Celluclay instant papier-mache (available from hobby stores or dickblick.com)
Resealable plastic bag
6-inch square of parchment paper and a pencil
Wooden candle cup, 2 inches tall with a 7/8-inch diameter hole for the candle (Note: You will need two if you want to make a pair of candleholders.)
Thin palette knife
Acrylic paints in orange, black, white, pale yellow, and brown
Brush-on water-base clear finish
How to Make It
Mix a few handfuls of instant papier-mache with warm water, following the manufacturer's instructions. Note: Mix small batches of papier-mache and keep the moistened mixture in a resealable plastic bag while you work (to prevent drying).
Knead the papier-mache mixture with your hands until it is smooth and workable. Keep a small bowl of water handy to moisten your fingers as you form the candleholder.
Draw a 3-1/2-inch-diameter circle onto the center of the parchment paper square. Roll a 2-inch diameter ball of the papier-mache mixture in your palms. Press the ball onto the center of the parchment paper circle.
Smooth the edges of the papier-mache ball to the edges of the parchment paper circle using the palette knife. Smooth the papier-mache into a slightly rounded mound about 1/2 inch tall.
Roll a 1-inch-diameter ball of the papier-mache mixture. Place the ball atop the center of the mound on the base, forming a platform for the wooden candle cup (see photo 1).
Use the candle cup to flatten the top of the mound (see photo 2). The platform should measure about 1-1/4 inch in diameter and 1/2 inch tall. Using the palette knife, roughly smooth the platform where it joins the base. Note: This area does not need to be perfectly sculpted. It will eventually be inside the sculpture.
Place the papier-mache base (with the parchment paper on the bottom) on a cookie sheet. Bake at 200°F for about 1 hour. After the base hardens, allow it to cool. Glue the wooden candle cup to the platform; let the glue dry thoroughly.
Mix a few handfuls of instant papier-mache with warm water, following the manufacturer's instructions. Apply the mixture around the wooden candle cup up to its brim and around the platform, leaving 1 inch of the base uncovered all around at the bottom. With the palette knife, smooth the papier-mache into a round head that surrounds the candle cup.
Roll papier-mache mixture into two balls, each the diameter of a nickel; form each ball into a triangular-shape ear and press it onto the head. Smooth the ears to the head with the palette knife.
Roll three marble-size balls of papier-mache for the cheeks and nose and one tiny pea-size ball for the chin. Attach the cheek and chin papier-mache balls to the cat head, and blend in place with the palette knife. Flatten the remaining marble-size ball, and shape it into a 1x2x2-inch triangle for the nose. Press it onto the head; blend it in place with the palette knife. Using the toothpick, carve out a mouth shaped like a hot dog, stretching between the two cheeks.
Place the finished sculpture on a cookie sheet and bake it in an oven set at 200°F for at least 1 hour or until hardened. If the papier-mache is uneven after it has hardened, patch the head and base with additional papier-mache mixture; let air-dry.
Use fine-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the head/base until the surface is smooth. Base-coat the entire sculpture with orange paint. Paint the head black, excluding the cheeks, and allow some of the orange base coat to peek through. Add black dots to the orange base.
Paint the eyes with a mix of white and pale yellow, the mouth with pale yellow, and the ear and eye details with orange. Paint the pupils, whiskers and teeth with black (see photo 3). Let dry.
Mix a small amount of brown paint with water and apply to the entire candleholder to create an aged patina; let dry.