Anatomy of a Muse

Although my first love is jewelry-making, I’ve always had a fascination with all things miniature. (The work of art that has always stood out as my favorite was someone’s tiny model of an art museum, with tiny paintings on the walls.) Maybe it comes from a childhood of playing with dolls, who knows. But it led me to the idea of making papier mache figures that I call muses. Why muse? They’re not angels or fairies, though they fly. They’re women who have discovered a way to soar with wings of their own making – thus, inspiring … thus, muses.
Pirate Muse
A muse begins with a wire and styrofoam base. The torso & head are carved (roughly) from styrofoam and the arms and legs are wire. The whole thing is wrapped with masking tape to fill out the extremities as well as to give the papier mache mixture something to adhere to.

half-mached muse

I find that poking a stick in their butts and sticking that into a styrofoam base (yeah, go ahead & laugh) is a good way to support them so I can use both hands to apply the papier mache. After everything dries, I cut the stick off & cover the butt with clothing.

Muse butt

I use good old Mod Podge for the next step. I’d rather not spend the time making up my own mixture and I use so little that the expense is not high. I wear latex gloves so that when I’m done, I can just peel them off & throw them away – washing the stuff off my hands takes forever. With a bowl of water nearby to help smooth the papier mache into place if it starts to dry out, I happily cover the framework and mold it into shape – kind of like making mud pies. Then it must dry for at least 24 hours.

muse rejects

After that I paint it a “skin color” with craft paint & let that dry. Then it’s time for clothing & hair, both made with tissue paper and Mod Podge. It’s important to get the kind of tissue paper that is non-bleeding, and it must be handled with kid gloves (or latex, in my case). The paper should be torn, not cut, so the edges blend in easily. Once again, drying time is at least 24 hours.

skin painted, dress begun

After that, embellishment can be done. This is where I have the most trouble because it involves making tiny jewelry & other tiny things. Finally, I drill holes in the hands with a small-bit on a Dremel tool and insert the feathers, with a little glue to hold them in place.

In flight!
The process is time-consuming and often frustrating, but it is satisfying to create something that looks like nothing else, and truly expresses a unique idea. And the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

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One Response to “Anatomy of a Muse”

  1. leslie (aka: crook) Says:

    Whoa! That’s a lotta work, missy! Thank you for the step-by-step on what goes into these beauties! I treasure the one flying over my crafting table. 😉

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