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Inner Tube Tortoise – Paper Mache

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

So after the last post I made a couple of additional armatures using the same method as I had previously. Next step was making George’s shape.

Padding It Out

I used paper saved from parcel deliveries and masking tape to make the body.

I had my reference images out and ready to compare, and took it limb by limb.

Some things I found helpful:

  • Pre-tearing various lengths of masking tape and sticking them along the edges of the table was a must
  • Keeping the paper padding a little loose meant I could go in later and scrunch/shape it a little more, holding those changes in place with masking tape
  • Though having the shell on was a little awkward at times it meant I could more easily judge proportions

I was pretty pleased with the final padded product:

It wasn’t perfect, but definitely good enough. On to the paper mache cover!

Paper Mache

This was similar to my shell process, but took a lot longer. Which I should’ve guessed, but didn’t properly plan for. There were smaller areas, more complex shapes, and lots of changes of direction. Nearly all the strips I pre-ripped were too big, but that was easily remedied as long as I remembered to adjust the size before I got them damp.

I worked with George mostly on his back. I was a little worried about the shell getting wet or deforming but I was careful removing excess flour/waster glue before putting the strips down to prevent that happening. He got flipped over to access the hard to reach areas around the front of the shell, tops of legs, and obviously the neck and head.

I saved the head until last so avoid it making a mess, and dried him on his back as the lower shell threatened to sag – the paper wasn’t held on as well as it should’ve been in that area.

I added some lower shell details I didn’t do at the padding stage – I had no reference for these so I kind of winged it, but it seems to have worked out alright. I can see now that the front shell extension bit should go out further but I don’t mind.

He’s mostly dry in these next photos, but I’m leaving him in the airing cupboard another day just to be safe.

There are a few messy bits, but they’re in awkward areas so I’ll probably just leave them.

I debated, and am still debating, going back in to add some wrinkles. It would be easier to do if my little George were bigger, so I might just paint them on.

Next Steps

Oh yes, painting. To be fair I don’t have that much experience, so I’ll probably draw as much detail on as I can in pencil for reference points and to avoid mistakes. The 360 I’ve been using as a reference is in colour, but it’s a bit washed out so thankfully there are a lot of other photos out there to refer to.

It mostly looks like shades of brown, tan, maybe a little black.

Wish me luck.

When I showed my husband the final product he said it looked great and offered to do the painting. I politely declined. But he did ask another good question…

“How does this work with inner tube?”

Yeah… I’m not sure.

This process definitely helped me get a sense of the shapes involved, and how I might construct it, but also highlighted a lot of hurdles.

The shells will need to have a full wire structure underneath. When making my paper mache version I just wodged a bunch paper balls in there to fill up the space – wouldn’t really work with floppy, stretchy tubes on their own.

I can find tubes in the different widths required for the legs and neck, but how I join them together will be a bit of a puzzler. I might simplify his shape a little more to avoid having to attach different size tubes together for different areas of the leg (like how the back legs get a little narrow above the foot.

Assuming I figure all that out I’ll probably try to assemble it before putting it on, and hope the wire armature doesn’t complain too much about bending to make that work, but the areas where the body meets the shell might be even more frustrating as they will have to be done in situ.

I also have no idea how I’ll stuff it.

I’ll have a think while I’m sorting out the paint for my paper mache and see if I come up with anything.

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