Art Lesson Plan: Cast Hand Made Paper with Plaster Mold

Cast Handmade Paper

from Plaster Molds

Submitted by: Susan Ingram, Jackson Academy, Jackson, Mississippi
UNIT: Sculpture relief - casting - handmade paper
Grade levels: Middle School through high school (adaptable to elementary)



The student will develop a greater understanding of three dimensions:  height, width, and depth. The student will understand the relationship between the positive and negative relationship between clay, plaster, and handmade paper by completing the steps in the creation of the final product: cast handmade paper.



Book: The Papermaker's Companion: The Ultimate Guide to Making And Using Handmade Paper. - This valuable reference covers everything, from the basics to more advanced techniques like shaped sheets, embossing, laminating, and watermarking. Included are extensive step-by-step instructions on processing pulp, building papermaking equipment, and making paper-based projects like cards, lamp shades, and sculpture.


Lesson 1: Create 3-D Clay Image

  1. Place 2 layers of masking tape on each seam of a small cardboard box. Box should be taped inside and outside to prevent plaster from leaking.

  2. Cover the inside of the box (the inside bottom of the box) with a thin layer of clay (1/2 " [1.3 cm] or less).

  3. Build up a 3-D image inside of the box with clay. There should be no undercuts in the clay image. The clay image should be at least ½" below the top edge of box

Lesson 2: Pour Plaster Mold

  1. Mix plaster according to directions in a large bucket.

  2. Pour plaster quickly over clay image in box. Plaster should reach top edge of box.

  3. Tap box to release air bubbles within the plaster.

  4. Plaster will set up within several hours.

Lesson 3: Clean up Plaster Mold

  1. Remove and discard cardboard box and clay from plaster. Clay can be saved to be used with this lesson again. Keep this clay away from clay used for ceramics.

  2. Use X-acto knife to remove all bits of clay from image in plaster. Also, remove any over-hanging edges of plaster.

  3. Cover plaster mold with one or two coats of shellac. Allow shellac to dry completely. Note: Floor wax can be substituted for Shellac.

Lesson 4:  Paper Pulp

    1.  Mix paper pulp according to directions.
    2.  Spray plaster mold with release agent, such as WD-40 (Pam cooking spray also works)
    3.  Press wet paper pulp into plaster mold.  Use a sponge to remove as much water as possible.
    4.  Paper pulp should dry for approximately 48 hours.  A fan aids the drying process.


Lesson 5:  Cast Paper

    1.  Loosen the edges of the paper pulp.  Carefully remove the paper pulp from the plaster mold.
    2.  Cast paper may be painted with watercolors. Advanced students may want to try air brushing


Additional notes from Susan:


Small cardboard box

1. My students make their own 4"x 6" (10 x 15 cm) corrugated cardboard boxes.  I cut the 4"x 6" (10 x 15 cm) bottom and 2" (5 cm) side pieces for the boxes.

2. Lesson 4: Paper Pulp

My students make their own paper pulp. They tear good quality stationery and cards (donated by a local printer) into postage stamp size pieces. The paper pieces become pulp when blended in a blender with plenty of water.

3. It is also possible to color the pulp with pigment, pieces of brown paper bags, or Construction Paper..  I have found, however, with large groups of students, it is a better plan for students to paint the cast handmade paper with water-based paints.


You can also make paper casting molds from clay - carve into clay - bisque fire - then use as per lesson. For low relief molds - you can press thick sheets of paper into the molds. Gently lay the sheet onto mold and press out the water with a sponge.


For a Louise Nevelson lesson -  Press all sorts of gadgets (assorted found objects) into the clay - bisque fire - then make a paper cast. Nevelson did some very interesting cast paper works. Some can be found online.



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