Adventures of a Self-Taught Artist / Paper Clay

Lately my hands have been covered in paper clay.

I’ve discovered a new-to-me way of making art and it’s s u b l i m e.

Okay, yes, it’s messy but you get the idea. 😉 

This past November I started Jeanne-Marie Webb‘s class, The Soul Bearers.

I knew from the very first figure I made that I was hooked and would be creating in paper clay for some time to come.  I’m completely serious!

Jeanne-Marie’s instruction was thorough and presented in a way which really allowed me to relax and enjoy the process of bringing each figure to life.  She went out of her way to create additional content after the class was live to answer questions from students in the private class Facebook group. 

Okay, now let me rewind a bit and explain what paper clay is.  

Paper clay (sometimes referred to as fiberclay) is any claybody to which processed cellulose fiber (paper being the most common) has been added. – Wikipedia

There are many DIY recipes to be found on the interwebs. I plan to eventually try one out for myself but for now I’m using pre-made packages of ACTIVA Plus Natural Self-Hardening Clay. It comes in white, terra cotta, and black. It’s available on Amazon and in my local Michaels store. I tried a couple other brands, but I liked the consistency of this brand the most. It felt like actual clay. That consistency and the the fact that it’s readily available without being terribly expensive and I had a winner.

So, I started.

Self Love was my very first paper clay figure. Her creation marked the beginning of a love of creating with paper clay. To me she’s gloriously and quirkily imperfect. 

Self Love, Anna K. Pasquale, 2016 paper clay figure
Self Love

Evening Stillness was my ode to Jeanne-Marie’s figures who are sometimes bedecked with small houses and buildings. And, okay, it was also my ode to the evening and nighttime hours when I’m most creative. 

Evening Stillness, Anna K. Pasquale, 2016, paper clay figure
Evening Stillness

Wise Woman was a fun figure to watch come to life. She has this intriguingly awkward shape, full and low, which gave me the idea for her to look like she was growing out of the ground. Her legs are tree trunks and her hair becomes vines that trail down her figure. There is an owl on her back and a sleeping fox at her feet. She’s waiting to get her final touches of paint right now. 

Wise Woman, Anna K. Pasquale, 2016 paper clay figure
Wise Woman

  I created Shattered // Restoration in response to a call for art at a local art show whose focus was on dealing with hurt, trauma, and the (hopefully) ensuing journey of recovery. I’d read about the Japanese art of Kintsukoroi (kintsugi), mending broken pottery with a lacquer mixed with the dust of precious metals like gold. As a result, the mended pieces were often more beautiful than the original unblemished pieces. It highlighted something’s brokenness and made it a part of its history rather than hiding it.

My recent love of making paper clay figures merged with my deep admiration of the kintsugi philosophy to become Shattered // Restoration. I kept the shape of the figures very simple to allow the message of the brokenness and the healing of each respective figure to take center stage. 

Shattered // Restoration (Kintsugi-inspired figures), Anna K. Pasquale, 2017 paper clay figure
Shattered // Restoration (Kintsugi-inspired figures)

My latest paper clay creation doesn’t have a title yet. I wanted to see if I could create a female figure that went from head to just below her shoulders. My aim wasn’t to create with a sense of realism but, at the same time, I did want to focus on proportion while paying more attention to facial details and overall form. 

She’s quite a bit more substantial than most of my previous figures.  Last I checked, she’s 7″ x 7″ and she feels like she weighs a pound, maybe two. 

Untitled (for now), Anna K. Pasquale, 2017, paper clay sculpture
Untitled (for now)

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She’s currently sitting on my table waiting for me to finish her. She needs a finished underside to her base then she needs to dry out. After that, she’ll be painted and sealed. I’m excited to see how she’ll look once she’s completed. 🙂

Creating each of these figures taught me many lessons in technique, in patience, in play, and in finding my own voice in this new-to-me medium. I’m so thankful for artists who share their knowledge!



** There are no affiliate links in this post. I’m just sharing good stuff, y’all. 

About Anna K.

I believe art is a verb and creativity is a love language. I'm a recovering perfectionist still learning to see grace in the messy in-between places of becoming. I cultivate creativity through Made Tribe Sparks - creative prompts for those who want to explore their faith through art - and through introducing local youth to Art Journaling. This website is where I share my art-full journey. I also have a fondness for words like shenanigans and hoopla.

  • I think it looks like you’ve found a calling in making these figures, they are beautiful, so just keep going and good luck! I found paper clay difficult to work with (because of the fibers) so I’m impressed by what you already created.

    • They have certainly become one of my favorite things to create! The smooth texture of the pre-made paper clay definitely makes it easy to work with. Which is probably why I haven’t attempted to make my own paper clay, yet. I’ve gotten a tiny bit spoiled!

      Thank you so much for swinging by and for your kind words!
      -Anna K.