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Paper Casting

Paper Pulp Cast in a MouldFinely detailed castings can be made from paper pulp. The image right shows a dried cast made by Kevin Dyer who specialises in Celtic and Fantasy art.

Jan Fairbairn-Edwards made this provocative casting using a corset. The smoothness of the paper pulp has ensured that the detail of the laces and net skirt are well defined.

Here are a few pointers on getting started with paper casting which can be used for creating plaques, card art, wall hangings and sculpture.

  • Casting using Paper Pulp and CorsetHousehold papers can recycled for this craft or pulp sheets can be ordered from this website. These paper materials need to be blended with water into a sloppy pulp which can then be poured into a mould. Do not use the blender you use to prepare food.
  • Experiment with additions to improve the consistency of the pulp (find out more about these additives):
    • CMC (Carboxymethyl cellulose) offers a versatile acid free adhesive which can promote fibre to fibre bonding. It gives strength to paper castings and makes the surface of finished art pieces more durable
    • Titanium Dioxide is a strong white pigment which makes paper whiter and more opaque, acting as a filler, giving a smoother surface to paper, resulting in less “pick”. The filling effect is much stronger than with calcium carbonate, but it does not have the ability to neutralise paper acids. Titanium Dioxide is also used to tint coloured pulps. Use 5-10% to dry weight of fibre. Add to pulp and stir thoroughly.
    • China Clay is a fine white powder, also known as opal gamma kaolin, used to make paper more opaque and smooth and reduce shrinkage. It is especially useful in paper casting and will appeal to papermakers and model makers alike. Add during the mixing process using up to 10gm per litre wet pulp, using considerably more for modelling.
    • Calcium Carbonate provides an alkaline reserve in paper which promotes acid-free archival qualities. It retards shrinkage in paper castings and makes for a smoother surface.
    • Cationic Retention Aid binds pigments, dyes and other additives to the fibres in the pulp.
    • Paper Sizing improves paper stiffness and helps protects the fibre from oily media as well as dirt and pollution. This alkyl ketene dimer emulsion has a neutral pH and meets archival standards. Essential if you are to use your paper for screen printing, artwork or paper casting.
  • Be imaginative when choosing your moulds. The pulp can be poured into a mould, such as the flexible moulds made by Sculpey, or a pattern can be pressed into it using a stamp. Cutter shapes, such as those used for cutting clay or dough, can act as a mould as can items from nature such as shells and leaves. Some people like to oil the mould before pouring the pulp and vaseline works quite well to help remove the cast item once it has dried.
  • Metal cutter for shaping clay or other mediums The pulp can be poured into a frame containing an item (such as the corset above) which will then create a relief cast on the surface of the dried paper. Try placing a layer of cling film over the item to be cast. The weight of the pulp will easily find the shape of the mould.
  • When the pulp has been added to the mould, use a sponge to absorb excess water. When the sponge cannot soak up any more water, try using paper towels.
  • Depending on the materials used, the pulp can be microwaved or heated in an oven to dry out. Be cautious, fumes from some chemicals and the printing inks from recycled papers can be toxic. It is preferable if the paper cast is dried in the sunshine or in the airing cupboard.
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