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Plaster Cloth Sculptures are a Great Paper Mache Alternative for Kids

by Benares Angeley
January 14, 2020

Plaster cloth is a fun material for kids to create amazing sculptures. It’s a less messy alternative than paper mache and engaging for a variety of ages. Project and post by Benares Angeley of Children’s Art Lab & photographs by Aylin Cetik .

Child painting rigid wrap sculpture body

I love paper mache projects.  While using simple materials, just about anyone can create a refined sculpture.  Add some painted details when the newspaper and glue are dry, and you have a lovely, long lasting finished project. 

BUT…I have found that many children don’t really enjoy the process of creating paper mache. The feel of the sticky glue paste just doesn’t agree with the majority of kids (in my experience) and clean-up is a bit of a hassle, even for someone who is ok with messes! 

Globs of glue-soaked newspaper everywhere and a heap of frustration meant that I didn’t do many paper mache projects with my students. That is until one of my teachers encouraged me to try plaster cloth wrap.

How to attach head to body made of rigid wrap

Plaster cloth was a game changer for making really great sculptures that my students enjoyed creating!  Sure, it’s still a little messy, but wiping up plaster dust is way easier than dealing with glue, and most importantly, my students didn’t mind the feel of the plaster wrap–hooray!

This is a great project to get older kids involved in art making and it really challenges kids to follow a multi-step process.

Here are some simple steps for using this material to create a small sculpture.        

Plaster Cloth Wrap Sculptures for Kids

Wire, painter's tape, scissors, and paper cups for scupture
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Base for sculpture made with rigid wrap consisting of foam, cardboard and wire

1. Prep sculpture

Prepare your armature by poking small holes in Dixie cups for the wire. Cut one length of wire for the legs and one for the arms.

Thread the wire through the holes in both cups as in the photo.  Use your pliers or fingers to shape the ends of the wire into little circles to resemble hands and feet.

Tape the two Dixie cups together so the openings are facing each other.  This makes the body of the sculpture.

Foam head for sculpture

2. Create head and neck

The styrofoam ball and the cardboard ring will create the head and the neck of your sculpture.  This could be varied depending on what you are making.

And we found that it works best to make the body and head separately and then attach the two pieces with hot glue later.

Body and head of plaster cloth sculpture.

3. Add plaster cloth wrap

Time for the plaster cloth!  Put a few strips of the plaster wrap in a small dish of warm water.  Use the plaster wrap to cover the armature.

Also, it’s important to let some of the water drip off the wrap before adding it to the armature–this prevents the armature from getting too wet while you are working.

Smooth out the plaster as you go. And try to make it look like one solid piece, so you can’t see the gauze underneath. Create 2-3 layers of plaster wrap on your armature, depending on the look of your creation. Let it dry for 24 hours.

Child painting head made with plaster cloth.

4. Paint sculpture

Now comes the really fun part–it’s time to paint your creation!  Use tempera or acrylic paints to add all the details needed to make your sculpture come alive!

Painting and assembling a plaster cloth sculpture.

5. Attach head & neck

Next, use a hot glue gun to attach the head and neck. If desired, add yarn hair, button or bead facial features, feathers, felt, etc.  

Rigid wrap sculpture of girl wearing purple shirt and blue shorts

6. Find a spot to display!

Display your work on a special shelf and admire your hard work!


Did you know we have a whole page dedicated to sculpture ideas for kids. Here a few great ones:

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Cloth Wrap Sculptures for Kids_ Pinterest

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