Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Suspended In Time: Extraordinary Cast Paper Sculptures By Allen & Patty Eckman

Patty & Allen Eckman

The intense realism of Allen and Patty Eckman's museum-quality paper sculptures is astonishing in its scope. Appearing to be more like individuals frozen in time, caught in mid-action as though seized by Medusa's petrifying Gorgonian stare and turned to stone, it would be nearly impossible to distinguish the Eckmans' sculptures - so painstakingly and finely detailed as to nearly defy belief - from beautifully wrought bronze sculptures, were it not for two basic facts: their sculptures are made of cast paper and are, therefore, light-weight; and their colour, chalk-white.

Husband-and-wife design teams are not all that unusual: Charles and Ray Eames as well as Isabel and Ruben Toledo are two couples that come immediately to mind. Naturally, when Allen Eckman met Patty Tenneboe at Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles, where they both studied and graduated in 1974 - he, a former member of the Marine Corps and a Vietnam War veteran who had decided to study advertising art; she, an illustrator - it only made perfect sense that, shortly after graduation, the couple should marry and open a small advertising company together in Los Angeles. But twelve years in the advertising business had convinced the Eckmans, who had three children by now, to forgo the stresses and strains of advertising and, going out on the proverbial limb in 1988, chose a completely different path to pursue: that of paper cast sculptures - a medium Allen had discovered while photographing a brochure.
(Source:, undated)

Pronghorn Warrior in the Wind

Shawl Dancer
The above two images are courtesy of:

Though often mistakenly confused with papier-mâché, the process of cast paper sculpting is completely distinct and certainly not new when the Eckmans discovered it - it had been around since the 1950s. Cast paper sculptuing involves the mixture of acid-free paper pulp obtained from two raw sources: cotton and abaca (native of the Philippines and closely related to the banana plant, abaca is also known as manila hemp; it is the leaf fibres which are composed of long slim cells and which form part of the leaf's supporting structure. It is extracted from the leaf sheath around the trunk of the abaca plant). (Source:, 2009)

Once the mixture is prepared it is then cast into molds made from original clay models - much the same as traditional bronze casting. Then the paper is pressed under vacuum pressure or by hand until most of the water is extracted, whereby the figure is induced to conform to the shape of the mold; the remaining  moisture is taken care of by evaporation - the paper figure is left to air-dry completely while still in place in the mold before the next stage in the process: chasing and detailing. Removed from its mold, a paper cast figure is hard and dry; it is now that the real work begins. A laborious and time-consuming process, chasing, cast editions and alterations, sculpting and detailing are all a necessary part of the process by which a sculpture is 'brought to life'. Depending on the figure and the amount of detailing needed, it is not unusual for some works to take upwards of months to complete. (Source:, undated)

Spirit of the Buffalo II

Strong Lance on the Wind
The above two images are courtesy of:

It is noticeable to anyone familiar with the Eckmans' creations that a strong Native American Indian theme runs through their work. The Indian theme is rooted in a childhood memory of Allen's. As he recalls, "When I was a small boy in Pennsylvania, I found an arrowhead in a newly plowed field and took it home to my grandfather who told me we have a Cherokee ancestry... I really am 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." But while Allen's interest is fixated on America's wild west and Native Indian past, Patty's is centred more on wildlife, birds and flowers: "Ever since I was a child I have had a great appreciation of wildlife. I can sit for hours and watch birds come to my feeder. When I look at a flower I don't see just color, I see form. Wonderful shapes that the color tries to overpower." But aside from her wildlife works, Patty has also worked, since 2000, on Native Indian themed sculptures, mainly those comprising of Indian women and children. When the need arises, the Eckmans do work cooperatively on large-scale, complicated models that require tremendous amount of detail; all their sculptures are either individually or jointly signed.   

To their credit, the Eckmans are the innovators of the exclusive Eckman Method ® of paper casting - a trade mark which is solely theirs - a testament to their dedication and long years of experience, perfecting the process.
(Source & quotes:, undated)

Blessing The Hunt

Offering The Medicine Horn

Offering The Medicine Pipe

Offering The Medicine Skull

Chief's Rock

War Chief's Strong Prayer

Calling The Buffalo

Chief Calling The Buffalo

The Sentinel

Lacrosse Brothers

Lancers on Rocky Ground II

Driving the Longhorns

Prairie Edge Encampment

Prairie Edge Pow-Wow


Sitting-Bull's Visions

Where Eagles Pray

White Buffalo Lance

The Buffalo Hunter

The Way

Tracking Geronimo

North West Trackers

The Calf Roper

To Save One

Hoop Dancer ~ "Dancing Eagle"

Buffalo Spirit Dancer

Fancy Dancer

Fancy Dancer II

Fancy Dancer III

Hopi Buffalo Dancer

Traditional Dancer

Traditional Dancer Pow-Wow

Wolf Spirit Dancer

Pow-Wow Practice

Pow-Wow Practice II

Pow-Wow Butterflies

Little Eagle Dancing

Little Bear Dancing II

Little Bear Dancing III

Little Bear Dancing IV

Little Bear Playing

Little Butterfly Bear

The Baby Sitter

His Last Hunt

One More

One More Bull


The Hunter, The Hunted, and the Horse

Spirit Hunter

Geronimo On Background


Buffalo Solder ~ Grover Hank

Dr. Harry Depew

Col. Al Gordon, soldier of war

The Great Emancipator


Hula Girl

A Fight for Food

A Kiss for His Majesty

Majestic Combat

In The Rut

Getting Away

Rushmore Goats

The Longhorn

Bull Moose Head

Big Horn Ram Head

Bull Elk Head

Buffalo Head

Bear Head

Wolf Head

A Desert Tail

Egg Watcher

Hummin' In The Flowers

Hummin' In The Roses

Porch Nesters

In The Garden
The above seventy-seven images are all courtesy of:

Wife and Son of White Bull
 The above five images are courtesy of:

The Eckmans work and reside in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Rapid City, where they draw much inspiration from the rugged landscape, its climate, the wildlife, and the historical importance of their surroundings.

To learn more about the Eckman Method ®, their sculptures and commissions, please visit their website at:

The War Bonnet

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