Paper mache may be the most cost-effective sculptural media if you utilise simple components in the paste formula. Although paper mache is inexpensive, it isn’t just for kids!
In the early grades of school, almost every child makes a mask, volcano, or piggy bank out of this inexpensive art material. Unfortunately, most individuals, even aspiring painters and sculptors, never return to this low-cost medium. They don’t understand that paper mache may be used to build stunning sculptures and wall hangings that make excellent presents. Your completed item may even be able to compete with the best art in a local gallery if you apply enough attention and imagination.
I’ve been sculpting with paper mache for more than 50 years, and I always go back to the simplest paper mache recipe, which only requires white flour and water. For particular occasions, I do add a few items to my basic paste recipe.
1st Paper Mache Recipe:
A paste made of white flour and water is surprisingly powerful. Some people believe that the substance generated by laminating paper with wheat paste is robust enough to be used to construct buildings. Of course, your completed sculptures won’t have to hold up a home, but you’ll be pleased to hear that they can be sanded and drilled just like wood.
To produce the paste, just pour some white flour into a basin and gradually add water until you reach a workable consistency. What thickness should your paste be? It’s entirely up to you to decide. Experiment with thick pastes that resemble hotcake batter as well as thin, runny pastes. You get to choose which ones you want to use. Mix your paste vigorously by hand with a spoon until there are no lumps, or save time and use a mixer.
Keep in mind that the flour, not the water, gives your paper mache sculpture its strength. It’s just necessary for your paste to be runny enough to soak into the paper. Heavy Kraft materials require a thinner paste, whilst softer papers, such as newspaper, can handle a larger paste. Experiment!
To prevent mould from growing once your craft is done, each layer of paste and paper put to it must dry completely. Why not use fungicide-containing wallpaper pastes? There are two reasons why I prefer to use plain white flour pastes over mold-prevention additives. First and foremost, compared to any other form of art supply, white flour is dirt inexpensive. Second, I despise the notion of dipping my hands in something poisonous. This would be much more significant if tiny children assisted me with my initiatives.
To avoid mould growth in your projects, keep in mind that moulds cannot grow in the absence of water. As a result, make every effort to properly dry off your projects. My little sculptures are frequently placed near a radiator or in a heated oven (not above 200 F). Next summer, I plan to construct a solar dryer large enough to dry larger objects. The essential secret is to make sure the sculpture is completely dry before applying paint or another finish; if any moisture is left inside when applying paint or another finish, the sculpture will rot from the inside out, which is a very sad outcome.
2nd Paper Mache Recipe:
In most of my paper mache work, I prefer to add a’skin.’ After the sculpture has dried fully, I sand it (paper mache can be sanded, sawn and drilled – just like wood). After that, I add a little carpenter’s glue to my flour and water mixture. If I want the skin layer to show through in the final finish, I may apply coloration now. This paste recipe may be made using powdered colours or acrylic paints.
The carpenter’s glue gives the paste a warm tone, gives it a somewhat transparent appearance (unless pigments are added), and keeps the paste’s skin layer from splitting when it dries. You may achieve a fully smooth surface for painting or finishing by applying many applications of this paste to the outside of your projects and sanding between coats. When I want the underlying paper to show through on the completed object, I skip this last layer.
Useful Papers for Paper Mache:
Newspaper, broken into little strips, is the typical paper to use for paper mache. (Cut edges should be avoided since they are unsightly.) Newspaper is inexpensive and pliable, making it simple to bend and shape around a sculpture. If the object is just ornamental (i.e., not a toy), only a few layers of paste and paper are required to make the finished sculpture sturdy.
You may use brown Kraft paper from paper bags instead of the customary newspaper, which will give your sculpture a naturally warm tone if left unpainted. If you plan to use this paper for a lot of projects, you can buy rolls of it for a few dollars in the hardware area of your local Walmart.
Softer materials, such as paper towels and tissue paper, can also be used. Softer papers are utilised to create delicate details, while textured paper towels can be used as a finishing touch. For example, to give a dragon sculpture a lifelike leathery skin, I utilised a final coating of paper towels.
After your paper mache sculpture has dried fully, you may paint or stain it with practically any paint or stain. To protect it, a final layer of water-based verathane may be applied. You can make a wide range of sculptures, piggy banks, masks, and wall hangings using these simple paper mache recipes, which can be made with ingredients found in your kitchen or at your local hardware store. Your imagination can run wild, and your delightful creations will cost only a few dollars in materials.