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Paper Mache Men

Fun Paper Mache Facts

In French, paper mache means "chewed paper." In ancient Egypt, coffins and death masks were often made from cartonnage, a type of paper mache. As early as 1540, paper mache was used to make doll heads.

If you have ever thought of making paper mache people, here are some guidelines to help you along.

Most of the materials you will have at home. They include:

  • Tie Wire

  • Newspaper

  • Alfoil

  • Masking Tape

  • Paper Mache Glue (see notes below)

  1. Start by using the tie wire to create the shape you are trying to create, in our examples we are creating people, so we used a piece of wire to create a round tummy, a smaller piece to create the head and then extras for arms and legs. Bend your wire to create the basic shape you are after.

  2. Place scrunched up newspaper inside the tummy and head of your person and then use the alfoil to secure the paper inside the frame, as well as securing the arms and legs in the position you are after.

  3. We then use masking tape (optional) to secure the ends of alfoil.

  4. At this point your person should be a rough shape of what you want the end result to be. If you want the shape altered, now is the time to tweak the wire, arms or legs to their required position.

  5. Now comes the fun part!! Making the glue! See our guide below, it is super quick and easy.

  6. Then you will need to tear a bunch of newspaper into 1-2cm strips. You will need a fair amount, as we will be layering to cover the entire person and to create more of a body.

  7. Soak each newspaper strip in your glue mixture and using your fingers squeeze the excess back into your bowl. Now you just lay each strip over your alfoil until the entire person is covered. Make sure you lay strips in varying directions to increase strength.

  8. Once covered, place on a hard surface, covered in plastic wrap (so it doesn't stick) and wait for it to dry. We left ours for a week to dry.

  9. Then you get to decorate as you choose, we will be using paint and materials for the body and clothing and wool for the hair. Once we have finished ours, I will post more information on the decorative phase.

How to Make Paper Mache Glue

To make this paste, you will need one part flour to two parts water. You can make as much paste as you need for the project. If you need more, it's rather quick to mix up another batch.

Pour the flour and water in a large bowl and stir it well. You want the mixture to be thin, with a consistency similar to pancake batter.Keep mixing until there are very few lumps left.Use a whisk or a hand-held blender to remove any remaining lumps. Add more water or flour as necessary until the mix is runny like a white glue, not thick like a paste. 

You can store this glue in a covered bowl or jar in the refrigerator for a few days.

Extra Tips 

There are a few things you can do to make your paper mache glue extra special. Also, you might find yourself in a special situation that requires a bit of adaptation. Some quick tricks can ensure you get the most out of your paper mache project:

  • If you don't like the smell of the glue mixture, add a pinch of cinnamon to sweeten it up.

  • If you're not planning on painting your project, you can add a few drops of food coloring to the glue to give it some color. Just be aware that food coloring is known to stain fabrics, so you'll want to keep it off your clothes and furniture. Aprons are a good idea.

  • If you live in an area with high humidity, add a few tablespoons of salt to help prevent mold.

  • Though it is uncommon, some people with sensitive skin may have an allergic reaction to the flour mixture. A mild rash is the most common reaction. If your child has very sensitive skin, a pair of rubber gloves will protect them.

Paper Mache Tips

  • Paper mache is a very messy craft! Prepare by covering your work surface. Even better, do it outside if weather permits. Make sure you cover yourself as well using smocks or old clothes.

  • Some creations can take several days to finish, so remind kids that they have to be patient! Sometimes you will have to work on it a little each day, adding new layers to your project.

  • Make sure your paper mache project is completely dry before you paint and decorate it.

  • Always tear your newspaper into strips instead of cutting them. The torn paper lays better on a paper mache creation.

  • To help your creation last longer, seal it with varnish or acrylic sealing spray when you're done painting it.

  • For a natural look, use brown paper towels for the final layer of your creation.

  • When you lay the newspaper strips onto your paper mache project, place the strips in as many different directions as possible. It will make your finished project stronger and let it hold together better.

  • If you live in a humid climate, assemble you paper mache project using glue rather than a flour and water mixture or try using a little less water in your recipe.

  • When working with a round object, set it on top of a bowl or large-mouthed cup while you are working so it sits still.

  • To remove the base from inside your dried project, make a slit at the back and take out the material. If it's a balloon, you can simply pop it. Cover the slit with another layer of paper mache and let it dry.

  • If you don't like the smell of your flour and water mixture, try adding a touch of cinnamon to sweeten it up. You can add any aromatherapy scent you find pleasing. Use acrylic paints for painting dried projects.

  • Colored tissue paper can be glued on to add decoration and texture to your creation.

  • Base material ideas: Balloons; aluminum foil (crumple it shape as needed); chicken wire (mold it as needed; usually used for large science projects a volcano); crumpled newspaper (use masking tape to hold it in place for basic shapes); small cardboard boxes (for square or rectangular creations). 


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