At my last selling event, once again, someone asked: “Did you really make that yourself, by hand? Well, how did you do that?” Sometimes folks don’t believe that I DO actually create the papercrete items I sell, from the design, the molds, to the painting and finishing of each piece. This post will be a step-by-step breakdown of a custom miniature house to show the amount of work involved in just creating the molds.
Get Ready . . .
Each project requires a decision on the best method to create an idea using the recycled materials I have on hand . This particular weekend I had an empty half-gallon orange juice carton, so the house will be square!
- box cutter
- permanent markers
- cutting pliers
- needle nose pliers
- calculator (I hate math)
- half-gallon orange juice carton
- 1/4″ hardware cloth scraps
- cardstock scraps
- foam packaging sheets
- beading wire
- dimensional fabric paint (with slick finish)
- clear box tape
After a thorough cleaning, the juice carton was dried and cut in half for two separate projects. The house I wanted to create had a traditional gable roof, so I used the top half of the carton with the triangular section.
The carton was deconstructed to create the mold. A couple of layers of cardstock were used to patch the hole after the carton’s pour spout was removed (the big circle at the top of carton). I made cuts along the folds to leave the triangle sections of the top, then cut down one side to flatten the carton for measuring, marking, and cutting out the windows and doors.
I wanted the house to have a brick or block exterior. I worked out the measurements for the bricks with a ruler and calculator, then used a marker to draw the lines for each brick. I have used dimensional fabric paint (comes in a squeeze bottle) for past papercrete projects to create texture templates and it works pretty well. Although the lines are shallow, they can be used as guides to carve a little deeper after unmolding the project, or allow paint techniques to reveal the texture.
The house pattern was reconstructed with box tape applied from the outside. Now to create the window and door blocks.
The house walls were to be 1/2″ thick papercrete with latticed windows. The hardware cloth pieces for the window lattices needed to be larger than the window openings and centered in the wall thickness to be held permanently in place by the papercrete. I cut window blocks from polyfoam packing sheets to properly align the lattices by sandwiching the hardware cloth between two single layers of foam packaging secured by a piece of beading wire. After the papercrete sets up, I remove the wire from the blocks to release the foam, leaving the hardware cloth stuck in the papercrete.
The door blocks are two foam layers thick (no hardware cloth). All the blocks are secured in place with the clear box tape on the outside of the mold.
NOTES ABOUT THE FOAM:
- I used the spongy polyfoam packing strips to make the blocks because they’re easy to remove after papercrete has set up. I’ve used Styrofoam packing successfully for window and door blocks on larger projects, but I felt it would be too stiff and bulky to use for the tiny windows and doors of this project.
- The foam packaging (that I’ve received) is usually two or three 1/4″ thick layers glued together. Sometimes the layers are easily pulled apart or can be cut at the joins with a box cutter or an Xacto knife.
Get Set . . .
I use a paintbrush to apply cooking oil as a release agent on the inside of the mold, including the window and door blocks, to prevent the papercrete from sticking to the mold.
Filling the small house mold with papercrete around all the hardware cloth and foam blocks was a very tedious chore! I couldn’t see inside the upper part of the mold with my big hand in the way, so I decided to take apart the window blocks, leaving the outermost block, add the papercrete, and then reassemble the rest of the block pieces before adding the remaining papercrete. That turned out to be a big mistake! Trying to put the blocks back together with wet papercrete was impossible. The wires wouldn’t push back through to hold the foam layers together and the blocks kept moving. The upper windows of the house were out of alignment. I left the bottom and rear window blocks alone and they came out just fine.
The papercrete was not completely set up after 24-hours in a moisture tent (plastic shopping bag). I opted to carefully unmold the house and pull out the door and window blocks in hopes that I might correct any mistakes before the papercrete finished hardening. Nope, too late! The upper window lattices were indeed skewed and unmovable!
. . . GO!
Sometimes my ideas work, sometimes they don’t, but I always learn something to help in creating the next project. When I made a smaller house from a pint cream carton, I used a plastic palette knife to mush the papercrete in and around the window blocks and it worked perfectly!
I spent 12-1/2 hours that weekend designing and creating molds to form four little miniature houses. That’s over three hours apiece before the painting and embellishing, or creating the accessories to go with them! Most of the molds are destroyed by the alkaline moisture of the papercrete or when unmolding, so each miniature house is a One-Of-A-Kind (OOAK)!
Yes, I messed it up all by myself, but then I fixed it (see the finished house)! The Orange Juice House is destined to become an abandoned-looking (haunted) house with worn paint and dislodged windows. Making unique lemonade from the lemons is always a plus!!