Dan Reeder, the dragon maker

I find paper art fascinating in all its forms: paper mache, 3d paper sculpting, quilling, origami, decoupage, paper jewelry etc. It is amazing to see, that paper, such a fragile material, can be used to create such wonders.

Today we will meet Dan Reeder, a paper mache artist, that literally gives life to paper 🙂


Hello Mr Reeder, thank you for meeting with us. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am 64 year old paper mache artist living in Seattle, Washington, USA.    I have been making this kind of art for 40 years.  I have worked hard to bring this under-rated, under-utilized art form into the realm of legitimate art.  I have published several books, including my first in 1984 called,The Simple Screamer: A Guide to the Art of Papier and Cloth Mâché.  This book remained in print for over twenty-five years and sold around the world.  It helped change the “face” of paper mâché from balloons and piggy banks to a medium with unlimited possibilities.  The success of that book led to others including, Papier Mâché Monsters:  Turning Trinkets and Trash into Magnificent Monstrosities  andPaper Mache Dragons,  a book detailing the making of my dragons and dragon trophies.  My current goal is to make as much art as possible until I die.

For those who do not know what is paper mache, can you explain us this technique?

There are many ways of doing “paper mache”. The original French version involved “mashing” paper and molding it into art.  I use an Americanized version, one that has been used in elementary schools for years.  There is nothing French about it.   It involves adding newspaper strips onto an armature using flour and water paste.   I have added some unique variations to the art form.  I add a “skin” of cloth dipped in white glue.  I call the process “cloth mache”.  It makes the projects very strong and allows for detail you can’t get with just paper.

Why paper mache? What attracted you to this form of art?

I began making paper mache art when I started teaching back in 1972.  I wanted my students to make some kind of sculpture.   So we made paper mache monsters.   Monsters because it insured their success.  (No one could say that the horn was in the wrong place!)  I made monsters with them.   I immediately recognized the versatility of the medium and started making other kinds of sculpture.I have been doing this art ever since.   I do not know of any other art medium that allows for making large sculptures that doesn’t involve hard to use materials like wood or stone.   It is a wonderful vehicle for self-expression.

Tell us a little about the materials that you use.

I use flour and water (for paste) and newspaper.   As I mentioned I also use cloth (old bed sheets) and white glue.  And I use masking tape (used in painting houses), wire clothes hangers, and polymer clay for teeth and claws.  I use all-purpose paint.  Finally, I like using taxidermy, glass eyes.

I`m not going to ask you what is the creation process, because your videos are very specific. I want to mention that you are the only artist I know that posts those „Make of” videos 🙂 They are amazing and all of them should go viral.



What is your inspiration source?

I never know how to answer that question.  Where do thoughts come from?  Inspiration just comes.    The inspiration is the easy part.  Finding time to make everything I want to make is the hard part.

How many days require one commission – one of medium complexity, for instance?

It is hard to say because there is drying time to consider.  And I’m always making more than one project at a time and also taking video.  So I will just guess at 80 hours to make an average commission.

What is the biggest work you made so far?

I set a limit.  I have to be able to get the piece through the doors of my house.  So the biggest projects are about human size.  I have made many projects that large including dragons, dinosaurs, and elephants and donkeys (symbols of our political parties.  I made these as a commission for a restaurant in Seattle).

Do you have a favorite among all your „pets”? 🙂

It is funny.  My favorite piece is always the one that I finished last.   Then I make a new piece and it becomes my “best piece.” My “Dark Butterfly” is probably the one I would choose if I were forced to answer your question.   As suggested it is a little “darker” than most of my other sculptures.My favorite video is one that gets little attention.   It’s long (six minutes) so people don’t choose to watch.  But it is my best.  It is called, “Rum and Paper Mache.”   I show the making of a dragon marionette. But there is also a story line within the video that makes it more interesting than my other videos.

Where can we find your work?

On my website, GourmetPaperMache.com and on my blog, PaperMacheBlog.com.  And you can see my videos on my YouTube channel and my Facebook page.

Thank you very much for your time.

You are very welcome!  Make art!

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