Today I’ll show you how I made these butterflies, which have rather surprisingly thin wings, yet don’t break when you drop them on the floor (I didn’t mean to, but at least now I know they’ll survive a bit of clumsiness…)
I don’t normally make tiny things. I don’t collect tiny things, either. That’s just me. Today, however, I decided that I needed a butterfly for the elephant I designed for my book project.
I went to great lengths to make my elephant’s skin dry and cracked looking, and It will soon be painted all gray. I think the pachyderm needs some color and softness for contrast, so I made the tiny blue butterfly shown above. It will soon be sitting on Elephant’s trunk, unless it seems just too cutesy. We’ll see.
Since the little butterfly came out OK, I thought you might enjoy seeing how easy it is to make one. I don’t know exactly what one would do with the little insects — although it would be fun to put an entire “collection” of rare species in a deep frame, (no net required). Or they could be hung on a mobile — but not within reach of a baby, since they aren’t edible.
The butterflies are made with the new paper mache recipe (click here for details). You only need a small amount per bug, so one recipe will make lots. Like may be 50… Be sure to bookmark this page so you can find it after you’ve made a larger sculpture and have a little bit of clay left over. Or invite some friends over for a butterfly-making party.
Step 1: Make up a quart of paper mache clay. Then find a photo of a real butterfly, or make one up from your imagination. You can use one of the butterflies below, if one appeals to you. (Click on the image to see it full sized. It should open in a new window.) The butterflies with thin extensions on their wings will be more challenging than the one I picked, at top right in the image below.
Step 2: Draw your chosen butterfly on poster board or heavy drawing paper. As you can see below, I “cheated” and printed the photo of my butterfly, then cut it out and traced around it on light card stock.
Step 3: Cut out your butterfly, and bend the wings upward slightly. Butterflies rest with their wings up, moths rest with the wings horizontal. (a Sphinx moth would be a nice project, wouldn’t it?).
Then make a very thin “body” out of aluminum foil.
Step 4: Use thin strips of masking tape to attach the body to the underside of your paper butterfly. You will need to cover the aluminum foil entirely with masking tape, so the paper mache clay will stick.
Step 5: Place your butterfly upside down on a piece of plastic wrap. Then spread a small amount of paper mache clay onto the wings with the side of a knife. You want the clay to be really thin. It will spread over the edges of the wings, but don’t worry about it. We’ll remove the extra bits later. Cover the body with a thin layer of clay, too.
Step 6: Now fold some of the plastic wrap over the clay. You can smooth out the clay on the wings and body by rubbing over the plastic wrap gently with the flat part of your knife or a finger. If you make the clay smooth now, you will have less sanding to do later.
Step 7: Now let your butterfly’s wings and body dry. You will need to rest it on the edge of something that will allow the wings to stay in the correct position. I used an old roll of masking tape to hold mine while it dried. Since the clay is very thin, it will dry quickly, especially if you put it near a heat register.
Step 8: As soon as the paper mache clay is dry, turn the butterfly over and apply a thin layer of clay to the top of the wings and body. Smooth it out, as you did before, and let it dry again.
Step 9: Now remove the extra clay on the edges of your butterfly with a craft knife (carefully – those things are sharp) and then smooth the edges and flat part of the wings with sandpaper.
Step 10: The final step is to paint your butterfly. I used acrylic paint, Derwent Inktense water-soluble ink pencils and fine waterproof felt-tip pens. The patterns on the tiny butterfly didn’t come out even — I blame the cat that was taking a nap on my shoulder at the time. Or maybe it’s the bifocals…
Note: I added antennae to my larger butterfly at the last minute, so it isn’t included in the how-to photos above. I didn’t intend to bother with them, but the butterfly seemed weird without them. I stuck on two filaments from a nylon house-painting brush with a small dab of hot glue, and then covered the wax when it cooled with additional paper mache clay. If you figure out an easier way to add the antennae, please let us know. I didn’t do any legs, but that could be an interesting challenge.