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How to Make Christmas Ornaments With Li-Qua-Che Casting Compound
Project Difficulty Level: Challenging
Making one paper mache Christmas tree ornament is
fairly easy - you simply use the techniques shown for other projects
on this site. Each ornament you make with torn paper and paste will
be a true original, and your family will treasure it for years.
However, sometimes you need a lot
of ornaments, and making them one at a time would take too
long. In this post I'll show you how to set up a small 'production
line' and create multiple versions of the same design. You can use
this technique to make as many ornaments as you need - to fill a
whole tree, to give away as gifts, or even to sell at a craft fair.
All the other projects on this site can
be made using items you probably already have on hand. Very few
additional materials need to be purchased to make ordinary paper
mache sculptures. However, the ornaments shown here are made using
products that you can find only in an art store. They are not terribly
expensive, but there is a small investment in supplies
for these ornaments.
I believe the casting
product we'll be using for our paper mache ornaments was originally
developed for doll-makers. The things you'll need are:
I purchased my Sculpey and Li-Qua-Che for this project through
the online discount art store. You can buy Plaster of Paris
at your local hardware store.
To begin your project, you'll need a small box to hold your
plaster mold, and a board to hold your Sculpey models. Cut
or find two boards or pieces of cardboard that are the same
size. They need to be at least 1 inch wider than your biggest
The first board will be the bottom of your box. Cut long
strips of cardboard at least 4" wide and long enough to go
around the outside of your board. Use masking tape to attach
the strips to your board, creating sides. Use extra masking
tape to cover any cracks or seams so the plaster can't leak
Cover your second board with a piece of plastic. I used a
piece of plastic cut from a tall kitchen bag. You need the
plastic to be large enough so it will extend out at least
4" beyond the edges of the board. Tuck the extra edges of
the plastic under your board (you can use a piece of tape
to keep it from slipping around), and then use your Super
Sculpey to create you models on the plastic-covered board.
When I make small items like this, I use my Loew
Cornell Clay Tools, but you can also use common items
like knives and toothpicks to work your clay. When your models
are cast, the mold will capture every fine detail that you
put into your model.
You can copy favorite ornaments or toys, get inspiration
from antique ornaments online, or just get creative. You could
even use Christmas cookie cutters to create simple shapes.
Just be sure that the clay is pressed firmly on to the plastic
around the edges, so the models won't 'float' when plaster
is poured over them.
||Note: The only rule is that there must be
no undercuts. Look at your model carefully
to make sure there are no undercuts, especially around the edges
where the clay meets the board. Undercuts make it difficult
to remove the cast paper mache.
Once you are happy with your Sculpey ornaments, carefully
pick up the board and place it in the box you created, draping
the extra plastic over the sides. Use a few pieces of masking
tape to keep the plastic from slipping down into the box.
Make sure each ornament model in the box is centered, and
not touching the sides of the box.
Now mix up some Plaster of Paris, using the instructions
on the container. (If you've never mixed plaster before, you
can use the instructions shown on
Pour your dry plaster into the water, allowing it to soak
for a few seconds before stirring. Mix completely so there
are no lumps, and make enough so the clay models will be covered
by at least one inch. Slowly pour the plaster over your models.
Then tap the box gently on the table to dislodge any small
bubbles that may form.
(If you do end up with bubbles, don't worry - they will show
up as little bumps on your cast ornament and can be easily
Now you wait until your plaster is set. It will firm up,
and then begin to get hot. After it cools down again, it should
be strong enough to remove you clay models. Tip the plaster
out of the box and pull the clay out of the plaster. You may
need to use a tool to carefully lift up the clay from the
middle of the model - you will lose your original model, but
an exact duplicate can now be created with the pourable casting
compound, using the mold you've just created.
Carefully inspect your mold to make sure you didn't miss
any undercuts that would make it difficult to pull the finished
ornaments out of the mold. If you find any undercuts, carefully
remove them with a knife.
Allow your new plaster mold to cure overnight before using.
In the meantime, you can create another batch of Sculpey models,
using the board and box you used before, and make another
mold. Now mix some water and Activa
Li-Qua-Ché Pourable Papier Maché, according to the instructions
on the container. The casting compound should be about the
same consistency as cream.
Carefully pour it into your mold, filling each one completely.
In the photo below I am pouring Li-Qua-Che into one mold,
and another mold has been filled.
You will now wait for about 15 to 30 minutes while the water
from the casting compound is sucked into the plaster mold,
creating a 'skin' around the edges. You want this skin to
be from 1/16th to 1/8 inch thick.
Now turn the mold upside down and drain the liquid compound
into the original container. If it would be easier, you can
drain the compound onto a baking sheet, and then pour it into
the original container.
This is a little messy. Use your fingers to push all the
extra compound that collects on the top of the mold back into
the container - you can see in the photo below that it will
collect on the mold during the pouring process, but it can
be easily pushed off into the container or baking sheet.
Once the extra compound has been drained from the mold, turn
the mold upside down and allow it to dry for at least 30 minutes.
The amount of time it takes will depend on how dry your mold
was when you started and the temperature of your room.
When the compound is ready to be removed from the mold, it
will shrink away from the sides of the mold, and will be firm,
but still fragile. You can now pull the ornaments out of the
mold and allow them to dry completely. As soon as the first
batch of ornaments has been removed from the mold you can
This next step may not be needed. When the Li-Qua-Che is
completely dry it is remarkably sturdy, but I still reinforce
the area where I'll be drilling a small hole for the hanger.
I do this with very small bits of brown Kraft paper stuck
to the back of the ornament with carpenter's glue. You should
do some experimenting on your own to see if this step is actuall
You can now drill a small hole for a hanger. I used one of
Cornell Clay Tools for this step, but I think a very small
drill bit and a power drill would also work - or you could
use an ice pick.
I painted the back of all my ornaments black, so you can't
see them when the ornaments turn around backwards on the tree.
Dark green might have been better. This is entirely up to
And now we're ready for the fun part! You can paint your
ornaments with acrylic craft paints. Let the paint dry completely.
I like to add a protective finish coat of water-based verathane.
The Completed Paper Mache Ornaments:
If you make your own paper mache ornaments, we'd love to hear about
it. And if you have any suggestions for making the instructions
better, please let us know. You
can leave comments about paper mache ornaments here.
Be sure to check out all of my how
to paper mache projects. And be sure to sign up for my RSS feed
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