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Paper Mache Hobby

I have made paper craft projects for puppets and theater props. This is a wonderful and inexpensive craft for making desirable objects.

Mexico - Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead paper mache figurine.

Day of the Dead paper mache figurine.

Why Paper Mache?

Paper mache originated with the Chinese people centuries ago. China was also the country that invented paper. This particular hobby or business enterprise is not new. Products and techniques change and improve through the years, but the art of paper stripping and pasting remains the same.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary the word is of French origin and means chewed paper.

In my opinion paper mache is the cheapest or most affordable hobby interest that anyone can do if you have imagination and enjoy creating original masterpieces.

Any paper can be used, free or purchased. Newspapers are popular, paper towels, toilet paper or a mix of paper varieties. Water is available. Most people have flour and salt in their pantry.

The skeleton or the foundation which is the mold may be made or gathered from any source. At times you may wish to purchase paper or wood glue, balloons, PVC piping, wood, or manufactured molds.

Let’s have fun from the beginning and gain hands-on-experience by working with what is available.

Newspaper Art and Craft

A man sitting in a chair reading a newspaper with his dog sitting at his feet. The entire realistic art and craft work is made of newspapers.

A man sitting in a chair reading a newspaper with his dog sitting at his feet. The entire realistic art and craft work is made of newspapers.

Beginning Steps and DIY Paste Mix

Steps:

Decide on a project

  1. Think how the skeleton is to be formed
  2. Draw plans if needed
  3. Cut or tear paper strips

Traditional Mix:

Stir together equal parts regular flour and water and a ½ or 1 teaspoon of salt if there is concern for mildew. Adding 1/2 cup of paper or wood glue is an option.

Mix until lumps are dissolved and formula is a thin paste.

I recommend salt if your environment tends to be humid. Thorough drying between paper strip applications usually prevents the formation of mildew.

A World Globe

A world globe made of paper mache.

A world globe made of paper mache.

Fruit and Balloons

As a beginner, start with something small. More advanced individuals may wish to work with their specialty.

Think how the skeleton is to be formed.:

The first project which I did in school was to paper mache bananas and balloons.

  • Wrap bananas with several layers of paper strips until you have the desired thickness.
  • Wait at least a week or longer to allow fruit to rot.
  • After this process, slice a two inch vertical cut to remove decayed fruit.
  • Dry thoroughly. Fill with dried beans or leave empty.
  • Wrap opening with paper strips dipped in paste, Dry thoroughly..
  • Paint with acrylics, and spray with a fix-it solution or varnish.

Use as noise makers, a percussion instrument, or fill a bowl with your fruit creations for a centerpiece.

Balloons

Different shapes of balloons offer excellent foundations. Cover with strips of paper dipped in paste. Apply Two layers of paper strips, dry thoroughly (usually 24 hours) and repeat applications until desired thickness.

Puncture the finished project with a sharp needle to deflate the balloon. It is an optional choice to remove the balloon or to leave it in.

Plans and Preparation

Draw plans for indoor and outdoor 3D Projects

After gathering supplies which will be the foundation for your creation, draw plans. If you are making a 12 inch bear drawing plans will help you with cutting out wood, cardboard, chicken wires, and other items which are being used to form the skeleton of the bear.. The assembled 3-D article becomes a visual aid as to the quantity of papers needed to fill and cover the product.

Preparation

  • Cut or tear your paper into strips. Any type of paper may be used.
  • Have a bowl of the flour mix next to the paper strips.
  • Dip strips into the solution
  • Pull paper through fingers to rid of excess mix then apply strips to the object. After covering everything once, let it try thoroughly (usually 24 hours), then apply second layer and let it dry.
  • Stop layering strips until desired thickness is achieved.

Paper mache Man

A paper mache man sitting in front of his wooden box organizer. .

A paper mache man sitting in front of his wooden box organizer. .

Foundation Ideas

Any object may be covered with paper strips. The problem which needs to be solved before applying strips is how to remove the foundation. Your creative ability to visualize engineering assorted items which can be easily removed is a challenge.

Skeleton Ideas

  • A balloon can be covered and then removed by piercing and popping it.
  • Plastic may be used to cover an object. Apply a thin layer of petroleum gel on to the plastic. Cover the object with paper mache. After it dries, remove the plastic from the object and the new papered product will break free.

Example: Cover a bowl with a plastic bag, apply a thin layer of petroleum gel, then apply paper strips. After the drying process is completed remove the original bowl and the plastic and the new paper mache product will break free.

  • Paper towel rolls, toilet rolls, paper egg cartons, cans, assorted food and drink containers, old containers which will be discarded after use, a variety of household objects, toys, and in some situations PVC or metal pipes may be used to create shapes or openings. Paper supports are easily removed. PVC, wood, and metal foundations will remain.

The props and the objects which can be used in limitless. Your engineering creativity is crucial. There are retail outlets which sell foundations. There are assorted baskets, boxes, chests, ornaments, shoes and boots, household decorator objects, masks, plants, hats, and much more.

Paper Strips and Pulp

Paper Strips or Pulp

The traditional paper strips soaked in the flour mixture does an excellent job. Applying and smoothing out wrinkles with your fingers for a smoother appearance is dependent on your skill level. Some people like to use paper towels or toilet paper for smoother texture.

Paper pulp is created by letting the papers soak until they are very soft. Use a beater to break up the newspaper fibers until all is like mush. Squeeze excess water and apply pulp to your skeleton surface. The results will be textured; similar to those gray colored egg cartons. .

Masks

Assorted variety of full face paper mache masks.

Assorted variety of full face paper mache masks.

Finishing Touches

Indoor – Paint your finished object with acrylic paints, Save your paint with a fix-it agent or varnish. Keep indoor projects away from water.

Outdoor – Use ceramic mortar mix, water resistant wood glue, urethane, exterior latex paint, exterior paints

Outdoor paper mache holds its strength against the weather by having a strong foundation. The foundation which bears weight or supports the object should be made from wood, PVC piping, plastic tubing, metal and other materials which survive well in bad weather.

The paste should include water resistant wood glue. The exterior needs to be protected with urethane or exterior latex paint and other exterior paints. There are new products which may provide water proofing with rubberizing ingredients.

Paper mache being what it is will always need to be repaired or repainted if left outdoors year round. There are many projects which can be made for those outdoor decorating holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Halloween.


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Comments

Larry Slawson from North Carolina on July 01, 2019:

I think my son would love this. May have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

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