Home > Craft Topics > Craft Introductions > Papier Mache
is regarded by many as child’s play, but the remarkable range and
beauty of objects modelled from paper and glue have earned papier mache a
well deserved position among the important decorative
crafts. It is also
easy to start, cheap to do and great fun.
This ancient craft originated in China and has been adopted by cultures
around the world to make a huge range of objects from soldiers helmets in
China and suits of armour in Japan to delicate pen cases in Kashmir; from
ornate, inlaid tables and chairs in 19th century Britain to
complete buildings, including a church in Norway.
The basic techniques have changed little over the centuries,
although styles of decoration vary from country to country. When papier
mache first became popular in Europe it was for reasons that are just as
relevant today: paper seems too valuable a material to throw away and it
is easy to work with.
In England papier mache began to flourish in the 18th century and factories were set up to manufacture products. Some of the pieces from this period, such as tea trays, dressing tables, cabinets and candlesticks are exquisitely decorated. The vogue at the time was to imitate oriental designs: the dried papier mache was coated with a glossy black lacquer (a process called japanning) and then decorated with mother of pearl, gold leaf and colourful painted leaves and flowers.
There are few rules when it comes to decorating the papier
mache object, but in actual preparation
of the paper and the method of making there are time honoured
techniques that it pays to
The first decision to be made is whether to use the paper in
pulp form or whether to build up shapes using paper strips in layers.
Choosing which method to use depends mainly on the texture required and
There is also the question of how to shape the raw material;
an existing object can be used as a mould, an original shape can be based
around an armature or template, or a mould can be made from modelling
Making the most of what is immediately to hand is the best
motto when using papier mache. Necessities include paste and glue
(preferably not containing a fungicide), petroleum jelly and, of course,
paper. Newspaper is readily available, although it is worth experimenting
with various papers to try out different effects. Anything from tissue
paper to heavy packing paper can be used.
The surface must be sealed with primer before it is
decorated: a variety of paints, varnishes and lacquers may be used to
decorate and protect the surface.
The layering mould – This involves soaking torn paper
strips in adhesive and then building them up in layers with the edges
Patience is needed as each layer must be allowed to dry completely before the next layer is applied. A papier mache dish, for instance, required eight layers on average, so it may take several days to complete the one piece.
The pulp method – The pulp method only needs drying once.
Recipes may vary but the usual method is to tear the paper into small
squares, soak them overnight in warm water (or boil them) and then mash
them to a pulp. This is squeezed by hand to remove most of the water
before adding the glue. The papier mache can be put in an electric blender
(kept specifically for this purpose) at this stage to create a finer
working material. It is also possible to add a filler such as chalk of
whiting which will make the finished article more dense with a lighter
Shaping – The easiest method is to use an existing mould
– this could be a bowl, bottle or a balloon. To be sure that the
finished object will come away easily, the mould is greased with a
lubricant such as petroleum jelly or lined with cling film or foil.
With awkward shapes like a water jug the papier mache cannot be taken off in one piece. Instead the dried piece is cut in half, taken from the mould and rejoined with more strips of paper.
Large sturdy structures can be made by using armatures
frames). These give support to the papier mache which tends to sag and
become unwieldy if used in too large a quantity. It is easier to work
pulped paper on an armature as the damp mass can be moulded onto the
frame, rather like clay. An armature can be made from any scrap of
material as it is not visible in the finished product, though many
craftspeople use chicken
Templates are excellent for smaller objects such as
jewellery or mobiles. Pieces of thick card, coated in varnish to make the
surface waterproof, provide a cheap and efficient base. Like the armature,
templates are then covered by either strips or pulp.
Objects can also be cast from clay moulds made for this purpose. The cast has to be cut in half to be removed from the enclosed mould which can then be reused.
Whatever method is used – pulp or layering – finished
items, once dry, have to be sealed before they can be decorated. Emulsion
paint can be used as a sealant – it provides a good surface to decorate
and stops decorative paints seeping through the porous paper underneath.
It also helps to prevent the pattern of the newsprint showing through.
Decorating – One of the most appealing aspects of papier mache is that it can be decorated in a wide variety of ways. All pieces can be individual, even those made from the same mould. Papier mache artifacts can be embossed with anything from beads, string and plasticine to sand, metal and leather. Decoupage is another favourite decorative effect and some exquisite finishes are achieved with water gliding.
Contributions to this page are more than welcome - please send us your inclusions for approval.
You may copy this article and place it on your own website, as long as you do not change it and include this resource box including the live link to Walkaboutcrafts.com Copyright © Walkabout Crafts
would like to make a donation towards the upkeep of this web site then
that would be greatly appreciated. Please click below to make a donation.
Spread the Word...
We are a non funded, non profit organisation and we need your help. To help us promote 'Walkabout Crafts'; Please recommend us to your friends or if you have a web site / social network page please add our link (selection of banner and text links can be found at http://www.walkaboutcrafts.com/banners.htm ), or if your feeling really generous please send a donation.
If you have suggestions of how we can improve our service, please let us know. We love to hear from you!
Find the perfect gift; Exquisite hand made gifts, art, crafts and souvenirs...
Sell Crafts online, Craft Courses, Events, Projects and business advice...
Colouring pages, recipes, Celtic fonts, music, competitions, downloads...
home | about us | buy | sell | gift shop | craft topics | free gifts | contact
. . . .
Walkabout Crafts is a non funded, non profit web site. 100% of all sales go directly to the members. Please support us by telling your friends about us - thank you. Copyright © Walkabout Crafts All rights reserved. Telephone: +44 (0) 773 328 4443