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How we make our beautiful paper mache art pieces

We’ve all seen home décor, art pieces and faux taxidermy wall décor that trot themselves out as 'sustainable', ‘handmade’ and ‘unique’ when maybe they aren’t quite up to what they say. Because we pride ourselves on our authenticity and creative artwork (and because our art pieces are more than just a sale to us) we always find misrepresented art and home décor unsettling and disappointing. Each of our art pieces carries the spirit of an artisan community and represents a real livelihood for real people.

Our goal is to create stunning home décor (for you) that’s authentic and personal, containing the energy, sincerity and genuine expression of the artists. The way all real art does. So in this blog, we’re explaining how we design and make our animal sculptures, including the ingredients we use and the way they are finished. We want you to love them as much as we do, and hope this blog post will bring you a stronger connection to the Caribbean Craft artwork you already own or the pieces you may buy from our store in the future. Let’s go.

Animal Spirits Embodied

Every faux taxidermy and art piece in the Caribbean Craft online store begins its journey as clay in the hands of our sculptors Joseph and Jamil. Transforming ideas into finished clay sculptures, Joseph and Jamil really are the masters behind all the animal wall décor art pieces including our famous Ulrick the Paper Mache Rhino Head and the ever-popular Chouben, the Paper Mache Elephant Head.

Jamil working on clay sculptures

From raw clay the spirit of a beautiful animal emerges, every fine detail captured by the sculptors stylized in the sculpting. Their skilled hands coat their clay sculptures in plaster which eventually becomes the cast for future art pieces and vases. Once hardened, the clay is removed, and the cast prepared for the next stage.

Joseph pouring the plaster on the clay sculpture to make the mold

Papier maché and positivity

Another set of hands begin this next stage, mixing cassava starch glue (a natural adhesive) to up-cycled cement bags. The skilled hands of artisans like Jean, Carlene and Carmelle guide the cut bags into fine layers, that (when dried) will shape the finished art pieces that decorate your homes, offices, and studios.

Carmelle handcrafting the first papier maché sculpture on the mold

The papier maché phase takes time but each artisan (working on different projects in a large open warehouse) makes it fun; filling the airy spaces with their music, laughter and joking sentences. All that positive energy is captured and retained in the sculpture you will buy.

Freshened with VOC finishes

As the papier maché begins to dry and set, the finishing begins. The painters also working side-by-side … use low VOC paints — bold primaries, neutrals and earth tones — to bring life to each sculpture. Defined brush strokes, marbled evanescence, and our signature finish: the trendy Balzac newsprint.

We only use low VOC paints and finishes on each of our animal sculptures, figurines, and wall pieces. They can be enjoyed by children as well as highly sensitive people and we hope you love the fact (as much as we do) that all our art pieces are 100% natural, biodegradable and up-cycled. It makes something even more beautiful when you can be certain that nothing or no-one was harmed or exploited to create it.

Real employment and opportunity

Caribbean Craft is a for-profit enterprise, but we create real work opportunities for the artists of Haiti. We pay our workers properly and provide stable employment — also offering workplace incentive and educational programs in literacy and numeracy. So, every art piece you buy directly supports them financially. Your purchases make their lives better and give them a step up out of debilitating poverty.

Helping some of the world’s poorest

The country of Haiti has a troubled history plagued by natural disasters and political instability. Even as we write this Haiti is in the middle of another political and social crisis. Haiti is consistently ranked as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and more than half of the population is malnourished.

“Three-quarters of Haitians live on less than US$2 per day, and half of the population earns less than US$1 per day. Many people don’t have ready access to electricity, water, sanitation or healthcare.” World Food Program 2018

Yet, despite these challenges, here at Caribbean Craft we are determined to present to the world the beauty of our culture and the talent of Haitian artistry — creativity, precision, and inventiveness. And through you (our buyers) help hundreds of artisans and their families experience a better life and real opportunities for financial growth and independence.

Authenticity and Ebullience

Caribbean Craft is all about authenticity. We want all our buyers to understand and enjoy the real energetic connection to the artisan whose hands shaped the design and uncovered the animal spirit now decorating their personal space. While we don’t like to be negative, we do want you to realize that we are the real deal.

Just to be clear we DO NOT…

  1. buy faux taxidermy or any other art pieces from mass producers,

  2. paint any faux taxidermy head mass-manufactured in resin by someone else and call them ‘handmade’,

  3. use harmful chemicals or ingredients: resin sculptures are made with urethane, silicone, epoxy, polyester and a catalyst to harden the mixture. Catalysts include methyl ethyl ketone peroxide, which can be highly volatile, and the less-hazardous benzoyl peroxide,

  4. outsource any of our supply chains.

Here at Caribbean Craft we ALWAYS...

  1. design and hand-make every art piece ourselves or, when Caribbean Craft sells products not made by its own in-house artisans, like the Croix-des-Bouquets drum art or the soapstone sculptures from Léogane, we make sure we buy directly from the artisans at fair trade negotiated prices,

  2. use only natural adhesives, recyclables, and low VOC paints,

  3. use our own local artisans and pay them properly.

Caribbean Craft Online Home Décor Store

Now that you know a little bit more about how we make our original papier maché art pieces and sculptures, we invite you to browse our home décor online store and find something that speaks to you. Knowing more about our values, workplace culture, and artistry, we hope you have the confidence to buy something beautiful, striking and authentic for your home, office or studio. We’ll carefully pack and ship it with love, direct to your door.

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