Paper Mache Clay

Several years ago I developed a new recipe for a sculptural material I call “paper mache clay.” This material is so easy to use and so easy to make that I now use it exclusively for all my paper mache sculptures. The recipe has now gone “viral” and is being used by artists all over the world.

It might be a bit more accurate to call this material “home-made air-dried cellulose-reinforced polymer clay,” but that’s way too hard to say (or type!), so for now, let’s just call it paper mache clay.

Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache ClayThe first video below shows how to make the paper mache clay, and the second video answers some common questions that I’ve received from readers since I first developed this recipe. Below the videos you’ll find the recipe written out, and a few comments about how it’s used. (This recipe is the basis for my book “Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.”)

 

I usually make mine fairly thin so it can be spread over an armature like frosting, by using less flour than the recipe calls for – but you can also make it thicker, with more flour, when you want more control over the modeling process. The clay dries extremely hard when applied in a very thin layer (1/8 to 1/4″ thick), and it seems to dry much faster than traditional paper mache pulp. (And it only takes about 5 minutes to make).

Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture
Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture

As you can see above, the clay can be modeled into fairly fine details. Using the clay for modeling feels much more intuitive than creating sculptures with paper strips and paste, and once the clay is dry it is a pleasure to paint.

The ingredients are inexpensive, and can be found at your local grocery store and hardware store. You will need:

  • Cheap toilet paper (measure the wet paper pulp, and use 1 1/4 cups – some rolls contain more paper than needed)
  • 1 cup Joint compound from the hardware store (get premixed “regular,” that comes in a plastic tub, not the dry powder form.) (Not sure what Joint compound is, or what it’s called in your country? click here.) Note: buy any brand except DAP. The DAP brand does not work.
  • 3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue-all (PVA glue)
  • 1/2 cup White Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Linseed Oil or Mineral Oil (Linseed oil contains chemicals, so mineral oil is a better choice if you’re working with kids, or if you like to get your hands in the clay)

See the video below for details on making your clay. And if you try this recipe, please let us all know what you think of it–and also please share a photo of your finished work. We’d love to see how it comes out. (Can’t see the video? See the instructions printed below).

[Edit 2/12/2011 –  If you find that your clay seems “rubbery” instead of smooth and creamy, you may need to use a different brand of joint compound. They all make their products using different formulas. Most of them work, but if you find one that doesn’t, please let us know. ]

Making Your Paper Mache Clay

Tools:

You’ll also need a large bowl, (use one with high sides so you don’t splatter clay on your cupboards), an electric mixer, a measuring cup and a tablespoon measure. To keep t he finished clay from drying out, you’ll need an air-tight container. The recipe makes approximately 1 quart of paper mache clay.

Note about Toilet Paper:

Unfortunately, the people who make toilet paper don’t expect us to turn their product into great works of art, so they see no reason to include the kind of information that would make things a lot easier for us.

I use a brand called “Angel Soft,” in the “regular” 2-ply rolls. I buy it at my local Wal-Mart. Each roll contains approximately 1 1/4 cup of paper, which I measured by wetting the paper, squeezing out the water, and then firmly squishing it into a measuring cup.

Since brands differ so much, the first time you make this recipe you should take a few minutes to find out how much paper is in the first roll. Then adjust the recipe if your brand don’t contain about 1 1/4 cup of paper. Fortunately, this is not a chemistry experiment or rocket science – if your mixture contains a little more paper than mine, or a little less, your sculptures will still be stunning.

Step 1. Fill a high-sided bowl with warm water. Remove the toilet paper from the roll and throw it into the water. Push down on the paper to make sure all of it gets wet.

Step 2. Then pick up the paper and squeeze out as much water as you can. Pour the water out of the bowl and put your paper mass back in.

Step 3. You will want to break the paper into chunks about 1″ across. This will allow your mixer to move around the pieces and break them apart.

Step 4. Add all the ingredients to the bowl and mix, using an electric mixer. The mixer will pull the fibers of the toilet paper apart and turn it into pulp. Continue to mix for at least 3 minutes to make sure all the paper has been mixed in with the other ingredients. If you still see some lumps, use a fork or your fingers (with the mixer turned off!) to break them apart, and then mix some more.

Your paper mache clay is now ready to use. It will look a bit like cookie dough – but don’t eat it!

If you don’t plan to use your clay right away, place it in an airtight container to keep it from drying out. The clay should stay usable for 5 days or more, if you keep it covered. The recipe makes about 1 quart.

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3,659 Responses

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  1. Jasmyn
    Jasmyn at |

    Hi Jonni! I am in desperate need of help! I am trying to construct a huge (at least 32″ diameter) planet from paper mache. I tried flour and water which seemed promising but then the balloon popped as the air outside warmed up. Last night, I tried the paper mâché clay recipe which seemed perfect but it’s been half a day and it’s still wet and not dry/hard. I’m so sad! Any suggestions on how to make this work? Was gonna try plaster of paris and paper and keep it in a covered area outdoors but worried that my huge balloon may pop again. I have an exercise ball at home which may have less potential to pop so long as it’s not left in the sun. Any suggestions? Thank you!!!

    Reply
  2. deyana
    deyana at |

    Hi Jonni, I have not being able to follow everything, may be I am not actual, still I want to share what I use,based on your recepy.
    I boil, or pour boiled water, over egg cardboard, mix it in the food processor some quantity at a time, add glue which I found most suitable from the shop (plastic glue, brand HOURSE, H-560 ).I live in Thailand, all the rest is written in Thai, so I don’t know more, but it works well. I have sent you before a boat and a horse, big size, I made from boxes to my boy, hope you remember. It is about 5 years ago. The items are still alive, even though used in our homeschool.
    The new thing, the one I want to share, was that I added sand to the mixer and now I am drying it. I needed that to have a heavier base of one project – a tree, the roots should keep the tree stable. It looks it will be harder too. Thailand is so humid, still I never got mold on the small or big things I did. Mixing well is important.
    Thank you for your great site!

    Reply
  3. Kesava Prasad
    Kesava Prasad at |

    Hi Jonni,

    Thank you for your great tutorials.

    BTW, is commercially available paper clay the same or equivalent to the paper mache clay? I have got a packet to try out any way.

    Reply
  4. Eddy
    Eddy at |

    Hi Jonni,
    I have been researching about pva glue or elmers glue when it comes to the deterioration of the glue itself due to the exposure to microorganism. I have found that pva glue it’s likely to get damaged over time. I’m making paper mâché sculptures and want them to last very long. Have you ever use wood glue (yellow glue – elmers or other brand) instead of pva glue?. I saw in wikipedia that wood glue is less likely to get damaged comoared to pva glue. Have you tried it before, do you think I can use the same recipe with the same measures and use the wood glue instead?
    Thank you , and exelent website!

    Eddy.

    Reply
  5. Mackenzie
    Mackenzie at |

    Hi Jonni,

    I love your recipe and have used it for some of my own art, and I’d love to bring it into my classroom! The only downside is that I have little to no budget and I was wondering if you have any suggestions for substituting the joint compound – as it can be very expensive in bulk.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. alex
      alex at |

      Art teacher piping-up here. Joint compound (unless you get the really expensive hypo allergenic stuff) is not certified for use with school children. Last week with my elementary classes I experimented with recycled paper clay using a mix of shredded recycled white paper, flour, water and salt (which I hope keeps the mash from smelling sour too quickly). Their small flat test projects were satisfactory — and they probably liked mixing the clay better than anything. I’m starting with a rounder project this week. Time will tell if they hold together!

      Reply
  6. Kate
    Kate at |

    Has anyone tried mosaic over your recipe? If so, did they have success? Thank you.

    Reply
  7. Kristyn Irizarry
    Kristyn Irizarry at |

    Hello!
    I’m very excited to use your recipe, found out about it thru a customer that was looking for Linseed oil at hardware store I work at. I was wondering if there is a slurry version for this in case I do a big project that will need to be pieced together?
    Thank you in advance,
    ~Kristyn

    Reply
  8. Victoria
    Victoria at |

    Hi Jonny! I used your clay to make a cat about 2 week ago, and I still keep some clay in the refrigerator, but now it’s a little hard to use. Could I recover it by adding something like glue, or water? What do you recommend? ThankS!

    Reply
  9. Sue Arbuthnot
    Sue Arbuthnot at |

    thankyou for some great information! Haven’t started yet, but can you tell me if the paper mâché clay will stick to canvas, or the best way to achieve this?Many thanks.

    Reply
  10. Shihohin
    Shihohin at |

    Hi I love your work so much! All of your pieces are made really well.
    Sorry about that, I fangirl over any type of art. Quick question do you really need a electric mixer for this? Or can I mix it by hand?
    Thanks for any help, and sorry for bothering you.

    Reply
  11. Frank
    Frank at |

    Hi Jonni,

    Your tutorials and explanation are wonderfull!

    I have a question though that I did not fin an answer. I’m building a paper maché armor. I want the finish to be really really really smooth and durable because I will spray paint primer and many paint layers after.

    For the finishing touch, can homemade gesso be sanded to have a really smooth touch without any marks or shoul I use another reciepe?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Anslem Roy
    Anslem Roy at |

    Hi Jonni

    I am thinking of making 1:1 ratio human busts and I am really interested in the paper mache clay method as it will be a lot cheaper than if I went with the clay sculpting method.

    My thought was to use polystyrene foam as the inner core form and then proceed to make the sculpture on the this base with paper mache clay and then finish it off with a PU finish, giving it the final paint coats.

    Was in discussion with a crafts dealer and he was dissuading me from the paper mache clay saying that the shrinkage in drying will distort the final form.

    He was pushing me along the lines of the polyfoam core, then industrial clay for the sculpture, the a mould from plaster and once the mould was extracted to then pour a resin to get a shell form from the mould and fill that with expandable spray foam. Finishing will be the usual paint coats.

    Would love to hear your expert input on this.

    Thank you.

    ANSLEM ROY

    Reply
  13. Terry
    Terry at |

    Jonni have you ever tried spackle instead of joint compound? In the country where I’m living the ONLY joint compound I can find is DAP. They simply do not use much because most of the buildings are concrete. I am going to continue to monitor this list in cast I find another import somewhere. Spackle has latex and other additives that may make it problematic but I bought a small jar to test.

    Reply
    1. Andrea Morgan
      Andrea Morgan at |

      Hi Jonni
      I’m a paper mache artist trying out new techniques. Having trouble getting your paper mache clay to adhere to the masking tape armature. Any tips?

      Reply
  14. Eadaoin
    Eadaoin at |

    Hi and than you for sharing your recioe for paper machee clay…can’t wait to try it out. I’m in the middle of creating a harvest moon for my 6 year old for school play. Unfortunately I have begun before spotting this! Ive started witg the traditional paper mache strips over 75″ exercise ball, have 6 or 7 layers on now and its hardening up nicely but As its so large I’m concerned about how strong it will be once i remove the ball…do you think i could add some p/m clay over what i have done already for extra strength. Also hoping to sculpt a moon face on so think your clay will be just perfect for this. First paper macheproject and have to say….LOVING IT ?Oh, 1 last question…when squeezing out the water when preparing paper for the mixing…do i sqeeze as much as possibe or just the bulk? Any advice would be most welcome.

    Reply
  15. M E
    M E at |

    I purchased ProForm’s Ultra Lite All Purpose Joint Compound today. I’m hoping that it works in the same way the regular formula does. So far the resulting goop, looks like fibrous cookie dough and is very sticky. Does this sound like the right consistency? Is there a way to make it less sticky?

    Reply
  16. Ellen
    Ellen at |

    Hi Jonni. Thanks for all the great information you have provided about paper clay and its uses. I am wanting to use it for making things such as bowls, boxes and if possible texture stamps. Which recipe would you recommend for this? I have tried the recipe with the corn starch/flour. I am still waiting for the bowls to dry completely. They seemed to have formed a bit of a skin on them and it’s difficult to make any impressions with texture tools. Many thanks again. Ellen

    Reply
    1. Ellen
      Ellen at |

      Hi Jonni

      Sorry to bother you but wondering if you had any ideas/advice about my above comments and questions. Many thanks. Ellen

      Reply
  17. Sarah
    Sarah at |

    How long does it take to dry?

    Reply
  18. L.S. MANSI IYER
    L.S. MANSI IYER at |

    could we put vegetable oil?
    and what is hardware shop
    please tell me a simple way 2 make this
    paper mache
    you see am 14 years old and i want to make people proud of me :-)

    Reply
  19. MIKI PAZ
    MIKI PAZ at |

    Becouse of the white Flour – is there a way to prevent insects in the future…? Thanks

    Reply
    1. Steve H.
      Steve H. at |

      Hi Jonni! Thanks for the Great Recipe!
      Have been using it to make shrunken heads.
      I took the top off my food dehydrator, and put it on top of a 2 gal. bucket.
      It drys my work in a fraction of the time!
      Thanks again,
      Steve

      Reply
  20. Liz
    Liz at |

    Hi, Heeeeeelp!,
    Not sure what mineral oil is, in UK, I googled and found wiki tells me, ” from a non-vegetable (mineral) source, particularly a distillate of petroleum”, reading on it tells of toxidity? BUT, Confusingly wiki also says its to be found in baby oil.
    Is this a USA mineral oil a different oil than that I have been reading about?, if so could you please tell me more about your oil so that I can find it in England please.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Emma May
      Emma May at |

      I’ve just used baby oil and it worked fine

      Reply
  21. Eric
    Eric at |

    Hi Jonni!

    First of all, I want to thank you SO MUCH for these recipes – your ingenuity is inspiring, and your recipes have saved me hours of work (not to mention a whole lot of mess)!

    I’m a mask maker, and I used this paper mache clay in silicone molds of masks that I had sculpted (I didn’t see the recipe for the silky smooth clay; I’ll definitely use that next time). The batch I’m using came out a little bit lumpy and full of air bubbles, so the surface of the mask is proving difficult to smooth out. I saw in another tutorial on this site that you use straight joint compound to smooth out the texture. Would joint compound work with this as well? I figure it will, but no harm in asking!

    Thanks again,

    Eric

    Reply
  22. Jason
    Jason at |

    I’ve never done any paper maching but want to make a large sphere for cosplay for my son. So my question is, would I be better off just going the traditional strips of newspaper route or using this clay and simply spreading it over the balloon? I want durability ultimately.

    Reply
  23. Tina Carter
    Tina Carter at |

    Can you use boiled linseed oil for this recipe? I found boiled linseed oil on amazon and I was wondering if it can be used or does it have to be raw linseed oil.

    Reply
  24. Nick
    Nick at |

    Hi. This looks really promising as I love sculpting and want to try different mediums. You have some beautiful work from what I have seen!

    I do have one question. When you talk of stirring the toilet paper with a mixer, what type of mixer are you referring to, please?

    Thanks

    Nick

    Reply
  25. Nancy
    Nancy at |

    Hi Jonni, thank you for the recipe, sounds great, am going to try it right away! I have some old cookie molds made of terra cotta??? Do you think it would be safe to use in them? I do not cook with them… Thank you again, you are very inspiring!

    Reply
  26. Larry Leavens
    Larry Leavens at |

    Hi Jonni

    I found your wonderful recipe for Paper mache clay and I have used several batches to do the final contouring for the scenery on my model railroad. So far so good. I am still experimenting with the amount of water to squeeze out of the paper. Too much water results in shrinkage cracks but too little makes it stiffer and harder to spread out. A very useful product.

    Thank you,

    Larry

    Reply
  27. Chuck
    Chuck at |

    I’m so happy I found this site. My daughter is an art major and wants to create an extremely large sculpture, 8 to 10 feet tall, for her senior show. Most modeling materials that are light enough for this project are also very expensive. Can one use newspaper in this recipe to lower the cost? Are there other ways to scale this to a very large process? Thanks!

    Reply
  28. Patty
    Patty at |

    I asked a few questions earlier about a toothbrush holder. Your answer is that paper mache isn’t waterproof. Duh on my part. But would paint and many coats of sealer make it OK to catch the drips from the toothbrushes?
    Thanks for all you do here. Awesome blog, awesome idea, awesome tutorial.

    Reply
  29. Patty
    Patty at |

    Wow! This is awesome and the perfect solution to make a very odd shaped toothbrush cup for my RV (must be flat on back and rounded on front.) I’m glad to know that newspaper/masking tape armatures dry faster than others – impatient soul that I am.
    I plan on writing a tutorial of how I made it, and will certainly link to your video and your blog. Thanks for a wonderful idea … I hope you’re making a fortune from it!

    Reply
  30. Kate F
    Kate F at |

    I just discovered your site, and I’m very excited by all the good information, and creativity! I play the Olde English pipe ‘n’ tabor, and am going to use paper mache to make my traditional marionettes a la planchettes’ heads and hands. I’m very happy to have your recipes and advice. Thanks!

    Reply
  31. LeeAnn
    LeeAnn at |

    I wanted to make an update about the experiment I was going to do with DAP some time ago, regarding its content of the glue. I tried the formula with far less glue, and although it was a little less rubbery, it was brittle, and not something I’d want to use to sculpt. Additionally, it didn’t break up the toilet paper, the way the other joint compounds do. I suspect that the usual joint compound, being made of crushed rocks, has an abrasiveness, which helps break up the toilet paper into a much finer texture, which isn’t present in the DAP. So, I would say DAP is a no-go on many, many levels, not just regarding the glue content.

    Reply
  32. Chris
    Chris at |

    Hi Jonni,

    I am working on a project where I need stars similar to this http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/43100/43112/prism-dec11_43112_md.gif I’m hoping to get them quite accurate. Do you have any advice on forming paper mache pulp into more precise shapes and achieving square edges. I seem to be struggling with how accurately I can sculpt the shapes and the shrinkage as they dry.

    Reply
  33. Zia Barnes
    Zia Barnes at |

    Thank you so much for this recipe, planning on using this for a school DECA project. I’ve seen newspaper replace toilet paper in other recipes, is this applicable here?

    Reply
  34. Stasele
    Stasele at |

    Hello Jonni,
    I’m so glad to find your website! your advices are very helpful, but I still have a few questions.
    I want to make a big size paper mache head.
    Does this clay method would work for a project like this: http://www.ultimatepapermache.com/paper-mache-head-success ? I mean on standing armature? Because here, I see, you are using some other technique…
    I’m planing to make armature from plasticine as I just have a lot . Do you think it is good material and should I cover it with wax or something as well?

    Reply
  35. Micah Goettl
    Micah Goettl at |

    Can I use wood glue? I have Titebond 2 Premium Wood Glue. Would that work, rather than the Elmer’s Glue-All? I checked and the Titebond seems to be PVA.

    Reply
  36. Jeff Mitchell
    Jeff Mitchell at |

    Thank you!!!

    Reply
  37. Paul Stockley
    Paul Stockley at |

    Hi
    I found my mixer couldn’t cope with the mixture. Would suggest blending the wet pulp and water before adding the ingredients

    Reply
  38. Brian's Three Billy Goats Gruff
    Brian's Three Billy Goats Gruff at |

    Thanks so much for sharing your pm clay recipe. Here are our Halloween masks. We went as the “Three Billy Goats Gruff”.

    We sculpted the masks over a simple dollar store paper mask. We built the masks up thick, and I carefully heat dried the masks by placing them on a wire rack in the oven “after” bring the oven up to 200 degrees and then put them in. I kept them heated for a few hours. By the second day, they were dry enough to work with. I then added a think coat of joint compound to fill in the nooks and crannies. This layer dried hard and was easily sanded. Then is was paint, faux fur and a glue gun.

    I have have some great fun ideas for holiday decorations this year. Thanks again. (P.s. My little guy won a Halloween costum contest with his mask!)

    Reply
    1. Brian's Three Billy Goats Gruff
      Brian's Three Billy Goats Gruff at |

      Oops, here are the masks

      Reply
      1. John
        John at |

        I have a very very large mask I have made. it was made out of paper mache and then I put plater of paris on top of it so it could be used as a mold for future masks. (5 x larger than a face mask). Can I use the paper mache clay on the plaster mold to make another mask? I will spray pam on the mold but I’m not sure if the paper mache clay will stick to the mold or not? Is there another way you would suggest I do it so the clay will not stick to the plaster mold? Thank you so much. John

        Reply
  39. Three Billy Goats Gruff
    Three Billy Goats Gruff at |

    These are the three masks we made with the paper mâché clay. We went as the 3 billy goats gruff. (Our little guy even won a contest for most original costum)

    We sculpted them thick, oven fired them for 10 minutes in the oven at 200 on and off to speed dry them in 2 days. Then hand coated a thin layer of joint compound. It made for filling in little nooks and crannies and easy to sand. The rest is acrylic paint, faux fur and glue gunning. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe. I have all kinds of ideas for the upcoming holiday season.

    Reply
  40. Francine
    Francine at |

    Have you used paper clay in regular plaster ceramic molds? I’m wondering how that would work and if you have if there are any tips you could share. Thanks! I have also used your recipe before to make a Princess Mononoke mask for her cosplay

    Reply
  41. wim
    wim at |

    Hey,

    Just wanted to thank you for your instructables…
    Used your recipe for my Jack Skellington and many other creatures,… they really turned out great,….

    Sooooo much easier than some other recipes, didn’t have to think too much about it , made it and it worked sooo smooth. I used some concrete glue instead of Elmers glue (can’t find that in Belgium) but it also made it more weather resistant. Even tried to leave it outside, it molds but remains rock-hard,… so after glazing it, it seems to be pretty resistant to stay outside for longer periods.

    thanks again,… will be adding it to my toolbox of knowledge…. keep up the great work, loving it….

    Wim from Belgium

    Reply
  42. Mike
    Mike at |

    is mineral spirits the same thing as mineral oil

    Reply
  43. Circuit Calavera and Calacas | chibitronics

    […] basic paper clay, this air-drying papier-mâché clay recipe was used found online at this website:http://www.ultimatepapermache.com/paper-mache-clay, with some slight alterations to have higher paper pulp content for a more handmade, papery […]

  44. Princess
    Princess at |

    Hello, Jonni!

    I just wanted to say thanks for creating this recipe. I’ve used it a few times, but also just put together an Instructable using it. You can check it out here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Monster-Claws-with-Homemade-Paper-Clay/

    I made sure to redirect people here if they want more information and I hope you think it’s a good use of your wonderful medium. :)

    Reply
  45. Amanda
    Amanda at |

    Thank you Jonnie,
    You are extremely helpful and so timely with your replies!
    I am ecstatic to see the finished product… will post pictures here when it’s all done!
    Then I can venture on to the rest of your website and see what kind of sculptures I can make ;D

    Reply
  46. Nate
    Nate at |

    Jonni,
    I am working on a project for my wife. It is a sewing mannequin made from a plaster mold, but rather than fill the mold with foam I am looking at using a paper mache clay to create more of a shell. I am hoping it will give a smoother, more durable exterior. Do you have any advice on the thickness I should apply, any adjustments to the recipe, and about how much clay I should mix up to cover the hip, torso, and shoulder area?

    Reply
  47. Delphine
    Delphine at |

    Hi!
    Can we replace Linseed Oil or Mineral Oil with something else?

    Reply
  48. Amanda
    Amanda at |

    Jonnie,
    Thank you for your advice! These masks are actually not going to be directly on our faces…. mine will be attached to my face with wire hangers and the other will be worn as a helmet. http://www.instructables.com/id/Adam-and-Barbara-Maitland-Costumes-from-BeetleJuic/?ALLSTEPS As you’ll see, I need more of a workable material to add wrinkles and detail to our masks that the kind you suggested.
    I returned the DAP and got Proform Lite (Ultralite)(its all the had besides DAP)) Joint Compound….. I hope it will work! I currently can’t seem to find the previous stream of comments to see if it was mentioned.
    I also got some baby oil. The frames I am putting the mache clay on is very durable made from a lot of newspaper, cardboard and lots and lots of tape. I plan to make the clay as thin as I can but I am also relying on it to be like a strong glue to hold it all together for good!
    Is hot glue a bad idea (to attach the tongue, teeth and eyes) on this paper clay? I’m afraid it will melt. Will my joint compound work as far as you know?

    Reply
  49. The Making of a Monster | Shelf Talk

    […] Is it a dragon? A dinosaur? A sea monster? We’re not sure, and that’s okay. He’s made using both a standard paper ma?che?  recipe and paper ma?che?  clay, which we found out about through YouTube videos on the website Ultimate Paper Ma?che? . […]

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