Exclusive interview with Jonni Good of Ultimate Paper Mache
First of all, tell me a little about your background and how you got started in paper mache:
My parents were very supportive of my interest in art, so it’s always been a part
of my life, even though I’m completely self-taught. I can still remember my first
paper mache project – a horse’s head mounted on a stick.
When I was still in my 20s I sold pen and ink prints of animals at the Pike Place
Market in Seattle and at juried art shows in the northwest. I eventually moved on
to ‘real’ jobs, but I always kept my eye out for another opportunity to go back to
making a living with my art.
Then the Internet came along, and my daughter taught me how to create a website –
back in the day when you had to do it by hand in html. I fell in love with websites
as a new creative outlet, and in 2006 I was able to make enough money online with
affiliate websites and downloadable books to quit my last job.
I moved to a smaller town, and the affiliate website didn’t take up much of my
time. I bought some chickens, started to remodel my little house, and played around
with various art projects, but there wasn’t a lot of extra money for art supplies.
Then I remembered using paper mache back in grade school, and I decided to find out
if I could go beyond the techniques I used for that stick horse and create
sculptures that I could be proud of.
Because of all those affiliate sites I built, it felt natural to create a blog
about my paper mache adventures, too – not to make money, but just as a way to
‘learn out loud.’ I was surprised by how many other adults were interested in paper
When I created my original recipe for paper mache clay, which makes sculpting with
paper even more intuitive, my website and the YouTube channel really took off.
That’s when I realized that I had accidentally became an online art teacher. It
really happened accidentally, but it’s been a lot of fun.
What’s the most challenging project you every completed?:
The large dragon that I created a few years ago was very challenging, mostly
because it was so big. I had no idea how to create an armature that would hold up
such a large sculpture. I was posting videos of the process, so people got to see
me starting over several times.
In the end, I was very happy with it, and I learned
a great deal during the project. The next time I make a dragon, I’ll do it very
differently, so it will be light enough so it doesn’t take two people to move it.
I donated the dragon to the local Habitat for Humanity’s ‘recycled art’ auction
because it was way too big for my house.
The only other sculpture I have donated for a good cause was my Basset hound, which
is also one of my favorites. He went to live with a lady who supports the local
Humane Society, so I know he got a good home.
What was your favorite project to complete:
My favorite project is usually the one I’m working on at the time, but if I were to
choose one sculpture, it would be the mother and kid mountain goat set that I made
as a wedding gift for a family member.
The final ‘skin’ was made with epoxy clay,
not paper mache clay, but it was built with the same type of armature that I use
for all of the animal sculptures.
It’s one of my favorite projects because I love
sculptures that tell a story or show relationships, and the story tends to evolve
and take on a life of its own while I’m working.
It makes the process a lot more fun.
My favorite ongoing project is my website and the community that has built up
around the Daily Sculptors page.
Many people have told me the site and community
have given them the courage to try to make their own art, often after many years of
being afraid to try any creative project, and I’m very glad that I’ve been able to
help them that way.
I like to say that art is medicine for the soul, and I do
believe that’s true.
What is your creative process like? How do you decide on a new project?:
I sometimes choose a project because I think it would be popular with my readers,
but the beginning ideas usually come about entirely by chance. For instance, I’m
just now starting to gather the materials I’ll need to make a Halloween mask with
the face of a very large-eyed lantern fish.
I just thought a fish mask would be fun
(and different!) and I started looking for a type of fish that would work. When I
saw the lanternfish’s lighted eyes, it seemed perfect for Halloween.
Most of my sculptures are of animals – and with so many different creatures in the
world I’ll never run out of inspiration.
I do try to choose popular subjects for the downloadable sculpture and mask
patterns that I sell on my website, of course, because that’s where I get the bulk
of my income, and each pattern takes up to a month to create.
As for my process, I just get started on a project whether I know how to do it or
not. ahead and make something, even though I have no idea how to do it before I
get started. For me, the learning process is actually more interesting than the
finished work, so I don’t mind making mistakes.
Almost every piece of art I create
was also an experiment, and I’m always learning new things. If I sold my work I
would have to be much more methodical about it, and stick to the what I actually
know how to do.
That’s one of the biggest reasons why I won’t sell my finished
What’s your work space setup like?:
My work space is my spare bedroom, and it’s almost always a total wreck, except for
the small area where I shoot my videos.
The back wall in the bedroom closet is a
display area for some of the pieces that I have created patterns for, so they
appear behind in all my videos.
I have a canvas drop cloth that I use as a drape to
close off the closet when I’m working on my sculptures. That makes the backdrop of
the tutorials less busy.
My work table is high enough to work on while I’m standing
up, and it’s tiny.
The camera is mounted to the table on an extendible arm, so I
can move it when I need to.
My lights take up a lot of room, too. I would love to
have more space.
My supplies and a spare computer are on shelves all along the walls, and equipment
and supplies often end up scattered on the floor. Two dogs and a cat also compete
for space. I’m not an organized artist, by any means.
I sometimes bring my work into the living room where I can put it on a small table
next to the computer desk. Then I can sit down while I work, and I can see my
source photos easily on the monitor, which really helps.
I only do this during
parts of a project that aren’t included in a video, or when I’m working on a
personal project that isn’t filmed.
What are some handy tools or tips you’d like to mention when working with paper mache or paper clay?:
I rarely use the wax and dental sculpting tools that I own, because I don’t do many
small sculptures with fine details – my eyes are getting too old for that.
The tool I use most often is a table knife for spreading paper mache clay.
The one tool that’s indispensible to me is a cheap mixer for making the paper mache
Some people claim that you can mix it by hand, but it’s a lot of work.
What’s your best time-saving tip or hack?:
I almost always begin with a cardboard armature that sets the outlines of the
finished sculpture. It really helps to get the proportions and shapes right before
you start sculpting, because it’s much easier to change the length of a leg on a
pencil sketch than it is to change it after you’ve spent several hours sculpting
that leg, only to find out it’s too long.
In the past I always filled in the bulk of the armatures with crumpled paper and
masking tape, but I now use crumpled foil and hot glue, instead. It’s a method I
learned from Kim Beaton, of PalTiya.com.
Crumpled paper tends to unfold itself
until you can get it covered with the tape, and the masking tape seems to be more
expensive every time I go to the store. Foil and hot glue is much easier to use,
especially for smaller sculptures with more details.
You can use crumpled foil much like you would clay, and a very thin layer paper
mache clay or epoxy clay will make a strong, permanent sculpture.
Of course, the most important tip for working with paper mache is to make sure it
dries as fast as possible. I always try to put mine in front of a fan to make it
dry faster, and then I seal the dry paper mache so it won’t absorb moisture from
What inspires your creativity?:
My ideas almost always morph into something else several times before I decide that
they’re will be interesting enough to spend time on. I might read something that
gets me thinking about a subject, or see a photo that sparks some interest.
Sometimes my work is inspired by something totally random, like the shadows on a
drape that remind me of a silly face or animal.
I have a very large garden, I’m usually working on several small remodeling jobs
around the house, and my animals take up a lot of my time. An idea has to be
interesting enough that I can put aside some of my other work and projects and
dedicate some time to a sculpture. But I’m creating, in one way or another, every
Besides paper mache and painting, are there other forms of art that you like to do?:
I love to write, and I hope to start a new book soon – just as soon as I decide
what to write about. My favorite art-related book I’ve written so far is the one I
titled Fast Faces: Unleash Your Creativity With a Friendly Lump of Clay.
I also wrote two novels. It was a lot of fun and I’d love to write another one, although I
never figured out how to market them.
Do you have any other totally unrelated hobbies that you like? I noticed you mentioned in one of your youtube video’s that you have chickens and a garden.:
I’m currenly teaching myself how to do Tunisian crochet, and I spend a lot of time
on SketchUp, trying to find the best way to use the space in my house. (It’s
amazing how many ways you can rearrange the rooms inside a small, simple rectangle.)
I consider my garden a work of art, even though it’s a lot messier than
my neighbors would probably prefer, and I had great fun last year designing and
building my chicken coop.
Chickens are much more fun to watch than TV.
You’ve written several books about your amazing art, what they, and where can we find them online?
You can find all of my books on Amazon.com here:
I noticed you’re nearing 200,000 subscribers on youtube, and you have your own website.
Are there any business tips you’d like to give to crafters just starting
What are some mistakes they should avoid and what are some things they
should definitely do?:
This is a really difficult question, because I started my blog back in 2008, when
it was still fairly easy to get a good listing on Google. Plus, my YouTube videos
are all tutorials. It’s much easier to get views for a tutorial than it is if
you’re just showing off your work. I think it also helps that I don’t try to sell
my finished sculptures .
I make my income from my books and downloadable sculpting
patterns. It’s a very different business than selling physical products.
My experience building affiliate websites in the past really helped, too.
When I was still working at ‘real’ jobs, I learned to enjoy writing blog posts in my spare
time, and I learned about search engine optimization, using the right keywords in a
A lot of people try to make websites with almost no written content,
and it’s really difficult to get good Google rankings with a site like that.
I also had the luxury of working on my paper mache site strictly for fun for
several years, and I didn’t even consider trying to make money from it until it was
getting over 60,000 visitors a month.
By that time, I had received a lot of
feedback from readers, so I knew what kind of patterns and books they might be
interested in buying.
When I first started out, I got links to my new website by answering questions on
Yahoo Answers. I don’t know if that site exists now, or if they still allow live
If I started over, I’d probably learn how to get links on Reddit and other
popular forums, but you have to be careful to not come off as a spammer. Even if
you put your work on etsy.com instead of selling from your own website, you still
need those links. Without them, Google can’t find you, and neither can anyone else.
But of course I have no idea how to sell original art online, because I have no
experience with it. My best advice is to find an artist who has a successful,
profitable online store, and see if they’ll share their secrets.
The book I think everyone should read if they’re self-employed, or just starting to
think about working for themselves, is Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.
That book completely changed the way I think about business. I wish I’d read it 50
years ago, back when I sold my pen and ink drawings.
Reading that book completely changed the way I think about my business and money.
I can’t recommend it enough,
but most people I recommend it to refuse to read it because they say the author’s
ideas are ‘too simple.’
I used to tell people that I practiced “voluntary poverty,” but until I read that
book I didn’t realize that I was just paying myself less money than I was worth. I
still don’t make a lot of money, because I choose to spend most of my time engaged
in non-business activities.
But when I do work, I pay myself a decent wage.
Do you have a favorite paper mache or paper clay artist (or artists) that you follow, and where can we find them online?:
My very favorite artist is my daughter, Jessie Rashe, who can be found at
jessierasche.com. She’s an oil painter, not a sculptor, but she’s still my favorite
I also love seeing all the sculptures and masks that are shared by my readers on
the Daily Sculptors page of my website.
We get to see work from people who have
never sculpted anything before, from professional artists and designers, and from
people like me who just enjoy making stuff – and I love them all.
One of my favorite paper mache artists is Mélanie Bourlon. Her animals are
delightful, and she has a great sense of humor.
I also subscribe to David Lemon’s sculpting channel on YouTube, and I occasionally
watch videos by the popular pop sculptors, especially TheCrafsMan SteadyCraftin and
Ace of Clay. I don’t make anything remotely like their work, but their videos are
fun to watch.
Do you sell at craft shows or in boutique stores? What advice can you give to someone wanting to sell their art work, but they’re not sure where to start?
Years ago, I designed a small series of paper mache baby animal dolls. I took the
around to some nice boutique stores and asked the owners for feedback. I didn’t try
to sell the dolls to them – I just wanted their honest opinion about the quality of
the work and a recommended price point.
Their advice was enormously helpful, and it
was the kind of honest feedback that you can’t get from friends and family. It
encouraged me to sell the dolls, and they were fairly successful – but that’s when
I learned that I really don’t like putting my work into boxes and mailing them away
to strangers. (I wrote a book about how to make the baby animal dolls, and that was
a lot more fun.)
Because I haven’t sold original work for over 30 years, I’m the last person you’d
want to ask for that type of advice – the world has changed so much since then, and
the cost of attending good juried craft shows keeps going up.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers & fans?
I always like to tell people that one of the best ways to learn a new craft is to
start a website or YouTube channel. The feedback and encouragement you receive from
your audience can be invaluable, even if your audience is only a few people when
you first start out. So far, very few people have taken my that advice. 🙂
Where can people find your artwork? Where are all the places people can follow you online?
“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
Thanks so much Jonni for sharing your amazing art with us! Just so you can see a project I’ve embedded one of Jonni’s art tutorials below.