I could work on it again.

Here are the supplies I used:

  • 3 route 44 sized Sonic drink Styrofoam cups
  • 4 bathroom tissue cardboard tubes
  • 5 paper towel cardboard tubes
  • Masking tape
  • Yarn for mane and tail
  • Home made paper mache paste/glue : 2 cups of bleached white flour, water (enough to make a thin paste) and 1 bottle of white glue.
  • Lots of newspaper- the matte black and white newsprint is best for paper mache. The glossy paper is less favorable for these sorts of projects.
  • Paint
  • Images of giraffes (I used books and prints from the computer)

The Process

1. To begin, I created the paste by mixing the flour, water, and glue in a resealable container. This makes enough for a medium sized project, and for this giraffe, I had more than enough. Leave the lid off while you do the next step. Mixing this first allows enough time for the paste to thicken somewhat, which is optimal.

2. Next, rip newspaper into ½ to 1 inch strips lengthwise. One Sunday edition will be more than enough for most medium sized projects. (If you want to get your young children involved, and you don’t mind a mess, let them rip the paper for you. It won’t be uniform, and it will likely be messy, but they will have fun and you don’t have to cut strips of paper for an hour; win-win I’d say.)

3. At this point you will begin to make your form. I used: Styrofoam cups (Route 44 sized from Sonic), bathroom tissue rolls, paper towel rolls, and paper tape or masking tape. This is what the first stage, or the armature (framework), looks like.

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4. The next few steps are the same or at least quite similar; covering the framework with the paper mache. To do this you dip the strips of paper into the glue substance. I suggest gently pulling the strips between your fingers to remove some of the glue. Then, you place the strips on the framework one or two layers at a time until your form takes shape. Let dry between every couple of layers for best results.

Here are the first few layers of my project:

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(You will notice a fan in most of these photos. It really helps the drying time in between layers.)

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As you can see, between layer 1 and about layer 5 or so, you begin to see your project take shape.

5. Mold the wet strips around your form as you go in order to create the shape you have envisioned. When the thickness is about 1/4 inch thick, or to your liking, you can let your project dry for a couple of days .

6. When you are satisfied that your creation is the size and shape you prefer, and you have let it dry thoroughly , you can begin to paint and personalize to your hearts content.

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This is the first, or “rough” coat. It is mostly for coverage and because of the light pain color and the dark ink in the newspaper, mine took three coats with drying time in between each.

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My two precious daughters and budding crafty girls helping out with step two of the painting, which was “spots”. I went for a more realistic look and tried to follow a basic marking pattern from the books I had on giraffes.

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And finally, the finishing touches like the eyes and ears, which never got as close to real as I would have liked.

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I finished this project off with four coats of clear spray paint to add a layer of protection, drying between each coat.

Here again is the final product:

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The daughter in law said she loved it and I certainly enjoyed creating it along with the help of my daughters.

This was created a few years ago and I have done a couple of small projects since.

My next project, beginning in a couple of days, will be a Wall Mounted Deer Head for my husband for our 20th wedding anniversary in July. I consider this quite an undertaking because it will be life-sized, and because it is for such an important milestone anniversary.

If you found this tutorial helpful let me know. If you would like to see the next project as well, leave me a message and I just might create a tutorial or photo journal as I go.

Peace to you all and happy crafting,

Andora

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