Paper mache, or papier mache, is an inexpensive craft that gives free reign to creativity, artistry and style. Using old newspaper and balloons, it is a simple way to turn trash into beauty. Paste is made with only flour and water, and is perfect for children, turning the average day into an unforgettable event. Even better, it is quick to clean, leaving little or no mess from the masterpiece created.
Clear your workspace. Cover it with newspaper, a throwaway tablecloth or trash bags to prevent paste from touching the table. Select an area that can be utilised for three to four days; layers will take days to dry.
Find balloons to make the mould for your paper mache person. Blow balloons up to the appropriate size. Remember, three to four layers of paper mache will be added to the balloon, adding an additional thickness. If you're looking for something thin, buy carnival balloons, which are slim and long.
Use masking tape to hold the balloons together and form the body. Check to make sure arms and feet are the same sizes and that the head is proportional to the body. Use bowls or cardboard to add extras to the person, such as a hat or skirt.
Tear newspaper into strips 1 to 2 inches wide. Vary the length of strips when tearing to make them blend in when forming the body. Do not cut the newspaper into strips. Straight edges take away from the rugged mould of paper mache. Lay paper aside when you're finished.
Make paste by adding three parts of water to every two parts of flour. Make the amount necessary to cover the entire body. Stir the paste rapidly and feel its thickness. Add more water if it feels too thick, more flour if it appears to be too thin. Paste is most productive when thin because it will not clump and it is easier to spread. Seal the paste in a container with a lid if some is left over. Store it in the refrigerator until needed. Let it return to room temperature before applying.
Dip a newspaper strip into the paste. Use two fingers to remove excess paste from the strip before applying it to the mould. Place the strip on the body, starting at the head. Apply strips until the body is entirely covered.
Let the newspaper dry completely. Drying could take three to four hours or an entire day, depending on the thickness of the paper and the amount of glue used. Touch the paper gently before beginning the next layer; if it is mushy or appears to sink in, it is still wet. Place a fan in front of the body to speed its drying. Give your model three or four layers.
Use a box cutter or a sharp pair of scissors and cut straight down the back of the body. Pull the paper mache layers away from the body until you see the balloons. Pop the balloons, and remove them from inside the body using a pair of tweezers or a butter knife. Push the sections back together after the balloons have been removed, and apply another layer of paper mache, blending the crack back into the body.
Add cinnamon to the paper mache mixture if the odour is too strong. Have paper towels on hand to wipe sticky fingers.
Tips and warnings
- Add cinnamon to the paper mache mixture if the odour is too strong.
- Have paper towels on hand to wipe sticky fingers.