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Paper Casting: The Amazing Art of Allen and Patty Eckman

Author:

RedElf (Elle Fredine) photographer and published author, educator. Life-long learning is key to adding value to life.

Paper casting is one of the simplest techniques to learn. It requires little in the way of specialized supplies and equipment, and yields quite lovely results with minimal training. With simple household tools and scrap paper, paper casting techniques can be used to create exquisite decorations for handmade greeting cards, scrap-book pages, and special gift wrapping tags.

Paper casting is truly a green activity, and a great craft to do with children. By using scrap paper, paper that would normally be consigned to the recycle bins or dumped straight in the land-fill - fliers, junk mail, and old catalogs - you can create delicately tinted handmade papers that can be embossed, or directly cast into almost any shape you can imagine.

Cast Paper Sculpture from the studios of Allen and Patty Eckman

Cast Paper Sculpture from the studios of Allen and Patty Eckman

A Brief History

The art of making paper has a long and interesting history. Every great civilization has adapted or created some form of material on which to record its history and create its works of art, and we are certainly not the first to create lovely embellished papers.

The Ancient Egyptians used papyrus , a form of paper made from Nile reeds. Papyrus is extremely fragile, though, and immersion in water will quickly dissolve it into soggy, mushy fragments.

Conspirators in the Middle Ages are said to have used this to safeguard their secrets, knowing any secret writings consigned to papyrus could be quickly and easily destroyed should discovery become imminent.

Vellum was used extensively, along with the sturdier parchment, for books which, until the appearance of the printing press, were hand lettered. Making a copy of a book was an extremely skilled, time-consuming, and arduous task, most often undertaken by scribes in monastic orders. A decorated manuscript or small volume could take many months to complete. Only the very wealthy could afford to own books or commission them.

These books were often works of art in their own right, with intricate decorations and hand-painted embellishments. A famous example, "Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry ", the Duc de Berry's Book of Hours , a book of prayers to be recited by the faithful at each of the canonical hours of the day, contains many such exquisite illuminations.

Commissioned by Jean, Duc de Berry around 1410, it is probably the most important illuminated manuscript from the 15th century. The manuscript includes 131 with large miniatures and many border decorations, along with 300 decorated capital letters.

Textiles and Totems

Some cultures, such as our Plains Indians, the west coast Salish peoples, the Inuit of Canada's Arctic, and the original totem carvers of Haida Gwaii, who relied on oral tradition to pass on their stories and legends, have left a different kind of legacy - in their textiles and carvings.

Because these cultures had no written language, their civilization tended to be viewed as somehow lesser, or, perhaps, less civilized then those cultures with a written record.

It is fitting then, that the art of Allen and Patty Eckman celebrates the icons of an oral tradition, not with words, but with the medium that in their talented hands contains so much more than words to showcase the culture.

The Basics of Paper Casting

Paper casting is one of the easiest and least expensive crafting techniques. In a short time, you can produce beautiful paper castings.

Supplies:

  • paper - any kind will do and junk mail works well
  • clean tap water
  • a clean, empty, 4 liter (4 quart) ice cream pail
  • a blender - second hand is best, but clean it very, very carefully if you plan to re-use it for food
  • a sponge - the inexpensive kind work well
  • a strainer - old is fine, as long as it's not rusty
  • some paper towels
  • a mold - many companies sell beautiful molds for paper casting. You can also use candy or cookie molds, or even rubber stamps

Method:

  • tear paper into 1" pieces
  • pour a cup of water in a blender and add 8 - 10 pieces of paper
  • blend at high speed for 20 seconds, or until paper is completely pulped
  • holding the strainer over the ice cream pail, pour the paper pulp into the strainer
  • pour the drained pulp into the mold, patting it in place with your hand
  • pat the paper with a sponge to remove excess water
  • squeeze out the sponge and continue gently pressing out the excess water
  • gently pat the paper casting with paper towel and carefully lift the casting out of the mold
  • set the casting aside to dry

The finished castings, once dry, may be colored with chalks, inks, water color paints, acrylic paints, or even make-up - different shades of powder eye shadows and blushes.You can also use dry, carefully sieved tempera paints.

To decorate or color your casts with paints or ink, seal the casting first with a thin coat of a mixture of half water and half white glue, or a spray sealer.

The drying time can be shortened by using a standard hair dryer with a diffuser attachment.

Some raise simple casting to a fine art form, but the basic techniques are the same, regardless of the end product.

WARNING...

You can reuse the water from the strained pulp but when you are finished your projects, make sure you dispose of the used water safely.

Once you are completely finished casting, take the bucket of used water outside and pour it on the driveway or directly down a sewer grate where it can dissipate without harming anything.

Pouring the water from the strainer down your sink or into the toilet to dispose of it may cause a blockage. The paper pulp left in the water will harden like concrete and you run the risk of blocking your pipes.

Bathroom Tissue Method:

Creating Art From Toilet Paper

  • set a rubber stamp on the counter design side
  • lay a sheet of bathroom tissue on top of the stamp - single ply paper works best
  • using a mister or spray bottle, spray the paper with tap water
  • with a small brush, work the paper into all the crevices of the stamp design
  • continue, adding 7-10 sheets of paper
  • when damp dry, remove from the casting from the stamp and decorate

Simply made, these unique castings can be used to decorate cards, make one-of-a-kind photo frames, scrapbook pages and gift tags. These unusual embellishments can enhance gifts and memorabilia, creating pieces that are sure to become cherished treasures.

Allen and Patty Eckman

Raising paper casting to high art is all in a day's work for Allen and Patty Eckman.

After stress-filled careers as advertising artists, Allen and Patty decided to try a new path. In 1988 the couple began investigating the fine art of cast paper sculpture, a medium Allen had discovered while working as an art director photographing a brochure.

Their exploration with paper casting turned into a love affair with the expressive and versatile medium, leading to the creation of an incredible collection of pieces that celebrate a variety of cultures and eras. The Eckmans' artwork is on permanent display at the Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville, GA.

...featuring contemporary, First Nations music

© 2010 RedElf

Comments

Gram on December 12, 2018:

Amazing paper works!

RedElf (author) from Canada on September 22, 2018:

Thanks so much - sounds like fun.

Amanda Michelle from Florida on September 20, 2018:

Awesome article! I actually made some recently and used for my Toadstools :)

RedElf (author) from Canada on February 22, 2014:

I was sent this in one of those "you must read this!!!" emails, and almost didn't open it. So glad I did though, as their work is amazing

RedElf (author) from Canada on February 22, 2014:

Thanks so much. I am a big fan of this work

ignugent17 on January 31, 2014:

Very interesting hub and really creative. :-)

Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on January 28, 2014:

Such a great hub, who knew such intricate examples of paper casting even existed? I will be looking into using this technique as a way of being a thriftier crafter, and a more Eco friendly person! Voted up and awesome! :-)

RedElf (author) from Canada on June 29, 2012:

Hi maggs! Someone sent me an email with pictures of their work, and I was so impressed with their work, I just had to write about them. thanks o much for the votes!

maggs224 from Sunny Spain on June 27, 2012:

What a fantastic hub the work of Allen and Patty Eckman is absolutely amazing the detail and depth that their work has is awesome.

I have never seen anything like this before thank you so much for sharing this.

I am voting this hub up and hitting the interesting, awesome and beautiful buttons on my way out

RedElf (author) from Canada on June 06, 2012:

leah, you guys will have a lot of fun - it's amazing what you can make with scrap paper and some ingenuity, and kids love it!

RedElf (author) from Canada on June 06, 2012:

Stacie, I am so pleased to show their art to everyone I can. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.

RedElf (author) from Canada on June 06, 2012:

Hey, Lisa, so glad you stopped by! It's easy to run out of superlatives when talking about the Eckmans and their paper crafting. I was drawn to it first because of the Native American imagery, but the skill and talent blew me away.

RedElf (author) from Canada on June 06, 2012:

Hi, Peggy! I received the pictures in an email, and had to share them with everyone!

RedElf (author) from Canada on June 06, 2012:

Thanks for the "shared" Angela! Nice of you to stop by - the Eckmans are pretty amazing!

Leah Lefler from Western New York on June 05, 2012:

Wow - the artwork is amazing! I am going to have to try this with my kids - I'm sure we can make really neat paper castings of several things around the house!

Stacie L on June 05, 2012:

I like to see new art forms and this is wonderfully intricate work. Thanks for bringing paper casting to everyone's attention.

Liz Rayen from California on June 05, 2012:

I love exquisite art form. When I saw the pictures of the Eckman art I was floored. Amazing talent and so life like. Thank you for all the info you have put together on this. It was very interesting reading and a great learning curve for me. :) Lisa

Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 05, 2012:

shared

Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 05, 2012:

unflippen believable

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 05, 2012:

I took a paper making course many years ago at a local community center just to learn the process. This paper casting and making sculptures is going the extra mile when it comes to creativity and artistry. Fantastic! Thanks for this informative and beautiful hub. Up votes and SHARED.

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 15, 2011:

Thanks so much gloshei. I appreciate your comment.

gloshei on November 15, 2011:

Great hub I did one the same but yours is very informative still a lot to learn.

Vote up

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 13, 2011:

fornalina, These artists certainly raise the bar, don't they!

Katarzyna Silny from Poznan, Poland on November 12, 2011:

I wouldn't guess that you can make such amazing things with paper. But artists can make most unusual things from common materials...

RedElf (author) from Canada on July 26, 2011:

Thanks so much, Gal! Their artistry is exceptional! I learned paper casting from one of our paper-making instructors, and was enchanted with the possibilities of eco-friendly art :D

Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on July 26, 2011:

Allen and Patty Echman are truly magical with their talent. I can't get over the detail in each piece. Absolutely beautiful.

The instructions are great and I am impressed that you brought in the recycling art.

RedElf (author) from Canada on May 12, 2011:

You are most welcome, Liz Goltra! Nice to meet you!

Liz Goltra on May 12, 2011:

I loved your article. As an artist, I'm a big fan of repurposing and recycling. Your project is a great example of turning junk into art. Thank you!

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 23, 2010:

The Eckmans raise paper casting to a totally new level, don't they?

orioleorange on November 23, 2010:

Wow! I never thought about this existing! super pretty!

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 16, 2010:

Thanks so much, CP. I am so glad you enjoyed the Eckmans' work. too - it is truly amazing.

Christopher Price from Vermont, USA on November 16, 2010:

Elle;

I was just fortunate enough to stumble across this hub, and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it...enough to bookmark it for future reference. Thanks.

CP

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 14, 2010:

Tapestries, the Eckmans are amazing artists, aren't they?!

Tapestries on November 13, 2010:

Just amazing, I have never seen paper art that artistic and even realistic, such as the texture of the hair of those models - just superb.

RedElf (author) from Canada on October 27, 2010:

Thanks so much, Shafiqahmed. I love paper crafting.

shafiqahmed on October 27, 2010:

Very good RedElf! It amazing... Very good hub.

RedElf (author) from Canada on October 14, 2010:

You are most welcome - and paper sculpting can be a fun craft for children, too.

Jalus on October 14, 2010:

Thank you for the great hub. The facets of paper as a sculptural medium are practically unlimited. I am looking forward to applying some of the info from this hub, many thanks.

RedElf (author) from Canada on August 05, 2010:

Give it a shot, agusfanani - I think you'll be pleased with the results, and it's great fun!

agusfanani from Indonesia on August 04, 2010:

I've done some paper crafts and I find this technique is great. I should try it.

RedElf (author) from Canada on August 01, 2010:

Thanks so much, bigfoot! It is beautiful work, indeed!

bigfoot on July 31, 2010:

Am a native american art fan and I find the elkin's work absolutely beautiful and awesome!

RedElf (author) from Canada on July 27, 2010:

cre8tive, I was amazed by their skill as well.

Ursula Dwyer from Dunstable on July 27, 2010:

Wow. I was just having a quick browse around when I came across this and the images are so beautiful I'm amazed they're made of paper ~ what a fantastically fun thing to do, so glad I found this.

RedElf (author) from Canada on July 12, 2010:

You are most welcome, iligan3pm! Always nice to meet a new hubber!

iligan3pm from Philippines on July 12, 2010:

I once saw a book about this and wanted to buy it but was too steep for me at the time. I'm glad I found this Hub. Hope to see more of your models, I myself is a 3d paper model enthusiast not a designer, more like a model tester. Thanks for the Hub, it's an inspiration for me and others who are in to this hobby.

RedElf (author) from Canada on May 19, 2010:

Hi, Cathi! I loved both taking and teaching this class. It's so much fun to just make the paper, let alone do the casting ;)

Cathi Sutton on May 14, 2010:

I am so excited about finding this Hub! I can't wait to do a paper casting project with my home schooler! And what a wonderful, beautiful, fun way to recycle paper! Thank you so much for sharing this great information on a really interesting art form!

RedElf (author) from Canada on May 06, 2010:

Welcome, Margaridab! It boggles the mind!

Margarida Borges from Lyon, France on May 06, 2010:

Awesome art! It's incredible how she gets all those details!

RedElf (author) from Canada on May 03, 2010:

greetings, anneschwester! It's always great fun to make your own molds, too - almost anything interesting can do the job.

anneschwester from Osoyoos,British Columbia on May 03, 2010:

Great article, and another unexpected use of all kinds of paper. I love working with paper, and surely will give this for me new technique a try very soon.

RedElf (author) from Canada on April 18, 2010:

Nice to meet you, Maria. Paper casting is a lot of fun, and surprisingly easy - have fun with it!

Maria Harris from Houston on April 18, 2010:

What a great hub. I have never run across paper casting before. I am certainly going to try it. So much easier than clay. Thanks for all of the great info.

RedElf (author) from Canada on April 16, 2010:

Thanks so much for stopping by to comment, borg_009!

borge_009 from Philippines on April 16, 2010:

This is such an amazing arts. Thanks for sharing.

RedElf (author) from Canada on March 24, 2010:

You are most welcome, bonny2010. It is great fun and quite simple - I hope they enjoy learning a new craft.

bonetta hartig from outback queensland on March 24, 2010:

what an interesting hub and the videos were great - shall pass this on to my mum and her arts anc crafts ladies, they will be thrilled, thank you

RedElf (author) from Canada on March 11, 2010:

I agree - they are totally amazing! Nice to meet you Sparhawke.

Sparhawke from Manchester on March 11, 2010:

This is awesome, I will certainly read it in further detail when I have more time.

The sculptures are brilliant :)

RedElf (author) from Canada on March 10, 2010:

Most welcome, susansisk! Nice to meet you.

Susan Sisk from Georgia, USA on March 10, 2010:

Great hub, so interesting!

RedElf (author) from Canada on March 05, 2010:

Most welcome, Sage, and thanks for your comments. I had a great teacher - a lady who taught paper making...and I was very grateful for her advice, too. Saved us from certain disaster with a class of fifteen avid paper casters ready to dump their waste water down the school's sink. Yikes! :D

Sage Williams on March 05, 2010:

Wow! This is truly amazing. I have never heard of this craft. I definitely want to give this one a try. I have done much with paper mache' but this is entirely different. Great way to recycle.

Thanks for the warning in regards to the pulp water. It makes perfect sense that it would cause a blockage, but in the moment of disposing, I'm not sure that I would have given it much thought.

Many thanks,

Sage

RedElf (author) from Canada on March 02, 2010:

It's great fun and simple to do. Of course, not anything like the Eckmans, but fun, nonetheless. Most welcome, Paradise7.

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on March 02, 2010:

This is great! I never heard of this before. The art is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing this.

RedElf (author) from Canada on March 02, 2010:

Mystique1957, thanks so much. I have done some paper casting but am certainly nowhere near this level of excellence ;)

Mystique1957 from Caracas-Venezuela on March 01, 2010:

Elle...

quite an interesting hub!

It is astonishing what can be done with Art. Paper, Sand, Toothpicks...Creativity is beyond anyone´s imagination

Great hub!

Thumbs up!

warm regards and blessings,

Al

RedElf (author) from Canada on March 01, 2010:

I had no idea paper casting could be so intricate until a friend sent me an email about the Eckmans. Aren't they amazing?

fishtiger58 from Momence, Illinois on March 01, 2010:

wow I can't believe those are made with paper. They are amazing artists. Thanks for a most interesting hub. Who knew?

RedElf (author) from Canada on February 28, 2010:

Hh, so nice to see you here - thanks for commenting.

Thanks, Enelle! A friend sent me a bunch of them in an email, and I was hooked. Glad you enjoyed them, too.

That would be great, GL! It's a great way to use up junk mail, and the colors can be beautiful.

Greetings, jstankevicz! they are amazing, aren't they!

Thanks so much, AARON99 - you, too!

Greetings, BkCreative, Paper is great fun and an fabulously flexible medium. You're most welcome!

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on February 28, 2010:

Wow! What amazing art. And this is also something I'd like to pursue as a hobby. I like working with paper. I'll bookmark this for future reference and inspiration.

Thanks so much!

AARON99 on February 28, 2010:

A very informative hub. Keep writing.

jstankevicz from Cave Creek on February 28, 2010:

Wow! The pictures and the craft work are spectacular. Great hub.

Hillary from Atlanta, GA on February 28, 2010:

Thank you RedElf. I reeelyy enjoyed learning about this splendid green craft! I haven't done anything "crafty"in years but you've inspired me:) (so have Allen and Patty, as their work is amazing!) It appears that the joys of Paper Crafting are three-fold; an expressive method of recycling, an alternate creative outlet and a great way to express one's disdain for junk mail! Can't wait to try it. I'm already thinking about how to make my own mold :D Oh..I'll add a link to this hub from my "love affair with toilet paper" hub too!

Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on February 28, 2010:

What a great hub! The artwork is amazing! I saw the pieces before and knew they were made out of paper, but had no idea how. Thanks for this - learned an amazing craft!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on February 28, 2010:

This is fantastic. Thank you for showing and your helpful tips.