Project Difficulty Level: Intermediate.
This little paper mache lop-eared rabbit was a lot of fun to make, and only cost a few pennies in materials.
I found some wonderful models for my bunny out at MyBunnyBlog.com, and if you happen to live in England you could actually adopt one of the beautiful rabbits they show on their site. For now, I’ll just make do with this little bunny sculpture. If you’d like to make one like it, you can follow the photos below.
As with most of the paper mache projects on this site, the bunny starts out with a wad of newspaper that is made into a ball by taping it tightly with masking tape. The first ball will be the bunny’s body.
Next, I added smaller scrunches of paper for the four legs and the tail.
Now the head is added, and I cut two ears out of the cardboard from a cereal box. I cut tabs at the top of the ears so I can bend them over and use them to tape the ears to the head.
The ears are taped to the bunny’s head, and a small bump of paper is added at the top to give the ears a realistic curve. I will leave the details, like eyes, nose and toes, until after the first layer of newsprint and paste has dried.
Now the paper and masking tape are completely covered with strips of newsprint and a paste made from flour and water. I had to do this in two stages, first the bottom and then the top, so I’d always have a dry side to lay him on. The bunny was dried in an oven set at 200 F. (Never put paper mache projects in an oven that is hotter than that, because the heat will distort the shape. And never put them near a fire or electric heater, unless you want to burn down your house).
As soon as the first layer is completely dry, I use some joint compound to round out the bunny’s body.
Many people like to leave the ridges and bumps that are created when you crumple paper – it gives the final project an unmistakable “paper mache” look. However, I like to smooth my sculptures out, and during my baby whale wall sculpture project I discovered that joint compound is perfect for this purpose. You can buy this product at the hardware store.
As soon as the joint compound is dry, you can easily sand it as smooth as you like. (This is a technique that I have never seen anyone else use, so you can say your heard it first from me!)
As soon as the joint compound is dry and sanded I start making the details with paper towels that have been dipped in the flour and water paste. Bunnies don’t have too many details, because they’re covered with fur. However, I wanted to have some nice toes, and I built her nose and mouth from pieces of paper towel. I also made her “eyebrows”, and added a bump that some bunnies have on the top of their head.
After the paper toweling is dry, I use some more joint compound to round out the cheeks and forehead, as you can see in the photo below. Then I add the second layer of paper and paste. The second layer is made of brown Kraft paper, like the kind paper bags are made from. I used very small strips around the nose and toes, and used one of my Loew Cornell Clay Tools to push the paper into the creases. You could also use a knife or toothpick for this purpose.
When the second layer of paper is completely dry, I sand it smooth. Then I make up a special “skin coat” of white flour, water and carpenter’s glue. Elmer’s glue would also work. The glue keeps the paste from cracking as it dries. To this mixture I add some white craft glue. To completely cover the rabbit, I use three coats.
The third coat of “skin” paste is brushed on in small sections. Then, before the paste dries I use the little brush that came with my set of Loew Cornell Clay Tools to put “fur” on the rabbit. The fur is dragged into the paste in teh natural direction that fur grows in. I don’t texture the ears or nose, since these are velvety smooth on a rabbit.
I’ve also sketched in the places where the rabbit’s coat will be colored, like a calico cat.
The colored spots are now painted in with craft paint diluted with water. I used a light grey and two colors of brown to duplicate the rabbit’s calico coloring. The ears and cheeks are dark brown. In the second photo below you can see that I’m trying to copy the colors of a real rabbit.
Painting over the fur texture with thinned craft paint creates a nice illusion of real hair, without having to paint in little hairs with a tiny brush. The grooves are filled with paint, while the ridges between each “hair” is just a little bit lighter. I was very pleased with the effect.
The bunny was then finished with a coat of water-based verathane, which you can find at a hardware store.