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dish made of Papier-maché

The material.

Papier-mâché is a material made from paper mixed with glue. It's used to create simple artworks with irregular shapes, such as decorative pieces, masks, or ornaments. The strength and water resistance depend on the type of glue used, the framework, and any additional treatments. The name "papier-mâché" originates from France. French women used to buy waste paper from publishers and bookbinders and chewed it to soften it. Hence the name "papier-mâché," which literally translates to "chewed paper" in French.

That was before the invention of machines that could grind paper finely. Despite its French name, papier-mâché is not a French invention. Paper was invented in China in the 2nd century AD. It wasn't until the end of the 10th century that paper replaced the fibers of the papyrus plant, which had been used since ancient Egypt. So, paper replaced papyrus but adopted its name! In France, papier-mâché was already used in the 16th century for doll heads, but it wasn't until the 17th century that French craftsmen, as the first in Europe, became interested in papier-mâché for commercial purposes.

suppliesPapier-mâché can be divided into two categories:

  • Working with layers of paper.
  • Working with pulp.

Of course, you can also combine both methods. For both methods, you use the same materials: paper and glue.

The glue.

There are different types of glue used in papier-mâché. Here's an overview:

  • Wallpaper paste: This is a very cheap glue, and only a small amount is needed. However, multiple layers of paper are usually required to achieve sufficient strength
  • Flour and water glue: Boil 5 cups of water. Mix ¼ cup of sifted flour with a cup of cold water. Mix until you get a smooth paste without lumps. Add this mixture to the boiled water. Let it simmer gently for about three minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens. Let it cool before use. For a thicker glue, use 1 cup of flour for 3 cups of water. The process is the same.
  •  PVA glue: This is white household glue, which can also be wood glue. This glue is stronger than wallpaper paste or flour and water glue, so thinner layers can be used. The glue can also be diluted with water if needed.

All types of glue can be used for both the pulp and layering techniques.

The paper.

Various types of paper can be used for papier-mâché. While newspapers are commonly used, other options include:

  • Copy paper
  • Colored paper
  • Rice paper
  • Crepe paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Kraft paper
  • Egg cartons
  • Toilet paper

Each type of paper, influenced by its color or texture, can create different effects in the papier-mâché project.

The method using layers of paper:

For working in layers, the paper is torn or cut into small pieces or strips. These are then coated with glue and applied to a base form. Air bubbles are smoothed out with fingers or a brush. Avoid applying more than about 3 layers at a time to prevent excessive drying time. Then, you can build layer by layer until you achieve the desired thickness and shape.

last layer with white paperHandles and similar features can be cut out from cardboard. Tape these onto your form and then cover the entire structure with several layers of papier-mâché. After drying, which may take several days, you can remove the base form if desired. Then, you can proceed to further refine the shape if needed.