The principal objective of this site is to show how interesting it can be to work with papier-mache, as it is an outstanding material to create various objects according to one's own inspiration. It's extremely varied, easy to make and the materials are available everywhere. You can create something modern according to your own inspiration or imitate various historical and traditional rural styles. Indeed, the multi-coloured folk art owes its attraction to the combination of bright colours, characteristic motives and a rich symbolism: for the hobbyist an inexhaustible source of inspiration.


1) step by step
2) workroom
3) making the frame-work
4) preparing strips of newspaper
5) making the pulp
6) finishing methods

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1) step by step

In the illustrations you can follow the different stages in making a few papier-mache animals:


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2)  workroom

A special workroom is not necessary, although it is handy to choose a place where the work can be left lying around. The pleasure of working with papier-mache also results from the various phases that have to be passed through and from seeing the workpiece in each phase of its creation. The floor covering and the table can be protected with plastic if necessary. Set out all requirements because, once started, your hands are dirty with the wallpaper paste and the sticky pulp.


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3)  making the frame-work

Requirements: chicken wire, iron wire, pincers, nippers
A frame-work in cardboard or an inflated balloon are ideal for small, simple shapes which are later plastered with strips of newspaper and possibly with pulp to highlight the shape. A chicken wire frame-work however, offers more possibilities when making unusual or complicated papier-mache shapes. Rolls of chicken wire in different thicknesses and sizes (mesh) are available in do-it-yourself shops and garden centres.
Choose a good size or use different dimensions.
Bend the chicken wire into the desired form and pay a lot of attention to the basic shape, because it is easier to give it a realistic form with the pulp afterwards.
Mind that all separate pieces of chicken wire are well attached. Bend the sharp points inwards so that there are no protrusions left, for these might prick through the newspaper or the pulp later on. It is advisable to wear gloves in order to protect your hands against scratches and to relieve the pressure on the wire when shaping it.
Push and pull the chicken wire into the desired form until you have obtained a smooth surface. If you need an elongated shape, for example a leg or a paw, a cardboard tube or a wooden slat can be incorporated into the chicken wire to brace the construction.
When the frame-work is finished, verify whether the forms and details of e.g. feet, arms, head and the like actually correspond.
At this stage details can still be corrected!
If satisfied with the shape, cover it with paper strips (see point 3) and / or pulp (see point 4).
As a first layer you could also plaster the frame-work with tissue paper (same manufacturing process as for newspaper). Once the tissue paper is dry, it entirely distends, nicely accentuating the shape of the frame-work.


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4) preparing strips of newspaper

Requirements: strips of newspaper, wallpaper paste
Dip the strips of newspaper, torn by hand, one by one into a saucer with wallpaper paste. You can rub off the superfluous paste with your fingers.
Place the strips criss-cross (horizontally, vertically, slantingly) on the "body" until it is entirely covered. Put several layers across one another and let dry.


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5) making the pulp

Requirements: ehalf a bucket with hand-torn strips of newspaper, an old (pressure) cooker, wallpaper paste, polyvinyl acetal or white modeling glue, 2 spoons ground chalk, 1 spoon of linseed oil, a few drops of evergreen or clove oil, a plastic bowl, a colander
For the pulp:
-thin paper: tissue paper, crÍpe paper, paper handkerchiefs, toilet paper produce a thin, porcellaneous pulp
-newspapers: produce an easily processable pulp as well (I use this pulp)
-cardboard egg packs: produce a solid, rough pulp

You have to experiment a little with this so that you can give different textures to your papier-mache object. Pulp can be moulded into almost any shape and is light and strong.

Let the torn pieces of paper of 1.5 by 1.5 cm soak in water for one night. Then put them in the old pressure cooker and fill it almost to the brim with water. Let the paper boil for at least 30 min. in order to loosen the fibres. Let it cool off a bit and whip it in the cooker with a whisk until it becomes a fine porridge.
Ladle the mixture out of the cooker and let drain in a colander or a fine sieve. Squeeze out the water by pressing the pulp together in your hands. Remove as much water as possible, as you have to obtain a mixture which can easily be moulded into a form. It should not be too moist, but neither should it be too tenacious!
Put the pressed pulp in a bowl and let cool off a bit longer if still too hot to mould.
Add 2 spoons ground chalk (the pulp is now more crumbly) , 4 spoons of modelling glue, 3 spoons of wallpaper paste and a few drops of evergreen or clove oil (to keep away the flies) and 1 spoon of linseed oil (to keep the pulp fresh longer) and mix well.
If the pulp still feels too tough, sprinkle water over it with a watering can or add some more glue. Keep moulding. The pulp now feels like clay and is ready for use.

Workpieces made of pulp need much more time to dry than those made of strips of newspaper.
Leave to dry !

N.B. The pulp can be kept for several weeks in a tightly shut small container in the refrigerator.


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6) finishing methods

-Papier-mache objects can be finished with a layer of coloured tissue paper or crÍpe paper. Where the edges of the paper overlap, a depth of colours shows.

- Fret work is the decoration of a surface with printed paper, illustrations from newspapers, magazines, etc. You cut out the forms, plaster them on a well-prepared surface and apply a few layers of varnish over them. The result looks like inlaid or painted work.

-Relieves applied under the first layer of paper or pulp, produce a special effect at finishing the object. You can use just about anything: pieces of rope, seeds, beans, plastic figures, shells, beads, lace, textile, fabric flowers, leather, glass, mirrors, ...

Only when the workpiece is entirely dry, the first layer of under-layer paint (gesso or white interior/exterior paint) can be applied. Gesso is a strong under-layer paint, making the base as solid as a rock and allowing it to be scoured into a soft surface when dry.
When the workpiece is painted in the colours of your liking, a layer of varnish can be applied. Varnish on a water basis or waterproof varnish is available in different sorts: from mat to shiny, from lacquer to acrylic medium...