Papier Mache, a phrase translated to “chewed paper” in French, originated in China hundred of years ago. The Chinese used layers of paper which they hardened with lacquer and then made projects from it. Spreading to Japan and Persia, paper mache was used in making masks and for other festivities. From then on it spread all over the world and now people of all ages can make just about anything with Paper Mache. However, unlike in some parts of Europe, paper mache was introduced to America as a craft rather than a material used for manufacturing art pieces. First among the various samples to be produced were doll heads which are now considered to be a collector’s item. It was widely made in England and France during the sixteenth century. Almost all manufacturing outfits were generating as much of these as they can by 1810. Paper mache production has reached its peak by the middle of the eighteenth century. It died a natural death after the market has been fully saturated. McCallum and Hodson, a British manufacturer, was the last to close down in 1920. Today, stage and theater production makes use of paper mache for play backdrops as these are lightweight and easy to transport.
This technique of crafting makes of use paper, usually newspaper strips, mixed with a paste and formed into shapes and sculptures. The paste used today for paper mache is just a combination of water and flour. Just dissolve the flour in tap water, cook the liquid mixture in slow fire, and continue stirring it until it is slimy. Once you have reached the right consistency, you may remove it from the fire and let cool for a few minutes. Once cooled, strips of newspaper can be dipped in the paste then it is ready to be applied in any form. But don’t worry because there is no need actually to cook up some paste. Just go to your nearest craft store and purchase wallpaper paste and that will be good enough for your projects. Technically speaking, the exact definition of paper mache is binding agent and paper fibers. In the past, wild and extraordinary elements were used such as resin which was added to give it a smooth surface. Others that followed were potash, rice flour, rye meal just to name a few.
The most common base form to use is a balloon. However, other basic things found in and around the house such as bowls, plates or even cardboard boxes are applicable. Light wire formed into shapes can also be utilized for any project but two or three layers of paper mache should be added to the form so that it is sturdy. When dry, you can now let your imagination run wild and decorate or paint the form as you desire.
Paper mache art has been passed on from generation to generation. Different cultures and traditions resulted into it being a well-diversed craft. This delightful and enjoyable crafting activity is something kids and even adults take pleasure in doing. Paper Mache making is a great way for parents to bond with their kids. For some adults though, this is a perfect tactic to release stress and all that makes an older person cranky. But more than anything else, it gives, not only the child but also grown-ups as well, an opportunity to explore the wonders of art.