Susan Ryan
Paper Mache, Paintings & More




I am intrigued by the things we acquire out of real or perceived need. Things we use and love for a time, then discard. Thrift stores and trash yield treasure and material for my art, and also a creative point of view. I am inspired to create something lasting and beautiful from things that have been cast aside. A friend of mine asked me how I think up the ideas for my work. I replied that it wasn’t so much a matter of thinking up ideas, as it was of getting out of the way so the ideas could emerge from within.

I build the armatures for my sculpture out of foam core, cardboard and/or recycled materials. When I am starting a piece, I have a very clear idea of what I want it to look like when completed. Once the armature is done, I cover it with paper mache pulp made from boiled newspaper, Elmer's glue, and plaster. The paper mache dries very hard. I easily shape it with wood files and sand paper. I may or may not apply a layer of gesso before I put on a finish. I use a variety of materials in my finishes--oils, acrylics, graphite, and charcoal. Basically, I just play with materials and see what happens and keep playing till I get what I want.

Putting on the finishes is the most exciting part of the process. It is now that I start to see what this piece might look like when done. Sometimes it ends up very different from what I first imagined. In the process of finishing a piece, the work might flow easily or it might argue with me--I want the piece to look one way and the piece wants to look another way. In the end, the piece always wins. For the times when the work just flows, I am grateful and delighted. For the times when I struggle towards completion, I am also grateful and enriched by the journey down a path unimagined.

Paper mache rocks and bottle caps find a home in a thrift store bird's nest.