Instructions for Giant Papier Mache Sculpting

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Instructions for Giant Papier Mache Sculpting
Papier mache alligator. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Papier-mâché, also known as paper mache, is a sculpture technique that employs inexpensive materials such as newspapers or paper from the recycle bin. Make smaller items such as masks using the paper mache technique, or build giant sculptures such as characters for a parade float. When making a larger sculpture, it's imperative that the structure of the piece is sturdy. Build your sculpture on an armature, which is a frame used in sculpture.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Armature wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Tape
  • Wallpaper paste or white glue
  • Bowl
  • Newspapers
  • Scissors
  • Sandpaper
  • Colours
  • Decorations
  • Varnish

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Sketch your sculpture and establish the height and width for the piece.

  2. 2

    Build a wire frame for your piece. Bend and shape the wire to create a structure. Use tape to join two pieces of wire.

  3. 3

    Mix one part wallpaper paste and one part water in a large bowl. The mixture should have a pasty consistency.

  4. 4

    Cut a few newspapers into thin strips. Your strips can be longer to speed up your project.

  5. 5

    Dip a strip of paper in the bowl and place it on the wire armature. Fasten both ends of the paper strip to the closest element of the wire structure. Cover the entire frame and slightly overlap each strip of paper.

  6. 6

    Allow the first level of paper to dry overnight. Don't add other layers of paper yet.

  7. 7

    Apply several layers of paper on your sculpture without waiting for the paper to dry between the layers. Leave your sculpture to dry.

  8. 8

    When your sculpture is completely dry, sand the surface and remove any imperfections.

  9. 9

    Apply coloured paints on your sculpture. Glue on beads, yarn or other decorations.

  10. 10

    Varnish the papier mache sculpture to protect the colours and make the sculpture water-resistant.

Tips and warnings

  • Build the wire frame on a wooden stand, so that the sculpture has more stability.
  • For safety reasons, wrap each loose end of wire with tape when making your armature.
  • If you run out of wallpaper paste, use white glue or flour instead.
  • Mix some natural pigments in the glue or wallpaper paste to obtain a coloured sculpture.
  • Use acrylic colours or tempera, which dry quickly. Don't use too much water to dilute the colours to avoid damaging the sculpture.
  • Add some linseed or cooking oil to the papier mache paste to make the sculpture more resistant to fungi.

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