How to Make Cute Paper Mache Birds | Alison Kolesar | Skillshare

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How to Make Cute Paper Mache Birds

teacher avatar Alison Kolesar, Artist and Illustrator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Making the Armature


    • 4.

      Paper mache, method 1


    • 5.

      Paper mache, method 2


    • 6.

      Adding a Ribbon


    • 7.

      Adding Color


    • 8.

      Adding Decoration


    • 9.



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About This Class

In this class I'll show you two different methods for making cute little bird sculptures like these as well as explaining a little about how I pick color schemes for them. I'll share "recipes" for making paper mache and show you how to turn the birds into ornaments that can hang from your Christmas tree or a nail in the wall.


Meet Your Teacher

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Alison Kolesar

Artist and Illustrator


I've worked as an artist and illustrator for many years although my academic training was in history and art history. I've illustrated over a 100 books, mostly how-tos on crafts and gardening. I also love to paint in watercolor and create collages as well as making papier mache birds, painting rocks, and creating paper jewelry. You can see some of my work at my Etsy store, Alisonsart as well as my website

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Alison Cola. Sorry, I'm an artist and illustrator and I also love making all kinds of things with my hands and working with many different media in this class. I'm gonna show you how to make little bird sculptures for materials you probably already have around your house. Whether you call it happy Mashaei or paper Mashaei making sculptures from paper has a long history. You may remember doing it at school. You might have made a bowl using a real bow that you built your work around. We're making a mosque using a balloon. Is your substrate making these little birds? We won't be using any props like that. I'll show you what materials to use. Starting with a so called armature that will create. I also show you ways to make your bird into a hanging ornament or a free standing sculpture . We'll talk about color schemes and creating character. Your project will be to make your own little paper mache, a bird or any other creature and share it in the project section below 2. Materials: I'm going to explain a bit about materials at this point so that you could gather what you need, and then I'll be talking a bit more about them as I sure you had actually used them. There are a number of different ways to make a J, but I'm going to demonstrate to the first is quite likely the method used as a child. For this, you'll need some paper towels, some masking tape and some cardboard to create the base of the bird. The armature. You can use a cereal box for the cardboard. Then you'll need Cem flower and water, which will mix into a paste and some thin paper, which you've tourney into strips. Traditionally, that would be newspaper. I have often used paper towels. Finally, you'll need some paints, acrylic paints like these and water based varnish. For the second method, you'll still need the paper tiles, the masking tape on the cardboard for the armature. But instead of the flour and water paste, you'll be making a kind of clay using joint compound point glue, corn starch, toilet paper, a little mineral oil and again flower. The recipe for that is posted below. I got it from the website Ultimate paper machine dot com, And there are also other recipes there. And of course, you'll need the paint on the varnish for decorating a little bird. You also want to make sure that you have a surface to work home that could be easily cleaned. This process is going to get messy. This one here is a plastic coated tablecloth. 3. Making the Armature: it's possible to make quite large paper machines. Sculptures, if you use a wire frame, is your base. But these little birds are too small to need that I start with some scrunched up paper towels. You could also use old newspapers or junk mail, paper towels and newspaper. Both have the advantage that they're fairly soft. Are the kinds of paper are likely to be stiffer and make things a bit harder for you? When you're trying to get your bird's body smooth, though, they will work. I use two sheets of paper toe for the body and one for the head, and I just rolled them into balls. I make the body a little bit longer than the head, but I keep the head pretty much round. There's a body and ahead, nothing terribly special so far. Then I wrap the paper towels all over with masking tape, taping the head to the body. As I go, I found it's worth tearing off a bunch of short I five or six inch lengths of masking tape before a begin, so I don't have to keep stopping to tear some more off. I'm going to speed the next bit up so that you could watch that process. The wings tail on beak are all cut out of card. I attend to use pieces of mat board, which I have left over from framing my pictures. But you can definitely use card from cereal boxes or some other kind of cardboard. If the cereal box card seems a little thin. Tribe wrapping two pieces together with your masking tape, you're gonna need two wings, the tail and a beak. There's a pdf of the shapes for these in the class. Resource is below, but you might come up with other shapes you prefer, or scale them up or down to fit your bird. Use your masking tape to attach the wings, beak and tail to your bird, and you'll notice that I've already wrapped my pieces of card with tape rather than doing that afterwards. The masking tape for all of the's is going to act as a barrier. Never has bent the paper towel inside from getting too wet when you add the paper machine, so you want to try and avoid having any of the holes, and as you're working, you can try to flatten the base of the birds so that it will sit up. I like to tape the wings on the inside as well as the outside, and you'll find as you're working, that it's almost as though the little birds personality starts to emerge. Um, you can do some things that make a difference to If you place the beak so that it faces in the more upward direction your bird is going to look more eager. If you place it facing downwards, he may look more reserved. Likewise, wings that stick out so that he looks like he's flying give a sense of energy. So there we have our basic armature, ready for the paper mache? A. You can see it's not terribly tidy at this point, Um, and you could certainly go around and trim it up a little bit, but all of this is going to be covered 4. Paper mache, method 1: Now that you have your armature, we're ready to start with the actual paper machine. There are two basic methods, and I'm gonna shave the traditional one first. So first you're going to need ah, whole lot off strips of paper. I use paper towel here. Um, more traditional might be strips of newspaper. You do want to tear them because you want to have ragged edges. Straight cottages will not look so good in the end of the day. Then you need to mix flour and water paste. This is about half a cup of flour with maybe a tiny bit less than half a cup of water. Mixed together with a wire whisk to try to get rid of all the lumps. If you live in a humid area, you can add a couple of tablespoons of salt to help prevent mold. You don't want your pace to be too thick, or it will be hard to make it smooth. But too thin and watery will take too long to dry, so you're going to take your strips of paper one of the time. Dip them in the flour and water paste, smoothing the excess off with your fingers and begin draping them onto the armature. This is definitely one of those things where your fingers are going to get messy. - Remember , if you want your wings to stick out, you'll need to wrap them separately. I'm going to speed up the tape cause this takes a while. - So because there was actually quite a lot of moisture in my flour and water paste, I went ahead and, uh, tour Cem even smaller strips and laid them on top to absorb some of the moisture. So there's actually two layers on here right now. I have turned my oven on to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm going to put my bird on oven dish with a little bit of foil and then I'll actually turn the oven off. But I'll let it sit in there in the warmth to try and speed up the drying a bit. It is so hard to be patient about the drawing, but there really aren't any shortcuts You If your paper machine isn't fully dry and you put paint and varnish on top, you risk little sticky patches developing later on the surface. I've had it happened, so in general you have to expect to wait at least overnight for it to dry Feli. When this layer is dry, I will in fact, do another layer of paper mache a and then possibly some more little tiny strips on top of that. So in the end, I will probably have around four layers, and in each case I have to let make sure that they're fully dry. Your flower mortar paste can keep overnight or longer if you put it in a covered container and keep it in the fridge. 5. Paper mache, method 2: so, and I'm gonna explain to you about a different method of using paper machine. There are a number of recipes out there that depend on breaking up the paper fibres and then adding glue to them to create a kind of paper based clay. This thing it's spread over your armature without using paper strips. I'm gonna be using a recipe created by Johnny of ultimate paper machine dot com. She's come up with quite a precise recipe, what she calls the Air Dry Clay recipe, and she gives measurements for that on her website in both cups and grams. She does a good job of explaining how to make it. I'll show you what it looks like. This is big lump of clay. I'm going to spread it over my little bird, and I'll probably speed up the video so that you could watch that happening. - So there you have it. Try to cover the whole of the armature with clay and make sure you haven't left in. It'll holes make it a smooth as you can with your fingers. Johnny talks on her website about adding pieces of play, using a mixture of equal parts glue and water. Each time I've made this clay, it's being wet enough that is still stuck to itself, and I haven't needed to use anything else to make me new pieces. Stick to a whole pieces. So this is not going to air dry or possibly again. I'll speed it up in the oven. Um, probably I won't need more than one code of this, but I'll have to check it after it's dried. 6. Adding a Ribbon: So I let my little bird dry overnight, and then I decided that there were parts of it that were a little too thin, and so I wanted to push not on another coat, and actually, that gives me the chance to show you how you can turn your little bird into an ornament. So I have this thin ribbon here, and I cut off about a 10 inch length. And if you concede E, I glued an inch and 1/2 or so on each end off the ribbon to the bird's head on back with What's this? About three inches hanging loose? And when I put the next layer off the paper clay on top, the ribbon will be fully caught in and held. So again, I'm going to speed up the tape while I do the next bit. So here's my little bird, as smooth as I can make him ready to go back into the oven to start his slow drying 7. Adding Color: before you actually start to paint, have a good look at your little bird and check if they're areas that you're too lumpy. This is a handmade object, and we're not looking for perfection. But think about what you'll be happy with in the finished product. You may be able to sand down some little lumpy areas or remove them with a blade of some kind. Or you may feel it's worth it to go back and add a little more paper machine in places using whichever method you've chosen. I like to use acrylic paints because they cover well, Uh, they have nice, bright colors. You can clean them up with water, and you can get paints like these from any craft store or the craft section of a discount store. They're very inexpensive, though The cheapest ones tend to be a bit on the thin side, which means that you have to do more than one coat. This was the bird that I covered with paper strips and flour and water paste. The end result was a light brown color. If I'd used newspaper, it would have been even darker, so to make a good base for Bright colors. I've given it a coat of white acrylic paint. Now there's nothing to stop you painting your bird all one color. But think about going a step further. It's nice for at least the beak to be a different color, and it's easy to add a few dots in a contrast in color with many of my birds. I pick a general color family sort of blue, turquoise, green, something like that, and then add some accents in orange or hoping. So here's the theory. You've probably seen something like this before. It's a color wheel, except that in this case it's shown in the shape of the flower. And what I mean is that the colors that are close to each other on the color wheel are sometimes called analogous colors. I think of them as a color family. If those air your base colors, you can then add Cem accents in spots. Adopt, sir, something some other kind of shape in something from the opposite side off the color wheel . I'm going to start painting my little bird, but I'm going to speed things up again. - So here's my little bird with his first coat of paint on. I have to let him dry completely, and then I will go back and double check, because there are inevitably little spots that you miss. Sometimes. When the light is catching the wet paint, it looks like training wet paint, and in fact, it's a little spot of paper machines showing through. 8. Adding Decoration: I've gone over the bird to make quite sure that all the paper machine was covered. I've given him a nice bright orange beak and a pair of round black eyes with a little spot of white in them to bring them to life. Now it's time to think about a bit more decoration. I plan to reuse some of the colors that I painted on the bird itself and then, since our engine red and pink on the opposite side of the color wheel from these dominant blues and greens, I'll have some little accents in those colors. So here he is. I've added decoration on back the tail. The wings may be able to see. I smudged the wings a little bit, but that's easily fixed. So the last thing that your bird will need is a coat of varnish. You'll probably need to coat the top of the bird, let it dry and then cook the underneath and you'll be all ready to meet the world 9. Variations: I promised to go over a few variations you can make with these techniques. We already talked about adding a ribbon to make you a bird into an ornament that you could hang from a tree or from a hook. What if you wanted to make a bigger bird like this? If I make a bird this size, I start with a cardboard armature that I then attached, balled up paper towels to with masking tape. So is to fill out the sides. You could probably create a large enough bowl of rolled up paper towel to make the armature , but it just feels safer to give it a bit of back bone that way. And what about legs? Those could be a bit tricky, but they add so much personality to your bird. I have used dowels like this and simply painted them. But then you have to have a surface to drill a couple of holes into and glue them into war . I've used thick wire, a 16 gauge that I bend into the shape of bird's feet with around those flyers and then I folk the top of the leg into the base of the body. The stage has to be done while you're still working with the paper machine. A. And before everything dries, you can wrap the wire legs with masking tape, just like you did the armature. And then put pay from a shay on top of them getting the bird to stand up on his legs. Take some experimentation, but it can be done. You may need to rig up some kind of support while the paper machine dries. Obviously, the methods I've been talking about here could be used for all kinds of other animals. I've made a few cats and also this frog prince, but I keep coming back to birds. What would you like to make do Please share your creations with the rest of us? We love to see what you make.