How to Make a Recycled Paper Elephant

Written by lauren vork
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How to Make a Recycled Paper Elephant
Render elephants in recycled form. (The elephant with the elephant's baby image by wolandmaster from

Environmental conservation comes in many forms, including the preservation of plants and animals. By making an animal sculpture from recycled materials, you can honour both forms of conservation at the same time. Make a lasting, three-dimensional elephant sculpture by transforming old newspapers into a versatile modelling dough whose colour and rough texture make it ideal for the sculpting of this grey, wrinkled member of the animal kingdom.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Old newspapers
  • Scissors
  • Mixing bowl
  • Water
  • Blender or food processor
  • Wire-mesh strainer
  • Wood glue
  • Pencil

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  1. 1

    Tear or cut at least two or three full-sized, double-paged sheets of paper into the smallest pieces you can. Place them in a mixing bowl and pour just enough water over them to submerge all the paper. Let this mixture sit for at least a half-hour so that the paper can absorb the moisture and start to soften.

  2. 2

    Pour the paper mixture into a blender or food processor and blend it as finely as you can. (Note: this mixture will rinse out of the blender with water, making it safe for food use again, but repeated blending of paper can dull blades.)

  3. 3

    Place the pulp in a wire-mesh strainer and hold it over the sink. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds to get rid of some of the excess water.

  4. 4

    Return the paper pulp to the mixing bowl and mix in as much wood glue with your hands as you can, squeezing the pulp to incorporate the glue until you have dough of a consistency you can sculpt with.

  5. 5

    Pull as much of the dough as you want according to the size you want your finished elephant to be (imagine the completed elephant being smashed into a single ball).

  6. 6

    Divide the ball of dough into three equal pieces; one of these will become the elephant's body, one will become the legs, and one will become the head and tail.

  7. 7

    Form the elephant's body. Roll the body piece into a ball, then place the ball on your work surface and roll it back and forth a couple of times to make it into an oval.

  8. 8

    Divide the ball for the legs into four equal segments. Make each of these into a short, stumpy cylinder by first rolling each piece into a ball, then pressing the ball against your work surface, then flipping it to press it again, giving it a flat top and bottom. Turn each piece on its side and roll it back and forth a few times to make the cylinder. Attach these pieces to the body to form legs.

  9. 9

    Make the head by dividing the final ball in half, then rolling one of the halves into a ball. Form the trunk out of this ball by pressing your fingers over one end of the ball and pressing while rolling, forming a long, thin shape out of the side of the ball.

  10. 10

    Take the rest of the dough and divide it into three pieces. Make two of these into the ears by rolling them into balls, then pressing them into flat disks. Roll the third into a long, thin coil and trim it to the length you want for the elephant's tail.

  11. 11

    Attach the ears to the head and the finished head to the body. Attach the tail to the rear end.

  12. 12

    Use a pencil as a sculpting tool to give the elephant more detail. Etch the shape of upside-down U-shaped toenails into the feet and use the eraser to poke holes for the eyes.

  13. 13

    Let the sculpture dry for 24 hours or until fully dry and hard. If any of the parts fail to stick to each other properly, let them dry separately, then reattach with wood glue.

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