Gourmet Paper Mache

Not your third grade paper mache

Posts from the ‘My paper mache art’ category

If you know anything about my paper mache art, you know that I like to make trophies.   Not because I approve of animal heads hanging on the wall.    Truth is, I would never kill an animal (not even a dragon) in order to make a decoration out of the head.   I’m sure I’ll get in trouble here, but I’ll say it anyway.    A real animal trophy represents a very one-sided affair.  Humans with their high powered rifles…animals with their….hmmm…..with nothing.   Now, I would feel differently if there was some sort of law that said that you could only hang trophies of animals you killed with your bare hands.    Then I’d be impressed by that bear or lion (or even deer) trophy over the mantle!    But I digress.  Making a trophy allows me to create bigger sized dragons, even close to full sized, without making the entire animal.   Not that I’m opposed to whole dragons.   But making one full dragon would fill my entire studio.  Two, and my house would be full.  Then I’d have to make art in my front yard.   Since I make a lot of trophies I decided to make a post on just that topic.  Here it is.

As I mentioned in another post, the first trophy I ever made was the one pictured below.  I called it “Igba agondray.”  I made it because I wanted a mother for the very first dragon I made, little “Punk.”  I displayed them together in the little apartment I rented near the Seattle zoo many years ago.   It is a really large dragon head.  And heavy.  I made the teeth out of “baker’s clay”, flour, salt, and water, baked until they split.  Then I covered them with clear casting resin (more about that later).  They looked great, but weighed a ton.

Paper mache Igbay Agondray

Paper Mache "punk" dragon

Punk Dragon

After that I made a lot of dragon trophies that just hung on the wall.   Here is a sample of a very early trophy.  They were fairly easy to make.  I couldn’t make them fast enough to sell at the art fairs I attended.

paper mache dragon head

My trophies got more sophisticated over time.  I really like the one below.    This was the trophy in my first time-lapse trophy video.   You can see it here if you want (although it’s really hard to watch.  Very grainy)(but the music is nice).

Paper Mache Dragon Trophy

I didn’t just make dragon heads.  Check out this crazy beast!  I’m talking about the head on the wall.   This was circa 1980-ish.  I have no idea what happened to this thing.  It was actually pretty cool.   This photo is really faded.  It was very colorful.  Lots of colored washes.

Crazy paper mache trophy

Then there is the occasional offensive trophy.  Can’t help it.   It has to be done.

paper mache baby on a plaque


After a while I started using wooden plaques with my trophies.   I think it looks better overall.  I buy these plaques online from various taxidermy stores.   Below is “Maleficent” from Disney’s classic movie, “Sleeping Beauty.”   I made this as a commission for a Disney fan.    You can read more about that in this blog post.    Actually, this blog post provided my first viral internet experience.   This post got passed around the world, several times over.   It was re-posted thousands of times.   I got hundreds of requests to buy her.  But I only made one.   I never make duplicate commissions.   It is a promise I make to my patrons, that if they buy a piece of my art, it will be unique.    Here is Maleficent with the l.e.d. lights turned off.

Paper Machemaleficent- lights off -dan reeder

Here she is with her lights turned on .

Paper Mache Maleficent-Dan Reeder

The attention Malecifent received did convince me to make her “son”, a variation on the theme.  Below is “Son of Maleficent”, first with the lights off, then with the lights on.

Paper mache Son of Maleficent

Paper mache son of Maleficent-eyes on

Funny thing….. Even though I made the son more fierce, with more horns, and many more led lights than his mother, it wasn’t nearly as popular.   People liked him, but there wasn’t the same frenzy surrounding his making.   Personally, I like him better than his mother.  Such is life.


Then there is the trophy whose video went truly viral in December of this last year (2014).  The “reach” of that video on Facebook hit over a hundred million per week for a month!  Bizarre.   I taught math for many years.   I taught many lessons on “geometric” growth.   This would have been a great example.  I traced the beginnings of the explosion to just a few people sharing with their friends on Facebook, who shared with their friends, etc., until I was getting emails from relatives in Austria saying that they’d just watched my video.  It was unbelievable.   All that has died down.  I am very relieved.   Between the hundreds of emails and messages I didn’t have time to do any art.   If you are the one person on the planet who didn’t see that video, and you want to see what all the fuss was about, then you can watch it here.   I’m not sure what pushed this video over the top.   Maybe it was Eddie making a cameo appearance at the end. Or maybe it was the music.  People seemed to like both.

Paper mache dragon trophy-red

The video that SHOULD have gone viral is of the trophy below, my paper mache Zombie dragon.  It is a much more interesting trophy I think.

paper mache Zombie Dragon-

I am particularly proud of the muscles showing through the neck.

paper mache sinew

While I’m a bit disappointed with this side of the trophy.

Zombie paper mache dragon- side2

If I had it to do over, I would have make him much more radically rotten.   Originally I wanted to maintain enough of the dragon to show what it might have looked like while alive.   So I left this side much less dead.   It just didn’t work.   But it was too late to fix once it was done.   I also have to say that the color scheme made him look much more pretty than ghostly and rotten.   I would change that as well.    What is the lesson here children?   What’s alive should look alive and what’s dead should look very dead.  If you want to see the time-lapse video of this dragon, click here.

Someone recently asked me, “What is your favorite project?”   My answer is always, “The one I finished last.”   This is my most recent trophy.   It is my Paper Mache Drogon- Young Adult Version.   So it’s my favorite paper mache dragon trophy to date.   But I just know that the next trophy will be even better! (It really will be.  Trust me.)

paper mache Drogon Sometimes I add “drool” to a project.   It is a really messy process, and dangerous.   It will also stink for a good month after it’s applied.   I use “clear casting” resin.   It is basically liquid plastic.  You need a catalyst to start the reaction.  This is the really dangerous stuff.  I’ve heard that it will blind you if you get it into your eyes, whether you get prompt medical attention or not.  That’s probably not true.  But it sure sounds dramatic.  I wear eye protection.  And I work outdoors.    I always add much more catalyst than the directions demand.    Then the resin will stay liquid for about ten minutes.  Then it will quickly start to congeal and the drips will begin to harden.   During this hardening, too much resin will slowly drip off.  Too little and it won’t drip enough.   But if it’s just right, you get beautiful little drips of drool.

Paper Mache Drogon- drool





This is just a page with photos of a few dragons.  Most are old photos, from back in the day when cameras used film and you had to get them processed at “One Hour Photo” (which always took a full day), resurrected from boxes.

I thought I’d start with my first paper mache dragon, made in 1980-ish.   His name was Punk.  He was supposed to be a young dragon, almost fresh from the egg.

Paper Mache "punk" dragon

Punks stands about 5 feet tall.   I still have him in my studio, although he has fallen into severe disrepair.  In fact, I just took his eyes to use for my latest iteration of Drogon (the young adult version).   It’s a bit sacrilegious to do such a thing.  But, it’s also kind of the circle of life when it comes to paper mache art.

Now the second paper mache dragon I made was his mother.  It was also the first drogon trophy I made.  I wanted it to look like his mother, big and protective.  She also had to have features that would lead you to believe that punk would some day grow up and like her.   Now the photo of punk is terrible by today’s standards.   He actually had elements of orange and red on him.  And she had elements of green on her that matched her son’s colors.

Paper mache Igbay Agondray

I am severely disappointed that I never got a photo of them displayed together, as they were intended.   He stood underneath her in my grungy, little, monster-making apartment by the zoo.  She hovered over him protectively.  They were a perfect pair of dragons.

Some other older dragons include the one that hangs over my bathtub.

paper mache bathroom dragon

A little closer look.

paper mache dragon close up

And then there is this red dragon.   It was very large and very heavy.   I donated this to a school that is housed in a public building at the base of the Space Needle (in Seattle, where I live).   They are the “Center School Dragons”.  It is permanently displayed outside the front door of the school.   Sorry, this is a terrible photo.

paper mache red dragon

And another older project, a paper mache “Sea Dragon”.   It is obviously based upon those little sea dragons that live in the sea.

paper mache red dragon

As opposed to another paper mache Sea Dragon that I made within the last couple of years.   It is still my current, favorite dragon.

Paper Mache Seadragon- Dan Reeder

I really like the baby in the nest.

Paper Mache Seadragon baby

Speaking of babies…here is a dragon I made as a commission .   It was supposed to be a “toddler”.

paper mache toddler dragon

Here is another older project that I made for my daughter, Allison.   It is titled “Family Jewels”

paper mache familiy jewels

I forgot.  Here is another very old paper mache dragon.   I show it because it has a very different shape than most of my dragons.  I wanted it to look more like a dinosaur, a raptor.  Hence the short neck and stubby head.

paper mache blue dragon

I do want to mention another little dragon I made in conjunction with a baby lion.   I call this project “Parallel Paper Mache”.   I tried to maintain parallelism in every aspect of the two pieces, the same basic shape, the same look on their faces, the same attitude.  It was quite a challenge.  I think it turned out very well.

Parallel paper mache


I’ll end with a notable project.   This are not terribly old, but interesting.   Here is a piece I call “Double Trouble.”

The challenge here was to entwine two dragons.

Paper Mache Double Trouble



I’ve done a lot of commissions over the years.   Most I just make and then ship off.  I don’t even get photos because it seems that I’m always on the edge of the deadline.  So no time to shoot photos.   I have to hustle to get it packed and shipped.     I want to make a couple posts about commissions because they illustrate the versatility of this medium.    I know I sound like a broken record at times, but I’ll say this again.  Paper mache is simply the ideal vehicle for artistic self-expression.  Besides, people think that all I make is dragons.  This is a chance to showcase the other kinds of project I do.

First, a commission I did for Todd McFarlane.   The former Spider Man artist developed a somewhat disturbing but wonderfully illustrated comic book called, “Spawn”.    The main, evil character in the plot is named “Violator”.  Violator is a shape shifter.  He appears as a demonic little clown (I know what some of you are thinking, “Aren’t all clowns demonic?”) that transforms into a tall, thin monster who pulls out the beating hearts of people he terrorizes.   Not the kind of story you read to your child at bedtime.   Todd saw my work in a gallery in Portland, Oregon and asked if I would make Violator for him, in both of his personas.  He wanted to take these 3D renditions to comic book conventions to help promote Spawn.   I loved this challenge!  It is a very difficult thing to do, to make a realistic versions of 2D illustrations.

I started with the clown.  Challenges?  The hair.  The eyes (glowing red orbs).   The teeth.  The clothes.   The attitude.   Here he is in cartoon form, and then my paper mache rendition.

Spawn -as clown


paper mache violator clown


I used a wig that I sprayed with glue for the hair.    I used red glass for the eyes.  And I used human teeth (I have dentist friends).  I used my own underwear.   And I used my own hair (off the top of my head!) for his chest, belly, and arm hair.   I think it turned out better than expected.


paper mache clown face close up

Next, his big Violator counterpart along with my paper mache version.  Now I apologize for the quality of the photo.    As I mentioned earlier, I finished this project the day I was supposed to deliver the piece.   I had to quickly pack up and drive to a different state.   I could kick myself for not getting better photos.  But, in my defense, this was before the days of digital photos.   Phones didn’t take photos.    You needed a film camera, with film, that you had to take someplace to develop.     I did have a camera in the car and was able to snap this one photo in his garage before I left.

Challenges?   Tall and skinny (stresses on joints).  The eyes (bigger red orbs).  Long horns.  Teeth.  Loooong jaw.


See, terrible photo.   But you can kind of make it out.   Trust me.  It was six feet tall, and cool.

paper mache violator big

Another project I made from a cartoon was something you’ve seen in other places on this site and on my blog.   A Disney fan from France wanted a rendition of “Maleficent” from the original movie, “Sleeping Beauty”, circa 1959.  He wanted just a trophy with lights in the appropriate places.   Here is the only photo he sent.  Not much to work from.

Disney "Maleficent"

Here is my paper mache version.  I used l.e.d. lights for the eyes, mouth, and nose.   While I could never match the blazing lights in the cartoon, I think the effect worked.

paper mache maleficent Dan Reeder

Of course most of the time this trophy hangs on the wall without the lights on. They are battery operated.  So the trophy needed to look good in the light of day with the lights turned off.    Here is what it looks like with the lights off.

Paper mache Maleficent- no lights

I have to say that my first “viral” experience came with the posting of this photo on my blog.   It got picked up on Reddit, then sent to other blogs, then everywhere.   I had, literally, hundreds of offers to buy her.   I was very flattered.  But I also have to say here that I don’t make duplicate projects, for lots of reasons.  The biggest is that, when I make a commission for someone, they expect it to be unique.    I sell one-of-a-kind pieces of sculpture.   Second, I couldn’t make a second project exactly like the first even if I wanted to.   It would just offer a comparison that I don’t want.  One would be a better rendition than the other.  And third, there are just too many other projects I want to make.  I have no interest in making the same thing twice.   What fun is that?  That doesn’t mean that I won’t make something along the same lines or a variation on a theme.  I did make “Son of Maleficent.”    You can see the video on Youtube (http://youtu.be/_37uwY2njss).   He is, in many ways, better than his mother.  He is bigger, badder, and has more lights.  But it isn’t Maleficent.  So it didn’t get nearly the attention she received.


Finally, here is a dog I made for a radio personality in Houston, Texas.  He has a show called “Howlin the Blues” with “The Blues Hound” (his radio moniker).   He wanted a blue dog that looked like his hound dog.   He had a  2D version for me to use and some photos of his dog.  Sorry, I can’t find those.  Don’t know where they went.

Blues hound

Here is my paper mache version.

paper mache hound on blue

Here he is with Eddie (for scale).

paper mache hound with Eddie

And without glasses.

paper mache hound on purple

And from the back

paper mache hound back view

Finally,  I decided to commission myself.  As the author of a cute little children’s book, Williams Treasure, I wanted paper mache renditions of the drawings I made in the book.    I’m not a particularly adept 2D artist, but I think the drawings I came up with worked.  They captured the personalities of the personas of William as the book progressed.   The real challenge was trying to capture that same personality using my paper mache techniques.    The book opens with a happy-go-lucky, care-free William wandering the hills and valleys of his home.

Here he is in the book along with my paper mache rendition.  Not perfect, but pretty good I think.    (I really wish I could get WordPress to put these photos side by side.  Can anyone out there tell me how to do that, without adding a plugin that works for me but not everyone else out there viewing the site.)

Little William in the woods Little Happy paper mache William DragonThe story goes that one day William sees a light over the horizon.  It turns out to be a mega-store, a mall, smack dab in the middle of paradise!  William is seduced into entering, and then, being a dragon, starts collecting “stuff”.   Over time he accumulates a small pile, which grows, and grows.  Well, if you are an American, you know what I mean.  At first it’s all really fun.

William on his pile

But over time, as the pile grows, William’s stuff becomes more of a problem than a source of joy.  Eventually the pile becomes enormous.   And William changes, on the inside,  and on the outside.   Here he is in my book, in a room full of other dragons on their piles.

Crusty William on pile

And here is my worried, greedy, unhappy, paper mache William.

Unhappy paper mache William





Anyone who knows me knows about my relationship with cats.   I like dogs too.  I have a granddog that I love dearly.  But I own cats.  I’ve always thought that there is a strong relationship between cats and dragons.  In fact, when Eddie is in a bad mood, I’m very happy he can’t spit fire.  Every so often I make a dragon with a cat in mind.   My albino dragon is a case in point.   Here he is in the very early stages with Eddie.  See the resemblance?

Eddie and paper mache Albino

Here is that project finished.

Paper Mache albino dragon-frontpaper mache albino dragon side

By the way, if you are going to argue with me about the albino coloration of this project, then look at the photo of this real, albino alligator.

albino alligator

I made another dragon with cat features in mind.   I made he forearms to match a cat’s forearms.  I think I captured that pretty well.

paper mache dragon forearms

I envisioned a cat scratching himself.  Here is the dragon in progress, before adding the head.

paper mache dragon in progress

And from the back.  Note the cat photos I was using as a guide.

paper mache dragon in progress from the back

Here she is finished, with a couple of her babies.   If you look closely, you will see a resemblance to kittens in those projects as well.

paper mache dragon mother- with babies

Eddie loves to stand on top of this project.

Eddie on top of paper mache dragon

I have two cats (I had three until recently).  Max is always around for the crumpling and tearing of paper.   Eddie shows up later in the process.  When he wants attention he will work hard to get in the way of whatever I’m trying to do.

Eddie and paper mache dragon in progress

Max loves to tear paper so much that I keep a pile of it behind my chair in my office just so that he can chew it up when he wants.

max and paper

Here is Eddie next to my dragon puppet.  He just loves dragons.

paper mache dragon with Eddie


I love Halloween.  But when I was writing my book “Papier Mache Monsters” I was very resistant to my editor’s request to make a “Halloween” section.   Specifically, they wanted a paper mache pumpkin and a paper mache Vampire.  I resisted because I didn’t want people to think it was a Halloween book.   I think monsters and other fantasy creatures are great, year-round projects.  But I gave in when I was told that a major book chain would be interested only if it had a Halloween section.  That was going to be their “hook” to sell the book.  So strange.   So I made these projects for the book, although the Gargoyle ended up getting left out.   Poor Gargoyle!

I have to say that because I was given this task I ended up creating one of my favorite paper mache projects.   Below is “Fab Frank”, my interpretation of the ageless Frankenstein monster.   I wanted more a lounge-lizard look.  So I gave him a suede coat and some nice “bling” (the pad lock and the bolt above the eye).  Perhaps you have met someone like this.   Oh….and he has human teeth (I have dentist friends).

Fab paper mache Frank

Here is the paper mache pumpkin my publishers wanted.

Paper Mache Pumpkin

And the required Vampire.  He’s not very interesting.  But he IS a vampire.   Requirement met!

Paper Mache Vampire


I also made a paper mache bat for that section of the book.   I like bats.  I think he turned out kind of cute.

Paper Mache Bat

And finally, the poor, unpublished Gargoyle.


Paper Mache Gargoyle



This is one of my favorite projects.  I made this during a time when I was trying to deal with my “dragon problem.”  I was forcing myself to make a few non-dragon paper mache items before allowing myself another dragon.  Turns out I didn’t get too far from dragons.  A friend of mine was visiting in Thailand and she sent me some photos of a snake deity.    Apparently, Naga- Dragon Queen of Snakes is hot stuff in the Hindu world (in Thailand at least).   I decided to make my own paper mache version after seeing her photos.

The photos of this snake are a bit deceiving.  This snake when unfurled is over 6 feet long.   But it is nice and compact when coiled.  Of course the coiling made adding scales and breast plates difficult.   Speaking of breastplates, check out the view from the bottom.

Paper mache Naga- bottom plates

I think it’s cool.   And speaking of scales….I have to say, that was quite the labor intensive task.

paper mache Naga- scales

It took three weeks just to add the scales.  Note that they had to grow in  size from the tip of the tail to the head.  And, as I mentioned, since the project is rigid, getting them into the places where he overlaps was a real challenge.  That was true for painting as well.   But you know, this kind of detail makes all the difference.  I realize as I’m building a piece like this that I’m probably making the piece too expensive to sell by spending so much time on things like the scales.  There is a point where you just put more labor into a project than you can get out of it financially.   That is, unless you are willing to work for less than minimum wage.   And I won’t.  (That of course doesn’t even take the “art value” (how much of my soul I put into the project)  into consideration.)  Sorry, don’t know why I got into that.

I wish that these photos would show the paint more clearly.  There is a lot of subtlety in the color that my camera just doesn’t catch. Here are a couple more photos.

naga paper mache snake-side

naga paper mache snake- backPaper Mache Naga- new front


If you’d like to see more about the making of this piece, please visit my blog.



I really want to profile one of my favorite paper mache projects.  It is also the most controversial.  Why?  Because it involves Rum.  And puppets.  Did you know that there are a bijillion people out there with a crippling fear of puppets?  Yes, there is.  I have met half of them.  The condition is called Automatonophobia.   It seems like they were the first to see my “Rum and Paper Mache” video featuring a cute couple (well, not cute to automatonophobiacs) and a dragon who arrives one evening with some Rum.  Aside from the puppet part of the video, the Rum also caused a ruckus.    Some saw the video as promoting drinking.  I agree, but only among puppets!  Here’s my defense.    This wasn’t my idea.   I heard a piece of music from a group, Alpha, that I really liked.   It was really catchy and had a nice beat.   It was the kind of music that make your toes tap (whether you want to or not).   I’d been wanting to make another music oriented marionette video.  (My first was called “Paper Mache Dragon Marionette.”  More about that at the bottom of the page.)  And this music just fit the bill.   It happened to be called “Rum”.   Hence the rum in video.  In other words, it was Alpha’s fault that there is drinking in this video.    Anyway, this project was one of my favorites.  It involved making three puppets and scrounging and buying clothes, furniture and making the set.   And it took six months to make.

They started like this….with lots of crumpling.

Rum and paper mache- parts

After the paper mache, the three characters looked like this.

Rum and paper mache- human parts

Rum and paper mache- dragon parts

After sculpting with the paper mache pieces they got their “skin” of cloth mache.

Rum and paper mache-cloth mache

Rum and paper mache- cloth mache on dragon

And after the paint.

Rum and paper mache-dragon arrives

If you’d like to see more about the making of the dragon, see the posts on my blog.

And if you want to see the video, then just click on the photo above.

By the way, I handled all of the controls in the making of this video.  I had a crazy contraption for that.  But I loved it.  Here is what it looked like from above.

Rum and paper mache- controls

Rum and paper mache- end of it all

I mentioned that this project followed an earlier video I made called “Paper Mache Dragon Marionette.”  If you’d like to see that video, just click on the photo below.

Paper mache dragon marionette

Paper Mache Dragon Marionette


And….I bought the rights to another piece of music.   I’ve got some plans for that!   Sorry all of you automatonophobiacs!

I made a dragon for my friend Pascal and his family.    Here he is.    If you are interested in how he was made, you can see this on my blog, here.

One of the interesting things about this dragon is that when he is hung like this, he looks to be surveying the ground, perhaps looking for little children to eat.

Pascal's paper mache dragon- hoveringWhen his vertical, he looks ready to fight.

Pascal's paper mache dragon- verticalFrom the back

Pascal'w paper mache dragon

 And a close up.  I think the color of the eyes make them really pop.

Pascal's paper mache dragon-face close up

I have been asked for years to make paper mache sculptures that could stay outside.   In fact, weatherproofing paper mache is kind of a holy grail of paper mache artists.    Many have tried.  Many have failed.  I’ve made feeble attempts in the past.  By that I mean I’ve just put a few things outside for a while to see how long they would last.   They didn’t last long.    The thing is, newspaper absorbs moisture.   That’s why we use it after all.  But this time I’ve made something that just might be the answer.  This paper mache dragon is my most recent experiment.  I have put it in the apple tree in my front yard.  I’ve watched it for more than four years now.   It has withstood Seattle weather without any deterioration.   I’m surprised.

outside paper mache dragon

Watching over the neighborhood

outside paper mache dragon-close up

outside paper mache dragon

Looking for children to eat

outside paper mache dragon-looking at you

outside paper mache dragon- look left

The thing is, he has become a landmark on Queen Anne Hill where I live.   Every kid knows my dragon.  He has to last now.  I’m not ready to declare success.  But I’m very optimistic.   I’m willing to say that the process I used describe will last at least 5 years.

So what did I do?  I used “exterior” grade wood glue instead of flour and water paste for the initial paper mache stage.  Then I used the same glue for the “cloth mache” skin.  Then I painted the project with exterior grade paints.  Some people have tried sealants.  I have too.  I don’t like them.  They change the paint.  The clear layer takes away any subtlety in the color.  Who wants something that lasts forever if it looks bad?