Saturday, October 26, 2013

Recycle Project: Papier Mache Pumpkin From the Kitchen

Pumpkins made by students in various stages of completion.
Papier Mache Pumpkins
Papier Mache  has been around since about the 2nd century AD. The advantages of papier mache products are in the strength of it from multiple layers yet it remains lightweight. Even today it remains a popular craft due to its versatility and affordability.

Papier Mache paste: Several papier mache paste products are available for purchase but you may easily make the paste at home in your kitchen. 
The cooked version dries clear and would be advisable for the finish when tissue paper is applied but for the basic constructions the raw version makes a stronger product. 

Raw Paste from flour: 
Start with a bowl of flour approximately 1 to 2 cups  to start the paste.  Add about 2-3 Tablespooons of salt to retard mildewing while drying. ( Using a wire whisk or a mixer add a little water at a time until the paste is smooth and about the consistency of pancake batter a little on the thin side.  The paste is ready for use. The paste will sour overnight if left out of the refrigerator.  I start with fresh paste each day.

Cooked paste:  For every cup of water add about 2 tablespoons of flour.  Bring to a boil and stir well.  Allow to cool.  Paste will thicken as it cools.  For thicker paste add a little more flour.  Paste will sour overnight if left out of refrigerator.  This paste will dry clear and can be used with the tissue paper for final application of color to the pumpkin. 

Plastic bag stuffed with shredded paper.
  • Paste
  • Plastic Bag
  • Shredded Paper
  • Old Newspaper
  • Tissue Paper
  • Optional: Water Based Polyurenthane
  • Optional: Wire (Coat hanger or Rebar)
Step by Step Instructions
  • Add shredded paper to a plastic grocery bag until firm. (Fill really well so that when tied it is full and as firm as possible.)
  • Tie off the plastic bag handle tightly. 
  • Cut several pieces of twine about 24” to 36” depending on size of bag. (Pumpkin shown uses three pieces of twine about 36” long.)
  • Tie all three lengths together mid way. 
  • Place the knot on the twine in the center bottom.  Stretch twine to the center top and tie tightly. 
3 lengths of twine tied tightly around bag.

  • Separate the twine individually into sections of the pumpkin. 
  • Apply paste on the plastic bag.  Lay a strip of paper over the wet area just pasted. With your hands apply paste over the dry paper and repeat adding paper then paste with your hands covering the entire plastic bag.
  • At the start of applying paper over the bag the paper will want to slide but keep adding paper. Additional paper layers should overlap covering the plastic. Once the plastic is covered keep adding additional layers building up several layers for strength and stability.
  • Allow papier mache to dry overnight.
  • Check for hardness. Apply more layers in areas that still seem too soft. If you can press an indention in the dry pumpkin additional layers are needed.
  • Last layer should be a clean thin paper without text or photos such as commercial grade brown paper towels.
  • Using a paintbrush apply a layer of papier mache paste, acrylic medium or thin glue.  (I prefer acylic medium because it dries clear and if using glossy will give a sheen.)  Lay small pieces of tissue paper  over the glued area and apply glue over the tissue paper with the brush. (the trick is to keep your hands off of the tissue paper.  Tissue paper is very fragile and will easy tear. Cut tissue paper into squares or random cuts then use the tip of a wet paint brush to pick up pieces as you work.  Tissue paper will easily stick to the tip of a wet paint brush so your hands never have to touch it.) 

Separate twine to make divisions.

Apply strips of paper over plastic overlapping edges of paper.

Optional Leaf:
Insert wire into the handle of of the bag  (such as coat hanger wire or rebar wire) to add strength for the stem. Make the wire long enough to twist for a vine and leaf. Push one end of the wire into the dried pumpkin in the stem area were the twine is knotted. Tape around both the twine and wire to temporarily hold in place.
Using strips of paper dipped into the papier mache paste wrap the stem and vine until the appropriate thickness and smoothness are achieved.

Wrap with green tissue paper while still wet or when dry as done for the pumpkin.

Cut out a left shape in newspaper. Cut a piece of wire long enough to run down the central vein of the leaf with enough to make a wire hook to attach on the wire stem. Cut about 6 additional layers of newspaper exactly the same shape as the leaf previously cut. Layers all leaf shapes together gluing each layer with papier mache paste. Let dry. Cover with green tissue paper.

 When completely dry varnish with a glossy water based polyurethane.
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  2. could you please edit and correct your recipe for the raw paste from flour? you haven't include flour in your recipe...

    1. Thank you for pointing out my mistake. After all the views this post has had no one has ever mentioned I left flour out of the recipe.
      That reminds me. It is the annual papier mache pumpkin making time. It has become a tradition to make the pumpkins each year and each year I do something just a little different than the year before. I guess I need to start figuring what to do this year.