Google+ House Revivals: Paper Mache Father Christmas Tutorial

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Paper Mache Father Christmas Tutorial

Don't you just love old fashioned Father Christmas decor?  Father Christmas ornaments always seemed a bit intimidating to me, so I never tried making them myself, until I discovered how easy this papier mache method is.

I was watching some of my favorite YouTube bloggers last year, and found that Emi, at Hectanooga1, has several papier mache tutorials.
I was delighted to discover she had a tutorial for a simple Father Christmas ornament.

I watched her video several times (it's a short video) and felt confident to try it myself. I made one ornament, and it was so easy that I decided to make twenty! I won't give you the full tutorial here, because Emi does such a great job on her video, which I will link to later in this post.

Each Father Christmas is made using a cardboard base cut in the shape of a long upside down teardrop. Mine were cut about eight inches long, and about three inches wide at the top. To start, you will paper mache a piece of paper towel to the base. At first, I did it exactly like Emi did it, then I started to change it up by bringing the excess toweling up over the head, to give the hat some extra dimension. You can just  play around with different techniques to see what look you like.

While Emi used a traditional flour and water paste, I used a watered down white glue paste. This is because I live on a lake in Seattle, where it is very humid and mold is a problem. I've had issues with traditional papier mache objects getting moldy while in storage. 

For the cheeks, Emi added little rolled up balls of toweling. It is a very primitive rough look, which is wonderful, but I wanted the faces to look a little smoother. I tore small pieces of toweling, and carefully papier mache pasted them over the cheeks and nose and face to unify the facial features. If you prefer a smoother face, but don't want to go to all the trouble I went to, you might try a heavy bodied gesso on the face to smooth the cheeks and fill in the cracks.

Speaking of texture, I found that the Kirkland brand of paper towels, from Costco, gave the smoothest skin, but use what you have. 

The long beard is made by twisting long narrow strips and gluing them to the base. The mustache, also made from a twisted strip, is added at the top of the beard, flush with the cheeks and nose. That reminds me -- the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the cheeks should line up, or things will look a little weird.  The entire exposed face portion of my ornaments was about one inch high, by two inches wide. I found anything shorter than that made it difficult to squeeze in the eyes and eyebrows. Anything taller than that gave me too much face area to try to fill. The cheeks are about one-half inch in diameter.

Emi uses a microwave to speed up drying time, but I used my oven, for two reasons. One: the microwave interferes with my wifi, and I was binge watching Netflix; and two: since I was making so many, I could just dry them all at once in the oven. I set the oven on two hundred degrees and checked it every fifteen minutes or so.

I painted mine a bit differently than Emi, as well. First, I gessoed the ornaments, which I think made the surface take the paint a bit more smoothly. I think I put a bit more detail into the eyes. I also painted the backs of the ornaments to look like the back of the hats.

Each ornament was embellished with berries and leaves, and I did a little stash busting of my cords and yarns and ribbons to create little bundles of fibers for the hangers. Each bundle of eight or ten strands was loosely braided and tied in a knot at each end, leaving about a two inch tail.These were attached to the ornaments with hot glue.

The little pompoms on the hats were simply paper mache balls, glued on during the paper mache stage. I have another batch of ornaments that I am working on, where I left the pompoms off and will be hot gluing little bells onto the hats.

While this project took me two years to complete, it didn't actually take that long. I did all the paper mache in 2015, then packed it away, and pulled them out to complete this year. The paper mache part was the most time consuming, due to the drying times. It was super fun, though!

The painting went very quickly. I did all the red hats, then all the green hats, and so on. Then I did all the hat bands and all the faces and all the beards. After the painting was done, I used a very dry stiff brush and added "barely there" white acrylic paint to the hats and hat bands, to look like they were dusted with snow.  I may or may not add glitter to the beards and hats. Technically, my husband has banned glitter from our home. I take that to mean loose glitter, plus, I feel like glitter I already owned is sort of grandfathered in, so, if I take the ornaments outside the house to glue on the glitter I already owned, it should be fine... right?

I could not be more pleased with the results! This is what I will be giving to friends and neighbors this year, instead of cookies.

To see Emi's video tutorial, click here, and it should open in a new window.  You will see that, although I used Emi's paper mache concept, our projects turned out very differently. Hers have a more primitive country feel, and mine have more of a Victorian feel. I hope you try this project, and give it your own special spin.

Be sure to check out my sidebar for lots more fun projects!

For another easy, but much quicker, ornament DIY, you may want to check out this tutorial.

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