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Paper Mache as an Art Medium

Updated on October 25, 2016

Paper Mache isn't Just for Kids

Paper Mache requires few tools, simple materials, and recycles old paper into art. Now we associate it with children's school projects but paper mache started out as and remains a medium for fine art. Read on to learn more about this great medium (and if you have kids this could be an art you can share and work on together).

What is Paper Mache?

"Paper Mache or Papier-mâché (French for 'chewed-up paper' because of its appearance) is a construction material that consists of pieces of paper, sometimes reinforced with textiles, stuck together using a wet paste (e.g., glue, starch, or wallpaper adhesive). The crafted object becomes solid when the paste dries."

More from Wikipedia

That's the technical definition. However more of us remember paper mache from school, especially covering balloons with strips of newspaper. Well paper mache is much more than just a material for kids projects and piñatas. It has been and still is used as a material for fine art. So throw away your visions of 2nd grade and have some fun with paper mache as a grown up.

Paper Mache Methods

There are two basic types of paper mache.

Strip Method

This is the kind we all remember from grade school. Building up layers of paper strips which have been dipped in glue/paste. This method works best for creating hollow forms like bowls and masks.

Torn strips of newspaper (or other scrap paper) are dipped in glue and then built up in layers over a form. Forms can be balloons, wiremesh such as chicken wire, or balled up paper. Good glues for the strip method are wheat paste, PVA (white) glue thinned with water, or wallpaper paste.

Pulp Method

Paper mache pulp is mashed up paper mixed with a binder such as white glue or wallpaper paste, it can be very fine or quite chunky and is a bit clay like in the way it is sculpted. It works best for solid figures. There are many recipes for pulp which are listed below.

Both forms can be combined in one piece. For example a face form for a mask can be built with strips and then details added with pulp.

Paper Mache Pulp Recipes

While you can buy paper mache mixes that will save time and mess, making your own is just so much fun. Plus you can tailor it to exactly what you need.

Notebook - Leave your questions or comments.

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    • profile image

      nonya222 4 years ago

      I like to work with this stuff but it never turns out very well. Your lens has encouraged me to try again.

    • AngelDey profile image

      AngelDey 5 years ago

      I was kind of looking for something to do with a ton of paper I am getting ready to turn into pulp. I was planning on just making sheets of my own paper and was looking for something to do with it all, when I wondered if I could do some kind of wet sculpting with it. I think some of these paper mache ideas might help.

    • KevCooper profile image

      KevCooper 5 years ago

      You can do so much with paper mache it's such a useful medium. Good lens

    • Dimplefree profile image

      Dimplefree 5 years ago

      Paper mache is so versatile.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 5 years ago

      very nice, love the fish!!!

    • CarynJSwift56889 profile image

      CarynJSwift56889 6 years ago

      good lense, thanks for sharing~

    • VanDykeJewelry LM profile image

      VanDykeJewelry LM 6 years ago

      We have a lady, Cherri Craty, in Asheville who uses paper pulp on canvas and applies it with a porcupine quill!

    • Laniann profile image

      Laniann 6 years ago

      I love working with paper mache. Very good video for a 4 minute dragon.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 6 years ago from UK

      great info, I have just found a book on this subject in a second hand store, lots of projects but basics are kind of assumed. Thanks for filling in the gaps

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      I have heard that paper mache can actually be used to make furniture...I am going to try a shelf and see.

    • profile image

      AbbyJ 8 years ago

      Wow, how cool is that dragon!! great lens, i really enjoyed it :)

    • annetteghallowe1 profile image

      annetteghallowe1 8 years ago

      I have done paper mache with strips, but have always wanted to use the pulp. Thanks for the impetus!

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 9 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Great lens. I've never worked with paper mache but I think I should rectify that soon

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 9 years ago from Croatia

      Hi Noadi!

      Would you consider joining Reuse it all! group with your paper mache lenses? It's featuring all lenses that have something with reusing stuff people normally trash!

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 9 years ago from Vermont

      I've been longing to work with paper mache - this gives me the push I needed to get going! 5*s, great lens, faved too.

    • profile image

      ThomasC 9 years ago

      Very thoughtful lens! Great job, you done well! 5*'s

      ThomasC

    • Webcodes LM profile image

      Webcodes LM 9 years ago

      You bring back fun memories of when I was making mountains with Paper Mache mountains. It's definitely something I'll try with my 4 year old. Thanks for the lens 5*

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      What fun! I'm going to try to make a witch or something for Halloween. Its my husbands favorite holiday.

      Great lens

      5*

      Lizzy

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 9 years ago from Maine

      It's probably just done with glue. Water down white glue until it's easily brushable and use a paintbrush to apply glue to the doilies. Not knowing exactly what the figures look like I can't be more specific about how they may be constructed.

    • profile image

      stresslessone 9 years ago

      Hi, this is a beautiful lens...but I have a question! For years we have decorated for Christmas, using paper mache figures...angels, rich wisemen etc. they stood about 18 inches tall and seem to be made with paper doil1es decorative paper! I have been looking for years in craft stores for some directions, but have yet to find any.I am an artist and would love a little blurb of intro and tutorial and get to building. Do you think you could help?

      stresslessone

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 9 years ago

      Very information, great lens *****

    • jeffshy profile image

      jeffshy 9 years ago

      Those dog photo's show me that our own paper mache projects have a bit to go.

    • profile image

      enslavedbyfaeries 9 years ago

      Great fun can be found right here! My girls love any project that involves getting their hands dirty. I can't wait to give your recipes and ideas a try. We watched the Fishwichwich video a while back and were amazed by the process.