Papier-Mache – A Sculpture From Paper and Paste




Sculpting is not only done from clay, ice, marble or pottery but can also be done using paper and paste. It is great for school projects and the kids will love it. Masks, bowls and fanciful sculptures can all be made with paper and paste or glue of any kind. Newspaper and white glue or wallpaper glue is most popular.

To build your papier-mâché sculpture you will need a base. You can use any light weight material that has the shape of the figure you are planning; wadded up aluminum foil, a cardboard model, tin cans, wire mesh or an inflated balloon. Shape the desired figure on the base by applying strips of paper that has been soaked in the glue. It can be either a mash of paper and glue or strips of two. For example, you can create a mask by laying strips of glue soaked paper over an inflated balloon. Facial features can be added by using mash. Then puncture the balloon and remover once dry.

When preparing the paper strips, do not cut the paper; rather tear the newspaper with the grain. By doing this it produces regular strips. The rough edges will mesh together to form a smoother surface. Mix the white glue with an equal amount of water. Wallpaper paste can be prepared by slowly mixing 1 part powdered paste with 10 parts water. To fireproof your papier-mâché you can add 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of sodium phosphate (from your pharmacy) to 250 ml of adhesive. Soak the newspaper strips in the glue mixture but not for too long as the paper will start to disintegrate. To make about 1 liter of mash you will need to tear 4 large newspaper sheets into small pieces and soak them overnight in 2 liters water. You can add 8 teaspoons of sodium phosphate for fire proofing. The next day boil the mixture for about 20 minutes then whip it with a whisk until the paper is soft and pulpy. Strain the pulp and squeeze it until it is a soft lump. Stir in 30 ml of white glue until there are no more lumps. Use the mask like modeling clay. Let the modeled piece dry overnight. You can also put it in the oven on a slow heat. It will dry faster this way. Once dry your piece is ready to paint. You can waterproof it by spraying it with a clear vinyl sealer or give it three or more coats of lacquer.

Your kids will love creating things with papier-mâché. It is very messy but a whole lot of fun and will keep them entertained for hours.