Artwork. by . James Q. Jacobs

Paper Casts


Paper Casts are an easy and fun art project. All you need is a blender, water, newsprint, some porous cloth, a sponge, a household garbage bag and a mold. You might also want some litmus paper and calcium carbonate for adjusting the pH balance to neutral. Mineral additives, like copper carbonate, will make your paper unpalatable to insects. Once the paper cast is dried, you can seal it with gesso and paint it with acrylic paints.

Instructions: Liquefy wet newsprint (or other paper) on high for one minute, one sheet at a time. Presoaking makes this step easier. Strain the results through a porous cloth to remove water. In a pan stir to an even consistency, so the remaining moisture is evenly distributed. The batch should be somewhat like oatmeal. Pour this out over a form into an even layer and press with a sponge until no more water lifts out. Continue drying by pressing with dry newspaper and weights. Change the newspaper daily. To avoid warping the cast keep it pressed with weights and newspaper until completely dry. I often use a sheet of plastic and then plywood over the paper to help keep the cast flat. The plastic keeps the plywood dry, so it does not warp later. For larger casts, I have used clamps to compress the drying assemblage.

I have been using my woodcut blocks as molds for both pottery and paper making. The background of this page is a composite image of two of the mold blocks. My technique with these blocks requires a 2 mil plastic layer between the block and the paper, so they easily separate. I have also made some carved wood blocks especially for paper casting. These I coat with household wax instead of using a plastic separator. There are other methods of making paper casting molds, including using silicon sealer.

The finishing of the dry cast paper product involves sanding the edges and any rough spots, then painting with gesso to seal the paper. I do two coats of gesso and resand between coats. Then I apply acrylic paints. To hang the finished product, a strong cord can be glued to the back with epoxy.

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©1999 James Q. Jacobs. All rights reserved. Inquiries Welcome. Contact.
Published Summer Solstice, 1999.