Ollerton artist aims to break world record with papier-mâché sculpture

Artist Emmely Elgersma, who grew up in Ollerton, is crowdfunding for an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the biggest ever papier-m�ch� sculpture.
Artist Emmely Elgersma, who grew up in Ollerton, is crowdfunding for an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the biggest ever papier-m�ch� sculpture.

An artist from Ollerton is hoping to break the Guinness World Record for the biggest papier-mâché sculpture next week.

Emmely Elgersma, aged 28, is now hard at work on a huge pot, measuring 13 feet high and wide, which will be unveiled at the Limbo Gallery in London on Thursday, April 4.

A former student at The Dukeries Academy and Vision West Nottinghamshire College, Emmely continued to hone her talents at the prestigious Central St Martins art school and Chelsea College of Arts, specialising in ceramics, painting and sculpture.

With so many skills, it might seem surprising she would choose to work with materials more often found in children’s classrooms.

Emmely says: “I was just trying to find something cheap, and which I could easily get vast amounts of.”

The world record project has so far used an estimated 400 bathtubs of glue and dozens of copies of the Metro and Evening Standard newspapers, which Emmely has been obtaining by the handful from her nearest train station.

It is not the first time she has created gallery work from papier-mâché.

She said: “I was inspired to undertake this challenge after creating four papier-mâché pots for my masters show at Chelsea, and then a sculpture featured in the Royal Academy 250th Summer Show. That work won me a funded residency, where I produced 100 pieces in a month.

“That process has sparked my love for papier-mâché and I am inspired to push the material to its aesthetic limits on a global level. It’s not that common to see it used in the world of fine art, but the Franz West exhibition now on at Tate Modern shows how much you can do with it.”

The world record is currently held by a Mexican art collective, who created a 12ft mariachi sculpture in 2017.

Emmely says: “I’ve always wanted to make a really big pot, and I thought I might convince more people to back a record attempt.”

Proving her point, the glue, and 30 litres of gold paint, have been paid for by an online crowdfunding campaign which raised more than £1,000 in four days.

Emmely says: “I’ve never tried to raise money like that before, but it was coming in from all over world.

“Total strangers were donating, along with people who follow me on Instagram, and the friends and family who I’ve blackmailed.

“Everyone who has donated will have their name listed on the pot. It adds an element of pressure which is helping me to get it done.”

For all that support, the work is mostly a lonely endeavour, although members of the public have been popping in to the gallery to watch Emmely gradually layering her pot into existence.

She says: “I’ve been given the space for a month, and I’ve probably put in about 60 hours of work so far, not including drying time.

“There are physical and mental challenges to it. The hardest part is remaining sane while going through the repetitive motion, and my hands going cold from being dipped in glue for three hours at a time.”

Emmely hopes the piece will get a warm reception once it goes on show – for one weekend only.

She said: “I think people are expecting something a bit weird and wonky. I want to confuse and amaze them.

“It’s not often you get to see something on this scale which really isn’t meant to be on that scale. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s reaction, or not, if it doesn’t stick together.”

Once the world record is secure, the pot will meet a ceremonial end.

Emmely said: “It’s going to be painful to watch, but I think the plan is to burn it. It’s so big that there is nowhere to store it. But if I’ve got the record certificate on my wall, I’ll be very happy.

“I’m not sure what my next project will be. I don’t think I would do another world record ... yet. I might go into retirement.”

To have your name added to the project, make a donation at goo.gl/x1hm38.
To view more of Emmely’s work, go to emmely.co.uk.