Above is an assortment of papier-mache projects from the past couple of years, done by kids in grades 3 and 5. I get bored easily, so I like to change it up a little each year, rather than repeating the same project.
- The masks and tikis are from grade 3, as are the fish I posted last week. Another favorite of mine for the 3rd graders is Hopi Kachina dolls, using liquid dish detergent bottles and laundry detergent lids for heads for the basic armature. The tiki armature is a tennis ball container with a scoop of playground sand inside for weight. The mask armatures begin with paper lunch bags, stuffed with newspaper. We work on just one side of the stuffed bag, and when done, the stuffing is removed and the back of the bag is cut off. All of the projects use materials such as cereal box cardboard, cardboard tubes, bottlecaps, etc (and a lot of masking tape) for the features. Students are taught how to cut tabs for attaching, and the most effective ways to tape these features on before we use the "dog drool" (as our papier-mache is affectionately called).
- The bugs, cats, ocean critters, rain sticks, and more are from 5th grade (oh why can't I locate my photos of the fabulous pigs my students made?). With the exception of the rain sticks, the armatures are mostly formed from plastic bags such as those from assorted bread products, and plastic grocery bags (for the fat cats). The bags are stuffed with newspaper and squeezed and taped to shape, and then wire, cardboard tubes, cardboard, etc are added to create the features/details. The nice thing about this process, rather than working with a taped-up wad of newspaper as a basic armature, is that it dries more quickly because the goo can't seep into the bag.
- I know many people love to papier-mache over balloons. I've done it, but not since I had a major disaster. There is a hot air balloon festival in our region every fall, so it seemed like a great time to build hot air balloons in art class. We blew up balloons and put a coating of papier-mache over over them. I stayed in school late that afternoon catching up on some work, and suddenly, late in the afternoon, it sounded like gunshots were going off. I was alone on my hall, so for a moment I panicked. Then I realized that, evidently due to a change in temperature in my room, the balloons had started popping one-by-one, and I had to scurry to blow new balloons up inside of each of the couple dozen masses of oozing papier-mache. So no more balloon armatures for me!
- One last thing about my papier-mache process: To begin, my students tear up newspapers into approx 1" wide strips, tearing with the grain of the newspaper to make it easy. But here's where my process is different: While most folks have the kids dip the strips in the goo, then use fingers to "scissor-off" the excess paste, the kids tend to use way too much paste this way. I have my students dip their FINGERS in the goo, then rub it generously on their palms. They touch a newspaper strip to pick it up, and rub it between their palms until it is translucent or saturated (both good vocab words). Then they place the strip on the project and give it a massage. They love this. I have them massage the whole thing. This process makes sure you don't have huge oozing masses of goo that take weeks to dry, but insures that enough goo is in the paper to make it dry firmly and strongly. As stated in a previous post, I use "art paste" that comes in a little box and makes 4 quarts. Unlike wheat-based products, nobody will be allergic, it doesn't itch if it dries on your skin, and it can be stored indefinitely without going bad. Maybe it's not the strongest product available, but it certainly makes doing papier-mache with kids very easy!!
- If you'd like any further details about the how-to's on any of these various papier-mache structures, I'd be glad to respond. Let me know. The big thing is don't worry about storage, even if you don't have the proper art room. There's always a way to make it work. Cleanup is easy, and the kids are so engaged when doing papier-mache they are usually on best behavior. Don't let it scare you!!!