Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Papier Mâché - Layered Bowls

The children construct bowls using papier mâché and then design them with cut paper and paint. For ages 9 to 13. Plan 4 to 5 sessions.

  • Building with papier mâché
  • Working with three-dimensional form
  • Decorating with cut paper and paint
papier mâché, lip

  • Newspaper for covering work area
  • Newspaper and light-weight white paper for tearing into strips
  • Bowl-shaped forms–plan one for each child (See note below)
  • Wheat paste–nontoxic (I use PlayBox Wheat Paste.)
  • Bowls for the wheat paste
  • Petroleum jelly with several throw-away brushes
  • Plastic wrap
  • Masking tape
  • Variety of patterned papers like ones used for origami, gift wrappings, and scrapbooks
  • Scissors
  • Liquid tempera paints
  • Brushes for painting
  • Containers of water for rinsing brushes
  • Sponges for drying brushes
  • Small containers with lids for saving mixed paint colors
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Non-stick surface such as wax paper for drying the bowls
Note: Use plastic, ceramic, or strong paper bowls with lips that are wider than the bottoms so that the dried papier mâché can be easily removed. 

First Session
  • Mix the wheat paste to a cream-like consistency and put into bowls, planning one for every two children.
  • Cover the work area with newspaper.
  • Tear newspaper and white paper into roughly 1- x 3-inch strips.
  • Prepare a non-stick surface, such as wax paper, for drying the bowls.
  • Set out the wheat paste, strips of paper, petroleum jelly with brushes, plastic wrap, and masking tape.
  • Set out bowl-shaped forms, planning one for each child.
How to Begin
  • In this session, the children will be making bowls by putting papier mâché over bowl-shaped forms. Explain that the paste-soaked paper will become hard after it is dried and can then be decorated.
  • Show the children how to prepare the form. Apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly to the outside of the form and then wrap it with plastic wrap, smoothing the wrinkles as much as possible and taping the loose ends against the inside. The petroleum jelly will help the plastic wrap cling to the form and the plastic wrap will allow the papier mâché to be easily released once it dries.
  • Demonstrate how to apply the papier mâché to the prepared form. Explain that white paper will be used for the first layer to create a surface that is easier to paint. Dip the white paper strips into the paste and pull the wet paper between two fingers to remove excess paste. Lay the dampened strips on the form, following its shape carefully while overlapping and smoothing the edges. Use newspaper strips to apply at least two more layers.
  • Have the children apply one layer of white paper and two layers of newspaper to the forms, smoothing the surface as much as possible before letting the forms dry.

Note: Dry the bowls upside down on a non-stick surface.

Second Session
  • Cover the work area with newspaper.
  • Set out wheat paste, white paper strips, and scissors.
  • Have available, but set aside, the patterned papers so that, if the children have extra time, they can begin to plan the designs for the bowls.
How to Begin
  • In this session, the children will be completing the forms of the bowls to be decorated in the next session.
  • Show the children how to release the dried papier mâché bowl from the form by carefully sliding it off and discarding the plastic wrap. 
  • Trim the lip, or top edge, of the bowl with scissors. Then use white paper strips to carefully wrap the trimmed lip and cover the outside of the bowl, making sure that all edges are smoothed before letting the bowl dry.
  • Have the children prepare the bowls for decorating in the next session.
Note: Dry the bowls on a non-stick surface. If there is extra time, have the children look through the patterned papers to start planning their designs.

Third Sessions
  • Set out the dried bowls.
  • Set out the patterned paper for cutting, scissors, and wheat paste.
How to Begin
  • In this session, the children will be using cut paper to design the outside surface of the bowls.
  • Explain that the patterned papers can be cut and applied to the bowls by dipping them into wheat paste, using the same process as when building the bowls. Cover the complete surface on the outside of the bowls, leaving no white paper showing. (Be sure that the children understand that the inside of the bowls will be painted in the next session.)
  • Have the children design the outside surface of the bowls, wiping away extra paste and smoothing the edges as much as possible.
Fourth/Fifth Session
  • Set out the dried bowls.
  • Set out the tempera paints, brushes, containers of water, and sponges.
  • Set out containers with lids for saving mixed colors.
How to Begin
  • In these two sessions, the children will be painting designs on the insides of the bowls.
  • Explain that it is important that the design on the inside of the bowl coordinate with the outside of the bowl. This can be done by repeating or contrasting the shapes and colors in the patterned paper.
  • Warn the children that when mixing their colors, they should make enough to cover the surface of their bowl. (These colors can be stored in small jars for repairing mistakes that may occur and for sharing with other children.)
  • Have the children mix their colors and then cover the entire surface on the inside of the bowls with the first layer of paint.
  • Let the bowls dry between sessions before painting on details.
Note: When the bowls are completed, have an adult apply a coat of polyurethane.

  • The amount of time needed for each session will depend on the size of the bowls, the amount of experience the children have working with papier mâché, and the time needed for drying the papier mâché between applications.
  • Newspapers that are printed with vegetable inks are preferred because they are more flexible.
  • Newspapers can be torn easily when ripped vertically.
  • Although more difficult to work with, white liquid glue can be substituted for the wheat paste.
  • Applying petroleum jelly to the form will release the dried papier mâché, but it leaves a greasy residue on the papier mâché bowls. Using only plastic wrap can be awkward for small hands to manage. The combination of petroleum jelly and plastic wrap works well.
  • Using white paper for the first and last layers of papier mâché creates a cleaner surface for designing the bowls. An alternative would be to use only newspaper for the papier mâché and apply gesso to the dried bowls before adding the paint and cut paper.
  • Are the bowls sturdy with no weak areas?
  • Are the surface and lip of each bowl carefully smoothed?
  • Discuss how the designs on the inside of the bowls were made to coordinate with the outside.
What the children might say...
  • I have some sports stickers at home. Can I bring them in for my bowl?
  • I want to make the inside of my bowl just yellow.
  • Can I cover my bowl with this blue paper and then cut out my own flowers to attach on top?
What you might say...
  • Your stickers should work as long as the paper is sturdy enough to handle while it is wet.
  • You can paint the inside of your bowl a solid color, but first look carefully to be sure there isn’t a design that you could use to make it better coordinate with the outside.
  • Cutting shapes to apply over a solid color will work very well.
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