Over Labor Day, my Sheltie, Shani carried out a successful panty raid on my daughter’s slumber party (greatly angering my daughter). Shani’s most recent offense was much closer to home. I have been working on paper mache hands for Ms. Bewitchingly Boo-tiful described in last week’s blog. I placed the hands outside on the three-feet-high fire pit to dry in the sun. The height of the pit provides a convincing alibi for Violet, the rat terrior, nicknamed the Terrorist for her ability to shred anything in a matter of minutes.
When I came home to check on the drying progress, the hands were missing. I was mystified. At first, I thought the wind had blown the hands off the granite ledge. Afterall, what could be appealing to a dog about something made of flour, water, and paper, surely this combination does not emit a wafting odor tantalizing a dog’s olfactory lobes. But alas, the wind was not the culprit. I wasn’t going to be given the gift of finding intact phalanges. My search through the yard uncovered a few small remnants
I was very surprised that both hands were gone. I mean one good chew and yuck! But this is where the accomplice comes in. My rat terrier, Violet, gets great joy in tearing up anything. Shani has been very discriminating in her destructive tendencies, limiting her tastes to extremely expensive Victoria Secret panties. Violet will grab whatever is handy and shake it violently while growling and then shred the with her teeth. I vision the hand dismemberment as a two dog crime. The dog with superior height and extremely long snout identified and retrieved the hands. The terrior gleefully shredded them as the sheltie ran in circles joyfully barking and egging Violet on.
The crime set back the paper mache project three days:
One to recreate both hands. I start with pipe cleaners and cardboard.
Two days for drying.
Two more days for painting and decorating.
Three days for Marine varnish to paint and dry
Final three days for varnish to cure.
cardboard and pipecleaners to start
All this has led me to develop the Pinocchio Theorem:
If you have a long nose, be careful it doesn’t lead you astray.
While innocently reading my email, I opened a challenge from the Idaho Botanical Gardens to create scarecrows for their annual scarecrow crawl the first weekend in October. Since retiring last year, I have been expanding my craft activities. This email literally shouted at me, “Do it! Make a paper mache scarecrow!” The Botanical Garden Theme was Idaho history and I immediately thought to make Sara Palin. Ms. Palin attended the University of Idaho so met the Idaho history criteria. But farther down in the rules, it stated scarecrows would not be allowed that had any political theme or were derogatory. I don’t have an expansive enough imagination to link scare crow, Palin and paper mache into any type of positive image. I immediately rejected the Palin concept and moved on to a scarecrow witch. I thought I could handle dressing some type of large doll and making a paper mache face and hands. The real challenge was getting the doll to stand up on a pole. The entry materials warned that the scarecrows would have to last seven weeks through potentially vile weather including rain, wind and hail. The apparatus to support the doll had to be substantial. Fortunately, I have a friend who does wood working and agreed to help me suspend the doll once decorated. So my entry went in as “Bewitching”. As the project grew in scope and scariness, I later added Boo-tiful. My final entry was the Bewitching Ms. Boo-tiful!
I researched online “big dolls”. I discovered there are many variations of inappropriate life-sized sex toys. I also discovered much to my delight that Mattel makes a My Size Barbie which stands over 3 feet tall, the perfect form to make a paper mache witch. I ordered my used Barbie princess on EBay. The big doll came in a golf clubs box. The shipping cost more than the doll. My daughter, Kayla, informed me she didn’t like large dolls and didn’t want the doll in the house. So when Barbie arrived, I invited her to sit with us for dinner a few nights in my son’s seat (he’s away at college).
Kayla was incensed to have Barbie sitting across the table at meal (this just proves that I am fundamentally a wicked mother).
I had planned on dressing Barbie in a black plastic garbage bag because of the weather concerns. I had years of 4-H many moons ago so I felt I would be able to sew a credible dress from a plastic bag. However, I discovered at Wal-Mart that My Size Barbie fits perfectly into size 2 toddler clothes. I bought her black hot pants, silver Lycra leggings, little tiny, black leather boots and a black lace shirt. A black cape, red wig, Halloween socks, black children’s mittens all came from the Dollar Store; as did glittery orange and black spiders and a flying bat. I ordered online a child’s witch’s broom for the cross bar of the scarecrow along with child’s witch’s hat. The broom arrived all bent up with the straw broken but it was too much bother to return so I taped on the little pieces of straw with black masking tape. I learned on this project that masking tape is a cure all for all sorts of production problems. When we had a week of rain as the project was coming together, I cut an orange cape out of an old plastic table cloth to keep downpours off Ms. Boo-tiful’s back (only the best for my witchy fiend).
Ms. Boo-tiful’s face and hands were the reason I started this wacky project to begin with. I wanted another venue for my paper mache crafting. The big concern was how to keep paper mache from dissolving when it has to be outside for seven weeks. Of course, the internet is full of advice on how to sustain paper mache. My favorite video was a research project conducted in England by a man who made paper mache creatures out of balloons, coated them with different varnishes and placed them outside to see which if any of the balloon people could survived England’s’ notorious wet climate. Regular varnish vanished into a caved in puddle of cardboard within a week but the balloon man coated with marine varnish (used on boats and quite expensive) made it through England’s winter looking largely the same only a little more yellow with age. Ms. Boo-tiful’s face and hands were coated four times with marine varnish and left to cure 4 days. Hopefully, this keeps her together through October.
The most enjoyable part of the project was assembly. My friend, Henry Reents, mounted Ms. Boo-tiful on a 4 foot pvc pipe using a large toggle bolt in the back. Her broom stick was also screwed into the CVP pipe. Her paper mache hands were screwed into the broom. She is wired at the waist to the PVC pipe. Her wig is screwed on and her hat is held in place with push pins Henry pounded into place with a hammer. We spent two delightful afternoons assembling Ms. Boo-itful. We found ourselves giggling evilly together as Henry continued to put screws and wires into the transformed Barbie. Who knew creating the perfect witch could be such devilish fun.
Ms. Boo-tiful went out to the Idaho Botanical Gardens on Thursday, September 29th. The Garden provided a rebar pipe in the ground and I just popped Ms. Boo-tiful on it. Sue and Henry Reents and my husband and I went out to see her at the Botanical Harvest Festival on Sunday. It was a beautiful fall day. There was music, arts and crafts booths, food vendors, and a beer garden. The place was packed with little children, running wildly about. A couple accidently tumbled into us as we strolled. There were 16 scarecrows entered in the Scarecrow Crawl. They were eclectic group and ranging from objects made by kindergarteners to gorgeous displays from Boise’s largest family-owned garden shop. After viewing Ms. Boo-itful who truly is a fantastical, scary, scarecrow, we spent time sitting in the shade watching all the activities. The Harvest festival is a “must do” for families in Boise the fall.
Ms. Boo-itful has to be removed between November 1 and 3. At that time, I’ll get to see up close how the marine varnish worked. I will hazard a guess now that she will be frightening indeed after being out in the Idaho fall weather for six weeks.
Right before my son, Scott, left for college he came up with idea that I should create a paper mache Trump figure. Wacky Trumpster featured in this blog would make a great gift for politicos from either major party. Trumpster is a convenient paperweight to keep track of all those nasty receipts you need at your finger tips when you are audited by the IRS. If Trump had a Trumpster, we may have seen his tax returns by now. Remember Trumpster comes with real hair which you can wash and comb. If you are loosing your hair, here is your opportunity to style someone else’s hair to your heart’s content. Trumpster is made entirely of recyclable products when you grow tired of him just toss him in the Dumpster. Each Trumpser is unique and lovingly made with only the finest old, used products. Don’t wait to order yours!
More reasons that Trumpster is this Election’s trendiest gift.
Trump Supporters: Give them a Trumpster along with a carton of legos. Trumpster is entirely made in American by a 6th generation American (me). The legos are so your Right Wing friend and Trumpster can build walls to their hearts’ content at no cost to tax payers.
Trump Detractors. Give them a Trumpster to help them work off anger and frustration with the current Congress:
Made of paper, Trumpster can serve as a bulletin board to remind you of key dates. For example, the Presidential election is Tuesday, November 8, 2016. If Trump looses, political commentary won’t be near as much fun.
If you have a ghoulish side you could just push pins in Trumpster any time you are upset. I don’t think Trumpster contains any voodoo magic but punching holes in a wind bag is bound to make your day better.
To Order your own Trumpster or Trumpster for your friends and loved ones message me on Facebook or WordPress or go to:
I started working in paper mache this summer to create sellable items for a Christmas Bazaar where the funds go to charity. So far I have created assorted cats and woodland angels. These items have not proven very popular on Etsy or Facebook. I am beginning to have a craft room full of colorful cats and flying nymphs made of paper, paint and paste.
My college son, Scott, is of the opinion that anything “Trump” no matter how bizarre will sell. Scott may have a point. Trump seems to hold a weird fascination even for his detractors. All across America we wait with baited breath to hear the next outrageous Twitter or giggle at Trump’s explanation of how Obama created ISIS only to learn that these wild statements are a new form of “sarcasm”.
I took Scott up on his challenge and created “Trumpster”. Paper mache Trump is functional which is more than can be said for his real-life counterpart. He is a paper weight. Mr. Trump sits on a replica of Trump tower, a raspberry box filled with rocks(I liked both the symbolism of Trump perched on raspberries and his tower covered with a gold facade but really holding nothing but rocks like many of his failed real estate deals). Trump’s body is made from a recycled brew cup. We have lots of these from coffee every morning, might as well put them to good use.
As Scott noted, the only things you need to denote Trump are big hair, pointing fingers and orange skin. The reality bar is quite low because Trump has made himself into his own reality TV character. The hardest part of the project was the hair. I finally clipped hair off my Sheltie, Shani, and glued it on a wig form. When I told Scott this, he worried that I had given Shani bare spots. Do not be alarmed, Shani has more hair at any one time than most dogs grow in a life-time. As you can see by the picture, Shani looks no different after providing Trump with his gilded hair than she did before my gentle clipping. Once the hair was glued in place, the wig fell off the model into a cup of water. Not to worry, made from real hair, the wig dried out and remains perfectly groomed unaffected by this potential castrophy.
“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.”
― Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer and I have one thing in common, we like cats. When I am feeling down, I like to lay on my bed with Angel and listen to her purr.
It is not surprising that when I took up paper mache, cats are the first series I worked on. The cats I have created from various materials have some connections to my past. For example, the featured orange cat reminds me of my first cat, Puddy Cat, who we got when I was in first grade. Puddy Cat lived at our family home for 21 years (far longer than I did). Paper mache, Puddy, has a body entirely of newspaper to provide structure.
I wadded up paper into balls in the shape of a cat and then taped the paper in a few places to hold it together.
After I completed, Puddy Cat, I worked on a replica of the Satchel, the lord of the Ashtree Manor. My first effort at Satch was constructed of a toilet paper roll and Styrofoam ball for the head. There was no effort to capture the shape of a cat but rather to express the sleek, stylish nature of a cat through paper. I was pleased with the actual shape which I may try again. But the color was all wrong. I started with a black base coat and instead of creating a grey tiger stripe, I ended up with a brindle cat. I call this cat, “Cat with Coat of Many Colors”. My son told me that you always have to begin with base coat being light and then add on the darker colors later.
My next effort at Satch was a combination of experimenting with glue-based paste which creates a white clay and two toilet paper rolls. The cat structure that evolved from this effort was quite elaborate. I painted the cat all white and then layered on the various tones of gray. I am pleased with the coloring but probably won’t do such an elaborate cat structure in the future. To accurately capture Satch’s beautiful coat, I need to start with a gray base and then layer on.
I am working on paper mache prototypes because I need to have 10 items for a Christmas bazaar, a fundraiser for women’s scholarships. When I took in the cats to the planning committee, they didn’t think that cats would sell well at Christmas. I am now moving on to Christmas angels. I will blog about my angels, wood nymphs, and sprites soon.
I learned when I was visiting one of my good friends in Wyoming that she spends many hours joyfully engaged in adult coloring. She has many beautiful, brightly huged pictures she has produced. Coloring for her provides a grounding effect. Adult coloring has become very popular by providing stress relief and improved fine motor skills.
I told her I got similar joy from working on paper mache. The big different is the coloring books are easy to carry and the pens can be packed in a box. I have paper, paint, and glue strewn all over our upstairs playroom. Fortunately, the kids have outgrown the room so I can leave my objects out to dry and paint for long periods of time.
The distinction between art and craft is that art is a creation from an emotional response that cannot be replicated. Craft usually has a structure and can be replicated by others. Most of the time, I would define paper mache as a craft with structure and the ability for others to copy. However, I think in the case of my crafty kitties they are more art than craft. I will probably not make more cats but the ones I have made have reminded me of my furry feline friends.
Talking with my sister, Jane, reminded both of us what tremendous skill and love our father had for dogs
Ralph (Robbie) Robinson was a shrewd entrepreneur. At one point in time, he leased lady shoe departments from the Sweet briar and Dillard Department Store chains in Cheyenne, Casper, and Laramie Wyoming; Logan, Utah; Greeley, Colorado and Rapid City, South Dakota. He also opened a children’s department in the Cheyenne stored called Robbie ‘ s Zoo, complete with a stuffed animal zoo and six foot tall, electric, nodding giraffe under the stairs.
The majority of his career he managed the Cheyenne stores and he had two male managers in Casper and Rapid City who stayed with him his entire 30 odd years in the business. He always said the managers made the business. He closed the other stores in Utah, Laramie and Greeley finding it difficult to keep his small shoe empire profitable without key managers in place.
With the three locations, he provided us with an upper middle class life style. We belonged to the country club, owned a quarter horse, had lessons in a variety of sports, traveled a little, had cars in high school and went to a private college. My sister and I were both in college at the same time so the private school was not a small bill to pay. When I was young, I didn’t think much about money or life style. We owned a store and when extra hands were needed, for example Christmas and back-to-school we worked at the store. In retrospect, I can see that maintaining our life style through economic ups and downs was no small feat.
This blog, however, is not about dad as a business man but dad’s life as a dog trainer. Knowing his business skills and take no prisoner competitive spirit in cards and golf, it is surprising that he was an expert at training dogs.
The first dog I can remember was Hokey-Dokey, a red-gold cocker spaniel. I remember Hokey as big. Since I was 2 or 3 at the time, it occurred to me writing this blog that Hokey was probably cocker size and I was dimiutive, eye-level with the dog. Dad trained Hokey to jump through a hoop, dance on his hind legs, and sit up. Dad and Hokey would dress up in costumes. Hokey wore a tutu, and dad wore a bow tie. They would go to events to perform. I was always delighted to be included in the audience for the performance. I was in second grade when Hokey died.
Barney, the beagle, was dad’s one failure. The dog was adorable except for his baying voice and the fact that he ran away all the time, even though we had a brick fence. He would run up to my grandmother’s house three blocks away. When the animal control officer would come to her door because of a complaint, Barney woukd stick his head around grandmother’s leg and bark. Dad finally gave Barney to one of his employees.
Along the way, we had two more black cockers, one after the other. Dutchess and Princess. Dutchess was particularly adept at jumping from the ground to the saddle so she could ride on my quarter horse with me.
Probably the best example of dad’s dog training skill was Bumper, an extremely large, absolutely gorgeous, purebred Black and white English springer spaniel. Bumper was the last of dad’s dogs. My family home was dogless when I moved back to Cheyenne for a job after graduate school.
I saw an animal shelter advertisement with Bumper ‘ s picture. Bumper was about six months old and had been relinquished because she was afraid of guns. My family didn’t hunt so this wasn’t a problem. I asked mom and dad if they would like the dog. I wasn’t living with them so it wouldn’t be my dog. When they said yes, I went and got them Bumper.
I am not sure it was love at first sight. Bumper had acquired some annoying habits before joining the family such as jumping up on people. She was large when I got her but she grew to be as large as a small golden retriever, way over-sized for an English springer spaniel. But Bumper certainly had her day when our family found her.
My dad trained her to walk from home to the store every day with him. She and he stopped at the post office each morning where she became well known. She stayed under his desk by his feet but would come out and greet children in the store when the sales clerks asked the kids if they would to pet a dog. Always polite when meeting children, she would sit quietly soaking in the attenton, jumping vanquished to another life time. But her greatest skill and one of my dad’s greatest joys was he trained her to carry the bank bag of deposits to the bank and stand up at the teller’s desk to deliver the cash. All the tellers’ had treats for her. She had her choice of lines. Dad and Bumper were featured in the bank’s print advertising as an example of the bank’s home-town, customer friendly service. Bumper and dad became known all over Cheyenne. They would be greeted as a team where-ever they went.
My dad retired when the Sweet briar stores went bankrupt. He was doing fine in his leased departments but had no base of operation. Fortunately, his business acumen held. He was able to support he and mom for many years on his investments. Bumper lived the life of leisure during this retirement period; going for rides, swimming for sticks in the country club lake, an activity she never tired of.
When my mom died, my dad remarried within six months to a woman who didn’t want Bumper. Dad asked me to take her. I declined because my job required a lot of travel. I had a sheltie, Ginger Rogers, who went with me everywhere. I couldn’t see taking two dogs all over Wyoming for work. With the perspective of age, I can see I could have been more flexible.At the time, I thought Dad’s new wife should have been more flexible. Family dynamics after a death with a quick remarriage are complex. Finally, Dad found a friend who was down on his luck and needed a place to live. Dad let the man stay in our family home rent free as long as he took care of the house and Bumper. Dad and I both regularly visited Bumper who seemed fine with this arrangement but I think missed her owner, my father. Bumper died two years after my mom. At that point, my dad emptied our family home (the family was now all living elsewhere) and sold it.
What did I learn from my dad about dogs. First,patience yields great rewards. Dogs love to meet their owners expectations and in turn a well-trained dog can bring joy to a family and in Bumper ‘ s case an entire community. Second, dogs are pets not children. We gave Barney away when he was disrupting our family’s life style. Dad married his new love even though she didn’t share his passion for dogs. After dad died, she got two cats whom she was fanatical about. Third,there are solutions to complex family dynamics. Bumper had a forever home because she was a great dog with a huge heart.
Recently, I joined a women’s organization that hosts an annual Christmas bazaar to raise funds for education. We are all supposed to make something to sell. I was born with very few arts and craft genes. Since the first recorded cave art is over 500,000 years old, some of our early ancestors definitely had these genes and passed them on to a few lucky souls. You and I all know the person who shows up and can fashion a felt hat from a knit sweater or a gorgeous quilt from a rag bag, or takes home the hodge podge of objects contributed by parents to the school auction and produces a world class auction basket. I stand in awe of these people. I am not one of these people.
My freshman year in college, I took up knitting. I made dozens of extremely-long, odd- shaped scarves using the basic knit one/pearl one stitches. Everyone I knew ended up with one of these slinky reptilian beasts. As a child, my mother did her best to endow me with some homemaking skills. I was enrolled in 4-H for a few years. I turned out passable aprons and gathered skirts, resulting in blue, red and white ribbons at fair. My muffins had tunnels, little holes made by too much air–no ribbon at the county fair. I did win the purple ribbon and best in class, one year for my meal plan. In retrospect, this award is extremely ironic because I don’t cook much at all.
While suffering angst over the bazaar challenge, my sister, Jane, reminded me that as a child, I was a whiz at paper mache. My skill wasn’t because I wanted to produce great art. I was fascinated by puppetry. I’d make a variety of puppet heads with died cotton ball hair and whip up their outfits on our sewing machine. Then I would write elaborate plays for my friends and I to produce.
My first thought was there wasn’t much interest in paper mache anymore. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. When I looked up a paper mache refresher course on YouTube (source of all things educational),one sweet-looking elderly lady, Joni Good at http://www.ultimatepapermache.com has a blog, numerous books and dozens of YouTubes. Her recipe for paste has over a quarter of a million views. A second teenage girl has over 200,000 views demonstrating Joni’s recipe. One man has over two million views on how to make a piñata. An attractive lady making a paper mache bowl has over 1 million views.
Apparently, there are a lot folks out there making craft items out of paper and paste. My sixteen year old daughter, Kayla, says there are just lots of people who like to watch YouTube and aren’t making anything. Surely these high numbers of viewers reflect some papery product being produced somewhere and not just viral surfers and paper stalkers. Given this huge viewing volume, I thought why not give it a try again? After all in the scope of human affairs (homo sapiens as we know them have been around for more than 200,000 years), 52 years of not touching anything related to paper mache isn’t that long a time.
Paper mache originated in China during the Han Dynasty (BC 202 to 220). The Chinese made paper mache helmets that they hardened with lacquer. From China, the craft spread to Japan and Persia. Those elaborate oriental masks, you see when you travel are paper mache. When the art of paper mache reached France, the French, always unique, decided to create their art by chewing up the scraps of paper. Chewing paper would, of course, give you small pieces of sticky, damp paper to work with but sounds disgusting to me. When I began my paper mache project, I rejected the French approach and used the yellow pages approach, “let your fingers do the shredding”.
After reviewing some of the videos on new approaches to paste (joint compound, linseed oil, and Elmer’s glue), I elected to go traditional. My first project is made of paste from flour, salt and water (recipe below). A an empty toilet paper roll and Styrofoam round ball provided the infra structure. I used newspaper for the coating. Using household products did result in the bumps in odd places that led Joni Good to make up a more elaborate paste recipe. But I am still taken with the more modest approach to paper mache because as a child, I remember we could just go to the kitchen, whip up paste without the hassle of gathering together a lot special stuff and have our theater cast underway in no time. I think there is something to be said about being able to create when the urge strikes you, especially when children are involved. In addition, the flour and water is easy to clean up with soap and water, inexpensive and very forgiving when you make errors. Finally, it is not fast drying—a plus for joint compound and glue but a negative if you want to rip off some error you have made.
I am also taking a pottery class. In pottery, our teacher is always telling us that the clay speaks to us. I was originally going to make a reindeer (remember this project started for the Christmas bazaar in 9 months). When I got started on the reindeer, he morphed into a beagle.
I am very familiar with beagles, we had one when I was child. For those art critics out there, I know the snout on my paper beagle is too long and his feet too big (blame the reindeer). My sister, Jane, and I called our beagle, Barney the Beagle with the goo-goo-googlie eyes. The entire time I was crafting my paper dog, I was thinking about Barney. As you can see, Barney the Beagle has goo-goo-googlie eyes.
Barney was finished off with acrylic paints, spray-on shiny varnish, and repurposed eyes, nose and tongue from the reindeer I was trying to clone. I found an unused cat harness in my pet drawer. Any of you, who have read my blogs on my pets know that Satchel, the big gray Tom Cat wouldn’t be caught dead in a whoosie harness (one has to question my sanity for buying it at some point in time). I cut up the offending harness and made a realistic collar for Barney. Satchel was pleased.
I am proud of Barney for a first effort.
He obviously isn’t good enough to sell at a bazaar, too many nasty little dings and bumps. But he is good enough to give to my husband, Pete, for Father’s Day. Pete has an office full of items the kids and I have made and seems delighted with whatever we give him no matter how low quality.
I have roughed out an angel and cat to see if I can’t still produce something that someone might buy. I may try the joint compound bending to the will of the masses to have a saleable product. Also from my pottery instructor, art takes time and patience. I have nine months but at my age I’m not sure I will every produce a financially viable product. That’s the beauty of paper mache. There isn’t much of an investment if the outcome is poor and you can also toss it in the recycling bin.