Many of you have noticed the amazing paper taxidermy moose that appears on the wall in some of Barb’s Before & After Basics posts, and we’ve received several requests for a tutorial on how to make one. We asked South Carolina-based artist Mollie Greene — moose creator and woman behind the charming Etsy shop Royal Buffet — to share some of her sculpting secrets with us and she kindly agreed!
This is a great project for a rainy day or a lazy weekend. The large-scale antelope adds the perfect texture and drama to a cozy living room or den and a fabulous addition to your fall home decor. Thank you so much for sharing, Mollie! — Kate
I’m always up for new ways to repurpose items destined for the landfill, and paper taxidermy is a great way to use books with interesting paper that you can find at thrift stores, garage sales and sometimes on the side of the road! Papier-mâché is like other sculpture in that each sculptor has to figure out some aspects of it for herself/himself, so most of this DIY post covers the techniques involved but it assumes that those who try it will have the fortitude to get the shapes they want out of their wires! These photos are of an antelope, but you can use these techniques for any animal you wish. — Mollie
1. The sculpting process may take some time to get just right and you may need to walk away and take a break, but with a little patience, I’m sure you can get it! First, unroll your wire and cut your basic antelope shape using your wire cutters. I made mine into this basic shape that includes his neck and head with extra wire for shaping.
2. You need two of these pieces to mirror each other and join together. Join the two at the top, down the bridge of the nose, and down the front of the chest and the back (with the floral wire) and then begin shaping the antelope. There are no tricks here and I can’t give you any black-and-white answers on how to do this other than suggesting you look at the picture of the antelope trophy and push and pull the wire until you have a skeletal antelope shape.
3. After shaping the head you will want to attach a rectangle of wire to the base of the neck on the back in order to make the trophy flat to hang against a wall. You will also need to attach a hanging wire to the back of the neck at a spot where the weight will be most evenly distributed. These can stay as is until the end of the project.
4. Next, cut ear pieces out of wire and bend them into shape, and then attach them with the spool wire to the head. Cut some sturdy spool wire and create antlers by weaving and wrapping several pieces of wire together and then threading them through the wire on the top of the head. Don’t skimp on the spool wire here. Make sure those horns are sturdy! Flopping horns will make your antelope a very sorry looking trophy, to be sure.
Note: If you are using chicken wire rather than the thicker gridded wire, you may need to stuff the antelope in a few places with the newspaper to help it maintain its shape. You don’t want it to be too heavy since he will be hanging from the wall, so don’t stuff him completely full!
Covering the Form
1. Lay out your newspaper to protect your surface. Tear strips of paper that are about 3″ wide and 5″ long to cover your antelope. With a larger creature like Barb’s moose, I used bigger pieces of paper, but for an antelope, I prefer the tighter look that comes from using shorter strips of paper. Rather than laying the paper on the figure in strips like bandages, I painted my strips with Mod Podge using the foam brush and crumpled them up before placing them on the figure.
Note: I like the finished sculpture with the crumples of paper together, but if you want a smoother finish, you can lay the strips on. A smooth finish will require more layers, so be prepared for that! When using the crumple technique, wrap a little bit of the paper in between the wire grooves to get it to adhere to the wire.
2. Cover the sculpture on one side and leave it to dry overnight.
3. Do the other side in the same way. Cover all around the body, including the back and the bottom of the piece and allow it to dry. Cover the ears as you go, and also the antlers. I chose to use the blacker pages in my magazines to make his antlers almost all black for some contrast. Barb’s moose has antlers that are just exposed wire, so do as you wish!
4. Almost done! Once your antelope is completely dry, hang him on the wall to see if your hanging wires in the back are still in the best place. If the trophy pulls from the wall, determine where the wires should be and twist them into a little loop to hang on a nail, or run them again to place them in the best spot. (running them again may require some patch work with more little crumples of paper, but it’s worth it to get him to hang properly!) Hang again and do this until the base area lays flat and the antelope doesn’t feel like he’s leaning down. When he hangs perfectly, clip your extra wires and stand back to admire your work. You did it!
I hope these techniques take some of the mystery out of paper taxidermy for you. Good luck to you, and happy papier-mâché-ing!