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Papier Mache

It’s amazing how far a papier mache project can go!

Whether a pink pig money box made using a balloon & egg carton pieces to create the base (our current unfinished project) or a reasonably sized egg carton & papier mache cubby house (photos follow further down), papier mache is an easy, if somewhat messy craft form that can be undertaken with and for children from a young age. As with much craft – you are only limited by your imaginations!

I’ve classed this as an indoor activity, but due to the general mess that is hard to avoid you may choose to make your creations under a shady verandah and/or on an outdoor table. I must admit we have tended to make most of our creations during the rainy winter months indoors – however, I appreciate this might not be for everyone (we have plenty of reasonably sized hard floor surfaces and no carpets).

Papier-mâché (French for ‘chewed paper’), alternatively, paper-mâché, is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste. (Wikipedia)

We use the following glue recipe (used elsewhere on this website) but you can also find some other good & safe alternatives at:

http://www.papiermache.co.uk/tutorials/getting-started-with-papier-mache/

Simple Glue Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

Method:

  • Mix flour and sugar in a saucepan
  • Add half the water and mix into a thick paste – without lumps if possible.
  • Pour in the rest of the water and mix into a smooth paste.
  • Add the teaspoon of vinegar and put on medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken.
  • Cool and transfer to an air tight container.

This glue will keep for a few days if left out. Alternatively refrigerate to prolong life. You’ll need to water this glue down to get a reasonably runny consistency to soak your newspaper in which we’ll get to in a minute.

One of the nice things about papier mache is you do not need any special supplies! You can use many items found around your house to make molds and forms for almost any creation you can dream up. For our pig we used a balloon, for our house, egg cartons to create bricks. Corrugated cardboard can make a great base for project as can lightweight cardboard like from cereal boxes. I’ve seen chicken wire used to good effect with older children making dinosaurs! Shoe boxes can be used to create a pirate’s treasure chest or similar….and toilet rolls can make good bases for arms and legs – I’ve seen a gorgeous robot made using a child’s shoebox and toilet rolls as the base. Masking tape may be useful for holding base items together prior to starting to apply the paper.

Once you have made your glue and organized your base it’s time to begin the fun & messy part!

You’ll need:

  • A decent bowl/container to soak paper in – we have found low and wide to be the easiest.
  • Plenty of newspaper – both to cover surface you are working on and to tear into strips.
  • Paint and other decorative items (but this comes much later…creating papier mache does take a while!)

What next?

  • Tear newspaper into strips (much better and more fun than cutting with scissors). The length of your strips may vary depending on the size of your papier mache project; however, you will want your strips to be about 1- to 2-inches wide.
  • Dip one piece of newspaper at a time into prepared papier mache paste mixture. You want to newspaper strip completely saturated. To be honest, while this is probably the best thing to do – we end up with dozens of strips in our glue mix and it doesn’t really matter…it all gets used in the end!
  • Hold the strip over the paste bowl and run it through your fingers to squeeze off excess paste. This will be done to varying degrees dependent on the age of children.
  • Stick the newspaper strip over the form you want to paper mache, and smooth it down with your fingers.
  • Completely cover your creation with a layer of newspaper strips. They should all be over-lapping and running in different directions.
  • After one layer is applied, let it dry completely. This can take up to 24 hours (or more depending on how much glue your little person/people use!)
  • Add a second layer of newspaper strips and let it dry completely.
  • Repeat this process until you get the desired effect, but you should have at least three layers of papier mache newspaper strips to ensure a strong, long lasting structure.
  • Paint, decorate and proudly display and/or use your creation! Our egg carton cubby lasted two years and was played in every day by various children in addition to our daughter.

In seeking a definition for papier mache I stumbled across the following cute online children’s magazine http://papier-mache.com.au which may be of interest to some.