Monday, February 16, 2015

Make a Plaster Sculpture from a Stencil

Hi everyone, it's Gwen here today with a new project showing you how to make small plaster sculptures using your stencils! I took a class working with plaster a few months ago and I've been thinking about how I could come up with my own patterns to make more little sculptures. And of course, I realized I could do it using stencils!

Here's my finished sculpture, and below I'll give some more details on how I made it.

Isn't she cute? I just love it!

And now for the details... to start, I took my Elephant Parade stencil by Nathalie Kalbach and traced the opening of the elephant shape on a piece of cardboard. This became the basis for the armature of the piece - I built out the rest of it from more pieces of cardboard.
Mine is fairly thin because I only built up 3 layers on either side. If you wanted a sculpture that was a lot thicker (and more realistic,) you could put a as many layers as you wanted in your armature.

Another thing to note... the stencil doesn't show the elephant's ears, but because this was going to become a 3-D piece it was going to need some ears! I decided mine was an Asian elephant, so I kept them small and used wire and masking tape to hold them in position.

Above you can see the finished cardboard armature - just held together with glue. Before adding the plaster, you want to make sure that it will stand up - if it doesn't stand now, it's a lot harder to fix later on!

Next, I took some plaster fabric (you can get it at art supply stores or online - Amazon has a few that will work) and cut it into strips. Then I just dipped each strip in water and start wrapping the armature.
It's really pretty easy, and I've found it to be kind of relaxing as well! You start in one area and work across so that you're always layering on top of wet plaster. Just use your finger to smooth out the paste and watch for holes - cover them up with little strips. Once it's dry, you can sand it down, but I didn't bother for this project.
As you're working, be careful about how you plaster the base - I made sure that it was flat and even and kept testing to make sure it would still stand.

Once the plaster was mostly dry (it took maybe 10 minutes,) I painted it gray and let that dry. In the meantime, I took some Cobalt blue Archival Ink and Jessica Sporn's Namaste stencil and stenciled some deli paper. I wanted to get a pattern on the elephants body, but I figured it wouldn't work to well to try and stencil it directly. So I collaged on some stenciled deli paper instead and it worked great!
Next it was time to decorate. I looked online for different photos of painted elephants from elephant festivals and other activities to get some ideas. The sculpture is small, so it was too hard to copy most of the details from the photos exactly; I used the flowers and motifs for inspiration. The details below are done with acrylic paint and dimensional pearls.

I had so much fun with this project... I already have a few more stencils in mind for making more of these! Anything with a recognizable outline would be a great candidate... sea horses, birds, fish... you could even make a whole scene if you wanted to get crazy!

I hope you enjoyed today's post, and if you try something similar at home, make sure you come back and leave a link!

Until next time...


  1. Great elephant! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Stunning beyond stunning Gwen! So unique and creative and AMAZING!!

  3. Gwen!!! seriously, you blow my mind........

  4. Amazing, I love it. a really great idea.

  5. Brilliant, Gwen! Love your sculpture and creating something three-dimensional from stencils!
    You are a genius! :)

  6. Amazing! Just amazing!

  7. I am just blown away by this project! I have to share with the world. Fantastic! Hmmm...will this work with the dragon? LOL

    1. Thanks! And you could totally do the dragon! It would be pretty perfect, actually. I also did a seahorse that I'll post tomorrow. It works on pretty much anything that you can get a good outline for.

  8. Stunning. Just takes my brain so many directions... You are a trailblazer!

  9. Totally mind-blowing! What a fabulous, creative, BRILLIANT idea! And so well executed! I love her. A truly gorgeous elephant.

    1. Thanks Raine! She was a lot of fun to put together :)

  10. Just wanted to add a huge THANK YOU! to everyone :) So glad you all like it!

  11. Fabulous project Gwen...looks like fun.

  12. Stunning!!! I love this project soooo much!! What a wonderful inspiration to bring something usually flat and pull it into 3 dimensions. Thank you!!

  13. Hi,

    Do you have to use the plaster fabric or can you use joint compound from a tub?

    Thank you, Margie

  14. Fantastic idea..thanku 😊


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