I’m going to make a snake. Not any old snake. But my rendition of the Hindu/Buddhist deity associated with the divine aspect of the cobra. It is often associated with dragons. So I’m calling mine, Naga-Dragon Queen of Snakes. Okay… a dragon-like snake is one step away from a dragon, right? Except there are no wings, or toes. Maybe I’ve just gotten lazy.
I started with wire clothes hangers, as always. You know, these used to be omnipresent. Now, it appears that the only places using them are dry cleaners. They still use the small gauge, white ones. Those work well. For this project I wanted to use the old, heavy gauge hangers. You can still get these online. That’s because there were so many made over the years. I wanted to insure a supply so I went on a buying spree a while back. I ended up with 1600 of them. My wife, and my mail person thought I was crazy. Anyway…. I straightened out about 10 of these hangers. I doubled them up and made a length the size of the snake I wanted, about 8 feet long.
With the strips at an angle everything naturally works its way downward. I worked my way along the length of the snake squeezing out the excess paste as I went.
I added more layers where I thought it needed it for bulk and symmetry. Not that this step doesn’t have to be done perfectly. The details are added later with the cloth and glue.
This took a few days to dry completely. As an aside, I can’t tell you how many people have asked me how to get their projects to dry faster. They are under some crazy deadline (“I’m helping my kid make a paper mache dog for school! It’s due in two days! What can I do?”) Some go to elaborate lengths to accelerate the drying, including using a microwave oven. Don’t use an oven to dry your projects! (except for you Rick) My advice? Plan ahead next time. And don’t do your kid’s homework.
I made a nice mouth with some pretty fangs. This will be cobra-like so the long teeth seemed appropriate. I cloth mached the mouth and painted it.
I added breast plates along the under belly. I’ll show you a better photo of those later. What I’m going to show you now is two full weeks of work. It’s amazing how long it takes to put scales on a nine foot long snake. These are similar to the dragon scales I make but I made these more hexagonal rather than triangular. These overlap like dragon scales would. Trust me, this was a real challenge considering the coil.
Here she is from the back.
I wanted to give you a close up of the scales on the head. Actually they are more like plates. You see this on most snakes. Of course I can’t do justice to what nature does for real snakes. My plates are far from perfect. I got as much symmetry as I could. This was painstaking, even more than the scales covering the body. It doesn’t look like it would be that challenging, but it was.
Here’s a view from under the chin. You’ll notice someone in the background. He’s not very happy. He wanted food. I told him he would have to wait a few minutes. I had glue on my hands. He’s not real patient. Like his dad (me). The most maddening thing was that after I shot this photo I cleaned the glue off of my hands and gave him some food. He just sniffed it and walked away. I’m sure he was pouting. I’m sure he waited till I was back at work before sneaking back to eat it. Little pill Eddie.
It’s a shame that most people won’t even see the underside of this snake. I just thought I’d show you the “breast plates” along the entire length of the snake.
For no particular reason I thought I’d show you a couple of my tools. The glue from my hands gets everywhere. This is typical of everything in my studio, my phone, my TV remote control, the handles on the sink, everything.
While I’m on this side track I want to come back to the labor intensive aspect of these pieces. I can’t tell you how many people decide that anything called “paper mache” should not cost more than a hundred bucks. They are shocked when I give them a quote for a commission. After working an entire day to put scales on a foot or so of this snake, it becomes clear that I’ve probably put more time into the piece than I can recoup when I finally decide to sell it (if I want minimum wage). It just happens. The real bottom line is, I make this art for myself. I don’t do it with money in mind even when I take commissions. I won’t accept a commission unless it’s a piece that I’d happily keep if the deal fell through. It’s really about doing the work. Doing the work feeds me the right way. All you artists out there know what I mean.