It's only a Paper Tree:Paper Mache Project

I'm not normally a 3D artist. So I usually stick with 2D art work. My youngest has been come obsessed with nature, in particular trees. So I decided that we would make a "seasonal" tree. I wanted to educate him on the seasons. I thought it would it would be cool to have a tree we could attach things too or decorate each season. The best way to do this would be with a sculpture like tree. Thus paper mache.

Its kid friendly, it can be earth friendly and it's inexpensive. Yeah! A few of my favorite things!

This project will introduce sculpture, recycled or found art, organic design, color and of course science. The ages recommended for this is 3+.


Example of paper pulp paper mache for float
Example of paper pulp paper mache for float
Supplies for sculpture
Supplies for sculpture
Supplies for paste recipe
Supplies for paste recipe

Paper what?

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.

Paper mache is a fun and cheap way to introduce sculpture to children. After creating your sculpture you can sand it, cut it and paint it. Okay, you may have attempted paper mache when you were assigned to make the solar system or in art class. There is so much more you can make than masks and plants. Some examples are mardi grais floats as seen to the right. In fact, there are whole websites dedicated to the art form paper mache. I personally did not realize how popular it was. The things you learn.

Here are some supplies you will need for this project:

· Paper mache paste (You can buy paper mache paste or make it yourself. I have some recipes.)

· Strips of newspaper

· White computer paper*

· White Paint **

· Cardboard for the base of the tree

· Poster board

· More newspaper for the understructure ***

· Poster or acrylic paints

· Glue or glue gun

*This is optional

**If you are not using the white paper, you will need the paint to prime your sculpture before painting with poster paints.Once the newspaper strips dries, you will be able to see it under the paint unless primed.The white computer paper is an alternative to priming.

*** You can use wire, cardboard, balloons or basically anything that is sturdy and you can mold into the desired shape that you want.

Organic Design

Now we have the materials. What do we do next?

The key to making any kind of organic art whether it's 2d or 3d is to let the object flow. Nature is not really structured. It is not ridged. It is asymmetrical. Things like leaves, petals, tree limbs etc. appear in odd numbers like 1,3,5,7 and so on. That is why a four leaf clover is considered so lucky, so strange because that is considered a mutation. So it does not matter how the under structure looks. The more knobby and twisty the better your tree will look.

If you spend more than a day on the under structure, you are spending way too much time on getting perfect. Then your tree probably won’t look very organic. So stop working on it when you start getting stressed!

Before you start your tree you may want to go outside and sketch or take some pictures of trees for inspiration. Let your child pick his favorite tree. To take the education further into the science, pick out a specific tree in your yard or neighborhood .The get a book about the tree and learn some facts before you begin. You can also talk about how trees grow, what they give us, how the seasons change etc.

Boil Water
Boil Water
Flour and water
Flour and water
Whisk flour and water together
Whisk flour and water together
Flour and water without lumps
Flour and water without lumps
Flour and water mixture added to boiling water
Flour and water mixture added to boiling water

Paste Recipes

There are several recipes for paper mache paste. Here are a few of the most common methods. I did the first recipe which is the paste you "cook".

Flour and water paste:

This will make runny paste.

  • Boil 5 cups of water in a saucepan.
  • In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup of sieved flour with a cup of cold water. Mix to a smooth consistency (a bit like making custard). When completely free of lumps, add the mixture to the water in the saucepan. Gently boil, stirring constantly for two or three minutes until the mixture thickens.
  • Allow to cool before using.


No Cook Flour paste recipe:

If you prefer very thick glue (or if you are in a hurry for it to dry) use this non cook recipe instead.

  • Use 1 whole cup of flour to three cups of water. .
  • Mix to a smooth consistency; make sure it is completely free of lumps

* To prevent mold add tablespoon of salt.

Wallpaper paste glue:

Make up a bowl according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a little less water than recommended if preferred. Keep in an airtight container. It will keep for several days in a fridge or a cool place. Wallpaper paste has the advantage of containing a fungicide to prevent mould.

.

White glue paste:

Slightly water down the glue in a bowl and use straight away.

You can use any kind of Elmer’s glue or regular glue. It is recommended not to use washable glue for best results.

PULPED PAPIER MACHE

I have not tried this method of paper mache. I may try this as our next 3d project but I thought somebody might like to go ahead and take this to the next level.

This method will make a mixture of clay-like paper mache to sculpt with. See example above in the supplies section.

To make a pulp, soak some torn up newspaper in water overnight. Drain, and then boil in some clean water for about 30 minutes, until the fibers start to break up. Sieve the pulp and throw away the water. Beat or whisk the pulp to break up the fibers. Mix the paper mache paste into the pulp until it forms a clay-like consistency.

Rolling trunk: used several sheets
Rolling trunk: used several sheets
trunk
trunk
Adding dowel rods
Adding dowel rods
inside trunk base: I cut a hole added the dowel through 2 layers and used hot glue to secure
inside trunk base: I cut a hole added the dowel through 2 layers and used hot glue to secure
twisting paper for roots and branches
twisting paper for roots and branches
close up of roots and base
close up of roots and base
roots
roots
top filled newspaper and some branches covered
top filled newspaper and some branches covered
wrapping the trunk with newspaper to give more bulk and texture
wrapping the trunk with newspaper to give more bulk and texture
closeup of trunk with newspaper wrap
closeup of trunk with newspaper wrap

Making the Tree Understructure

You can use any kind of base and understructure you would like. I used what I had on hand like cardboard, some dowel rods, newspaper and white poster board. I also used a glue gun so I could get the understructure done quickly.

  1. I a rolled a couple of poster board together to make a trunk.
  2. I inserted a couple of dowel rods at the base to help support the truck and also to be roots.
  3. I glued it to the cardboard base.
  4. I then instead and glued dowel rods for some of the arms of the tree.
  5. I twisted newspaper and glued it to the bottom of the tree to form some additional roots.
  6. I stuffed some newspaper into the top of the truck.
  7. I wrapped the newspaper around the trunk to give it some volume.
  8. I twisted newspaper and wrapped it around the branches. I stuck with just creating some main branches. You can add as many off shoots as you want. I wanted something simpler since my boys are young and their attention spans are not very long.

torn newspaper
torn newspaper
torn white paper
torn white paper
dipping paper in paste
dipping paper in paste
Take 2 fingers and slide down to get the excess paste off
Take 2 fingers and slide down to get the excess paste off
1st layer
1st layer
2nd layer
2nd layer

Layering the Tree

I tore my newspaper and white printer paper into strips.

Then I dipped in the newspaper into the paste and started wrapping it around the truck, roots and limbs. I did three layers. You do not want to do any more than 4 layers. Now I let each layers dry a little bit before I added a new layer; so that the layer below would be firmer. The last layer I did in white computer paper. This is optional. If you do not use white paper, you will need to paint your tree in white paint to prime it

Next I waited four days for the tree to completely dry. Now drying time depends on humidity. The more humidity the longer the time. You can tell the sculpture is dry when you squeeze a section and it fells hard, solid. The trunk will not feel very hard, there might be some give to it but as long as it feels pretty solid, it will be fine.

Painting tree. My last layer was in white paper so I did not have to paint it white
Painting tree. My last layer was in white paper so I did not have to paint it white
Finished tree
Finished tree
Closeup of tree texture
Closeup of tree texture

Mom When Are We Gonna Paint the Tree?!

If you did not use white printer paper as your last layer you will need to prime the tree with white paint. It may a couple of layers so that the newspaper print is totally covered.

Let the painting begin! You can have the kids paint with brushes, sponges, sponge rollers, you can use paint pens, markers.

Here is final tree with spring paper flowers
Here is final tree with spring paper flowers

TA DA! Instant Spring!

Here is our final tree with some paper spring flowers. It turned pretty good I thought.

Enjoy your new found love of paper mache.


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Comments 4 comments

teresa8go profile image

teresa8go 5 years ago from Michigan, USA

I love papier mache! It is incredibly versatile. You did a great job of photo documenting the various stages of your work.

One idea that you might want to explore, since you are a 2-D artist, is adding a bit of 3-D with papier mache pulp to what would normally be a normal 2-D painting. I've seen something sold in a jar that looks like thin clay for painters to use for creating texture and adding dimension to their work. Papier mache would work just as well and cost a lot less.

Have Fun!


dutchvalleygirl1 5 years ago

Wonderful project! Thanks for the idea.


arty mom profile image

arty mom 5 years ago from Tricities TN Author

Thanks for the tip teresa8go! I'll try it out.


Jeff_McRitchie 5 years ago

This is awesome. I did paper mache back when I was a kid and remember how fun it was. Thanks for posting this.

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