In 1987 Allen Eckman stumbled onto cast paper as a fine art medium and instantly recognized the beauty and possibilities for creating high detail, strong, acid free, pure, fine art sculpture. It took the Eckmans many years to unlock the secrets to the medium. Discoveries included paper formulation, equipment and tool innovations and their unique paper processing methods. All this was necessary to create the dimension, strength, hardness, textures and detail that are clearly visible in Eckman pieces. It takes a lot of room and special equipment including pulping stations, presses, dehydrators, tools etc. as well as years of technical knowledge just to make the paper.
These stunningly detailed sculptures may only be made from paper – but they are being snapped up by art fans for tens of thousands of pounds. The intricate creations depict Native American scenes and took up to 11 months to make using a specially formulated paper.
Husband and wife team Allen and Patty Eckman put paper pulp into clay moulds and pressurise it to remove the water.
The hard, lightweight pieces are then removed and the couple painstakingly add detailed finishings with a wide range of tools
They have been making the creations since 1987 at their home studio, in South Dakota, America, and have racked up a whopping £3 million selling the works of art..
The pieces depict traditional scenes from Native American history of Cherokees hunting and dancing. The most expensive piece is called Prairie Edge Powwow which sold for £47,000.
Allen said: “We create Indians partly because my great, great grandmother was a Cherokee and my family on both sides admire the native Americans…”
“…I work on the men and animals and Patty does the women and children” explains Allen.
“I enjoy most doing the detail. The paper really lends itself to unlimited detail. I’m really interested in the Indians’ material, physical and spiritual culture and that whole period of our nation’s history I find fascinating. From the western expansion, through the Civil War and beyond is of great interest to me.”
Allen explained their technique: “It should not be confused with papier mache. The two mediums are completely different. I call what we do ‘cast paper sculpture'”
“Some of them we create are lifesize and some we scale down to 1/6 lifesize”
“These sculptures are posed as standing nude figures and limited detailed animals with no ears, tails or hair”
“We transform them by sculpting on top of them – creating detail with soft and hard paper we make in various thicknesses and textures.”
“We have really enjoyed the development of our fine art techniques over the years and have created a process that is worth sharing. There are many artists and sculptors who we believe will enjoy this medium as much as we have.” -Allen and Patty Eckman