Paper Bird Construction

Each bird is made of individually hand-made parts: bent wire legs, painted hand-cut paper feathers, formed beaks. No moulds are used, so no two birds are ever the same.

I rough sculpt bodies out of white pellet foam (salvaged packing material) taking into account the size and posture of the bird. I use both hot wire and a sharp serrated knife for shaping. The legs and beak are later attached by looping their wires through the foam. The foam is then covered with tape allowing the paper feathers to be glued on.
Feet & Claws
I use different gauges of steel wire to form the basic feet and legs. I sculpt talons with Magic Sculpt (sculpting resin) onto fine wire, and affix them to the basic feet. Some talons require a second layer of magic sculpt before painting (sometimes using primer then acrylic paint, sometimes nail polish). I bulk up the feet and legs by applying strips of paper or cardboard. The legs are secured by piercing their main wire through the foam body and affixing the ends. I finish the legs by covering them with appropriate color of crepe paper.
I use a special high-quality crepe paper imported from Germany by Castle in the Air (see below). Unfortunately, paper does not come in a variety of grays and browns, so I often paint it to obtain the correct color. I use acrylic paints with an airbrush for general colors, and hand brush for special markings or shading individual feathers. The paper is sensitive to moisture and can lose its texture when wet; this makes painting crepe paper a delicate process.
Faces & Beaks
For fine detail areas of the face I use paper clay (air-hardening) sculpted directly onto the foam body.
I use glass taxidermy eyes. These are the only pre-fabricated part of the birds.
I make stands/mounts for most of the birds. Most of the time I use pre-made wood cut-outs, which I then stain and attach a branch perch or build up some rocky/sandy terain for standing birds. Some birds come with glass dome displays which helps keep dust off.

Material sources

German Crepe Paper of the special type I use is available in the United States almost exclusively through Castle in the Air (located on 4th Street in Berkeley, or at their online store). While their stock varies, they are extremely helpful and have been willing to add special requests to their orders from the German paper supply company. I been unable to source crepe paper of this quality and extensive variety anywhere else.

Magic Sculpt is a brand name air-hardening 2-part sculpting resin. I purchase mine at a local sculpting supply shop in SF called Douglas & Sturges (available online at, where I've also purchase supplies such as a hot-wire foam sculpting kit, armature wire, and various sculpting tools.

Glass Taxidermy Eyes are sold online by Tohickon.

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