Judy's link to the paper mache essay was useful and
informative. I thought I would add my own thoughts to
the discussion. I have done many types of paper mache
over the years, and have arrived on my own recipe for
paper mache that is not only simple, but is relatively
free from the technical problems inherent in the more
traditional approaches outlined in the article.
First of all, I use art paste or methycellulose
wallpaper paste exclusively over the traditional
wallpaper paste. The reason is that type of paste
does not spoil, is clear (no grossed-out kids) and can
be tailored to various projects by adding water or
mixing it thicker as desired. Adding Elmer's glue
hardens it, if desired.
Second, I use office waste and paper cut-offs for the
basis of most projects. xerox paper or white drawing
paper cut into strips creates a strong, overlapping
weave of paper when several layers are laminated on an
armature. An advantage over newsprint, for example, is
that you can skip the step of gessoing the piece
before painting, because the surface is smoother,
harder and whiter than newsprint ever thought of
Third, I use paper napkins or toilet paper to add
details, and instead of pulping it in a bucket, I
simply have the kids nest the dry paper in the palm of
their hands and add glue in small amounts until the
paper pulps to a clay-like consistency. Using this
type of pulp is an amazing way of adding details to a
mask or sculpture, and takes only a day or so to dry.
Once dry it is presents a hard surface for painting.
To finish paper mache, I use acrylic paints
exclusively. Acrylics cost around the same as
temperas and do not present the inherent technical
problems that temperas have. As a matter of fact, I
haven't used temperas in many years because of their
inferior characteristics. Acrylics dry moisture-proof,
have a built in sheen, do not crack, blister or peel,
and simply look better.
Hope this helps, Jerry
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