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Paper Casting: The Amazing Art of Allen and Patty Eckman

Updated on March 18, 2018
RedElf profile image

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 | Source

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. 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.

Folio 37 v; The Baptism of Saint Augustine
Folio 37 v; The Baptism of Saint Augustine | Source
January: The Duke's household exchanges New Year gifts - the Duke at right in a blue robe.
January: The Duke's household exchanges New Year gifts - the Duke at right in a blue robe. | Source

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.

Hand-tinted leaf casting - photo credit: yogiemp.com
Hand-tinted leaf casting - photo credit: yogiemp.com
Paper casting being removed from a mold - photo credit: castpaper.com
Paper casting being removed from a mold - photo credit: castpaper.com
Handmade Paper Casting by Jeanne Tillman - photo credit: mountainartcenter.org
Handmade Paper Casting by Jeanne Tillman - photo credit: mountainartcenter.org

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.

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:

  • 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 Eckman's artwork is on permanent display at the Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville, GA.

...featuring contemporary, First Nations music

© 2010 RedElf

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    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 4 years ago from Canada

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 4 years ago from Canada

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

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      Very interesting hub and really creative. :-)

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 4 years ago from Glasgow

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

      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 profile image

      maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

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

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      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 profile image

      Stacie L 5 years ago

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

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      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 profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      shared

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      unflippen believable

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much gloshei. I appreciate your comment.

    • profile image

      gloshei 6 years ago

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

      Vote up

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

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

    • fornalina profile image

      Katarzyna Silny 6 years ago from Poznan, Poland

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      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

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

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

    • Liz Goltra profile image

      Liz Goltra 7 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

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

    • orioleorange profile image

      orioleorange 7 years ago

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

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

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 7 years ago from Vermont, USA

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

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

    • Tapestries profile image

      Tapestries 7 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much, Shafiqahmed. I love paper crafting.

    • shafiqahmed profile image

      shafiqahmed 7 years ago

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

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

    • profile image

      Jalus 7 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

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

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 7 years ago from Indonesia

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

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

    • profile image

      bigfoot 7 years ago

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

      cre8tive, I was amazed by their skill as well.

    • cre8tive profile image

      cre8tive 7 years ago from U.K

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

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

    • iligan3pm profile image

      iligan3pm 7 years ago from Philippines

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      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 profile image

      Cathi Sutton 8 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      Welcome, Margaridab! It boggles the mind!

    • Margaridab profile image

      Margarida Borges 8 years ago from Lyon, France

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

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

    • anneschwester profile image

      anneschwester 8 years ago from Osoyoos,British Columbia

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

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

    • Maria Harris profile image

      Maria Harris 8 years ago from Houston

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much for stopping by to comment, borg_009!

    • borge_009 profile image

      borge_009 8 years ago from Philippines

      This is such an amazing arts. Thanks for sharing.

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

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

    • bonny2010 profile image

      bonetta hartig 8 years ago from outback queensland

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

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

    • Sparhawke profile image

      Sparhawke 8 years ago from Manchester

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

      The sculptures are brilliant :)

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      Most welcome, susansisk! Nice to meet you.

    • susansisk profile image

      susansisk 8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Great hub, so interesting!

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      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 profile image

      Sage Williams 8 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

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

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 8 years ago from Upstate New York

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

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

    • Mystique1957 profile image

      Mystique1957 8 years ago from Caracas-Venezuela

      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 profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      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 profile image

      fishtiger58 8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

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

    • RedElf profile image
      Author

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      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 profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      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!

    • profile image

      AARON99 8 years ago

      A very informative hub. Keep writing.

    • jstankevicz profile image

      jstankevicz 8 years ago from Cave Creek

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

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      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 profile image

      Enelle Lamb 8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      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, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

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

    working

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