“I’ve never seen a purple cow
I never hope to see one
But I can tell you anyhow
I’d rather see than be one.”

– Gelett Burgess, 1895

The purple cow became famous in a short humorous verse written by Gelett Burgess in 1895. Today the essence of the Purple Cow is a sense of something out of the ordinary. Something different. Something remarkable. Something unique.

Please join me as I create my version of the “Purple Cow”.

For the body base I used recycled styrofoam packing materials I had saved from a variety of places.

Using a low-temp glue gun I attached several pieces of styrofoam together to form a basic body shape.

The head shape was also formed from several pieces of styrofoam then attached with a low-temp glue gun. The legs are 2″ PVC pipe which have been glued to the body.

Using a “Hot Wire” styrofoam cutter I formed the basic shape of the head.

Since this is a large piece it  needs a stable base to protect the legs. Using screws and washers, PVC slip caps were secured to a half inch piece of plywood then the the PVC pipes were fitted into the caps. This was then glued and several layers of papier mache’ strips were applied.

I did some basic shaping on the legs and body using a variety of materials. To add form to the legs I used foam insulation that is manufactured to insulate plumbing pipes. For the udder I used pieces of large balloons that I’d covered in about 10 to 12 layers of papier mache’ strips. Then  I attached it with masking tape. Now it was ready for the first coat of papier mache’ strips.

After four coats of papier mache’ strips I now have a basic form to work from and am ready to add some shaping.

First I increased the girth of the cow and added shape to the back legs and udder. Several more layers of papier mache’ strips were applied over the new additions.

To make the bones protrude I glued foam insulation along the top and sides then ran some coaxial cable on top. For the shoulder and hip bones I used styrofoam balls.

Four layers of papier mache’ strips were then applied over  the “bones”.

Next I began shaping the body and upper legs with pieces of styrofoam and foam insulation. More layers of papier mache’ strips were then applied.

While the layers were drying I started to work on the hoofs and teats. For the teats I used foam insulation and plastic beads. This was then covered with masking tape and three layers of strip mache’  using  shop towels instead of paper. The shop towels are similar to paper towels but much stronger. They are  more flexible than paper and do not require as many layers for strength.

For the hoofs I cut pieces of foam insulation in half. With a low-temp glue gun I applied the foam in layers to form a hoof shape.

With a sharp knife I shaped the hoofs.

I  added the dew claws then covered it all with masking tape.

Four layers of papier mache’ strips were applied to cover the hoofs and dew claws.

The teats were attached to the udder and a final coat of papier mache’ strips were applied to the entire cow.


My next step was to cover the entire cow with a layer of pulp clay. For this, I used a paper egg carton torn up into small pieces which I soaked in hot water for several hours. Using small amounts of the pulp and additional water I processed it on high speed in a blender. I ran the pulp through a sieve to drain off the excess water. I then placed it in a ziplock bag along with about half a cup of wallpaper paste, a quarter cup of white glue, a quarter cup of whiting and a quarter cup plaster, then “mushed” it altogether.

An easier way is to use a product called “Celluclay” and follow the directions.

With the cow completely covered in the pulp clay I started on the head. Using the end of a gourd I rounded  the nose. For the ears I used card stock covered with several layers of “shop towel” mache’ strips. While they were still wet I formed them into ears. The horn nubs are foam insulation pieces and the eyes are styrofoam balls. The head was then covered with the pulp clay and left to harden.

Making The Outer Skin

To make the outer skin I hand dyed heavy weight “butchers paper”  in various colors. First I wadded up the paper, wet it, squeezed out the excess water, smoothed it out then painted it with liquid acrylic paint.

While the dyed paper was drying I began to add detail to the hooves, legs, socks and head. I started with an undercoat of “celluclay” then, after that had dried, I added more detail with a product called “Paperclay”.

When the paper had dried I arranged it in color order then began to apply it to the cow using small ripped pieces and Mod Podge as an adhesive.

For the tail and the head fringe I used an unraveled piece of marine rope.
MooTilda’s eyelashes and upper part of the tail are made from a fabric called Lame’.
(She finally has a name)

MooTlda’s halter is made of velvet on which I embroidered four daisies. The cow bell was a donation from my Mom.

I started this piece in February 2008 and logged in a total of 483 working hours.
MooTilda’s debut was at Culpeper Fest in Culpeper Virginia where she won a first place ribbon. Her second appearance was at The Village Framework and Gallery where she was the Mascot for the Artist Of  Windmore  art show “Why Not A Purple Cow?” She has been featured in several newspaper articles and has made a cameo appearance on television.

I hope you have enjoyed watching my creation of MooTilda and that the process has inspired you to  create your own papier mache work of art.