Introduction: Paper Mache Hearts

About: I teach in a Makerspace in a public elementary school in Oakland, CA. I also am obsessed with making mosaics.

This project is inspired by the colorful art I see when I visit Mexico.

I did this project with my 4th grade class as a gift for them to give for Valentine's day this year. In general, 4th graders were fine with it, but I wouldn't go any younger than that, because the 3-d paint bottles can be tough/frustrating to control, even for this age group. I had so much fun with these hearts, that I couldn't stop making samples for the class! I hope you enjoy it, too.

Step 1: Supplies

You will need:



Masking tape

Either liquid starch or glue

White acrylic paint or gesso

Colorful acrylic paint

small bottles of 3-d paint (usually used to decorate fabric, pictured in the 4th picture from the left, next to the white bottle of gesso)

a paper clip (optional, if you want a hook)

Step 2: Cut Out Heart.

Draw a heart on your cardboard. This one is about 10" x 8", one of the larger ones I've done. You can see from the title photo that you can vary the size.

Cut out the heart. I am lucky enough to have a cardboard saw, but scissors will also work.

Step 3: Prep the Heart

Crunch up some of the newspaper into balls.

Twist some of the newspaper into longer strips.

Make some masking tape loops, and place them on your heart.

Attach the newspaper balls in the middle.

Surround the balls with the longer, twisted pieces of newspaper.

The idea is to make the middle of the heart, higher, and then taper down towards the edges.

Don't worry if the newspaper isn't securely attached to the heart. The masking tape loops are just there to anchor the newspaper in place for the next step.

Step 4: Wrap With Masking Tape

Starting at the bottom, place strips of masking tape across the heart so all the newspaper is covered. I am careful to tell students not to wrap the tape all the way around, because that wastes tape. But you should make sure that the tape wraps a bit onto the back.

This is our first step in trying to make a smooth surface for painting.

Step 5: Paper Mache!

Cut newspaper into strips of varying lengths and widths.

I love to use liquid starch in the classroom because it is so easy to work with. I used to use a glue/water solution, and the students seem much happier with the liquid starch. Also, when you pour liquid starch out of the bottle into smaller containers to work with, it is very easy to pour back any that you don't use.

That being said, sometimes liquid starch is hard to find (although you can get it on amazon), and if glue is more available to you, you can also use glue, thinned out with a bit of water. It should still be sticky, but not as thick as the glue in the bottle. Go for the consistency (vinaigrette, not thousand islands).

So, one piece at a time, dip the newspaper in whichever paper mache solution you use, and place it on the heart, smoothing down each piece as you go. Use the longer, thicker pieces toward the bottom and in the middle, and the smaller pieces towards the top of the heart. If it gets too sloppy, you can put a dry piece of newspaper on the heart to soak up some of the moisture. Just make sure that you smooth it down. If it's too dry to smooth down, splash a little liquid starch/glue solution on it.

Like with the masking tape, make sure that the newspaper wraps around to the other side (see picture on the far right). Feel free to add more than one layer. Once you get started, it can be hard to stop! Just keep in mind that the goal is to make a smooth surface for painting.

When you have covered the whole thing, let it dry over night.

Step 6: Prime With White Paint or Gesso

Once the paper mache has dried, paint the heart with either white acrylic paint or gesso.

Let this dry.

Step 7: Paint the Base Color

Using the colorful acrylic paint, pick a base color and paint the whole heart.

Let it dry.

Step 8: Decorate!

Using the 3-d scribbler paints, add decorations. When you use these paints, test them out on a piece of scrap paper before you use them on your heart. These little bottles are a little trickier than they seem. I've had a lot of success with keeping the design simple: lines and dots. If things go horribly wrong, you can wipe off accidents with a damp paper towel. Or just work it into your design!

Key words for this step: Keep your design simple!

I added a handout if you need simple decoration ideas.

Step 9: Add a Hook

If you want to add a hook:

Poke a hole in the back of your heart.

Open up a paper clip.

Poke the paper clip into the hole. It shouldn't fall out, but if you want, you can put a bit of glue in the hole for security.

Step 10: Student Work

Here are some samples of my students' work. They were really happy to bring them home.

I hope you enjoy this project.

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