Introduction: Paper Mache

About: Born in England many years ago, moved to California in 1980, moved to New York in 1993, became a US citizen. Favourite place to visit, besides London England, is Lake Winnipesaukkee in New Hampshire, home of …
Paper mache (or papier mache) is fun to do. It is also a very cheap way to be creative. You can make all sorts of interesting items using this process,  The pumpkin is for halloween and I formed a ball shape over plastic grocery bags.   The sun faces were moulded over an old salad bowl, and then painted.  The snake is a wire coat hanger coiled round and covered and painted.

Step 1: Mixing the Mix

Here are the ingredients for the mixture.

Old newspaper
Flour, salt and luke warm water from your kitchen.
and a mixing bowl

(basic paste recipe - ratio of 1/2 cup of flour, large spoonful of salt to 1 cup of warm water)

Put the flour and salt into the bowl and gradually add luke warm water and mix with your hands until you have a smooth paste that is neither lumpy or watery. It should be like a thick, creamy soup. If you line your bowl with an empty plastic grocery bag you will be able to contain the mess and throw the bag away when you are finished.

By the way, the salt helps your finished creation from going mouldy inside.

Step 2: Newspapers Are Best

Newspapers are good for making the paper mache as the paper is more porous than other kinds of paper and bonds easily with the paste. You need to tear the paper up into manageable strips or pieces. Do not cut the paper, as the ragged edges of the torn paper meld with each other to make a smoother finish.

Step 3: Next

When you have mixed your paste and torn up your newspaper you are ready to begin. However, you must decide what you are going to make! I have made many different things and make "forms" out of wire hangers and plastic grocery bags, lavishly covered with masking tape to make adding the paper mache "mix" very easy.

When I have my "form", this is when I start covering the whole thing with the paste and paper. You can apply the paste on a brush or a sponge, or with your fingers, until you have covered the surface of whatever form you have moulded with your paper. You will have to cover the form with at least three or four layers of paste and paper to make it nice and strong. You must also let the form dry before adding each additional coat. Be generous with the paste. Each strip of paper should be covered so they will all stick together. You can use all sorts of things for your basic form, for example blown up balloons, old tissue boxes, shoe boxes, wiffle balls - anything that is already the shape you want to make. For other forms use plastic grocery bags and masking tape and become a sculptor!

In the picture you will see one of the loons (that I love to make) covered with several layers of paste and paper. Also a giant ice cream cone that was made for a church event.

When moulding over something like a salad bowl you need to grease the surface of the bowl with vaseline first so that the paper mache is easier to remove in one piece when it is dry.

When working on small items or tricky areas where parts join together, use narrow, short strips of your newspaper.

Step 4: Finishing Off and Painting

When you are satisfied that you have added enough layers of paper mache to your form, and it is totally dry you can paint it or decorate in any way you want. Drying can vary according to the weather. In winter I place my completed paper mache form in the boiler cupboard.. When thoroughly dry you can actually sand paper the surface lightly to eliminate small uneven areas, but the surface has to be dry, or you will rip your creation to pieces. If your creation feels cool to your touch it needs to dry out more.

In summer the form can be placed in the sun to dry. Be warned, do not leave it out overnight, as the smell of the flour can attract critters. I had the throat of one of my loons torn out one night by something or other - I am sure whatever it was did not appreciate the mouthful of newspaper and plastic grocery bag that it managed to get!

Step 5: Examples

Here are some of the things I have made in the past. These still lurk on top of my cupboards! The bell was made with paper mache over a large plastic flower pot which I then covered with coppery coloured material and became the bell that hung in the Alamo during Vacation Bible School! The armadillo started out as a cat, but went a bit wrong, so I changed it!

For your first project I would suggest something round (like my pumpkin) as it is very easy to make.    .

Whatever you decide to make the main thing is to have fun.
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