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Paper Mache Custom Work and Ideas Needed

It’s time again to ask for some help from you, dear readers.

I’ve received several requests lately for custom work. I don’t do commissions, since I spend too many hours a day on my “real” web publishing business, and my garden seems to be taking up all the rest. And I don’t have a good list of professional artists that I can refer these folks to. Your help would be much appreciated:

Unpainted Paper Mache Shapes Needed

Yesterday I received an email from Gray Taylor, Senior Art Director at an advertising company in South Carolina. The project is pretty big. He needs basic (unpainted) paper mache shapes that will then be painted by an in-house artist. The painted shapes will be photographed, and the pieces need to be around football sized. They need all the pieces by October 1:

Dog, cat, bird, car/SUV, motorcycle, jet-ski, boat, RV, basketball/football/golf clubs, charcoal grill, lawn mower, kitchen sink, mounted deer head, guitar or musical instrument, family of nesting dolls.

By coincidence, Matt just sent in a link to a store selling these deer heads, but they’re already painted. If you know of anyone who could produce the these pieces, please contact him, or send an email to me and I’ll pass it on. He’ll probably need some photos of previous work, of course.

This is not the first request of this type I’ve received. It looks like there is at least a small market for custom paper mache work, for stage props (I was asked to do a woodland scene, with all the usual critters) and for store window displays. If you have a business that does this type of work, let me know so I can post a link to your website.

Elephants for Hindu Weddings

Two people have asked recently if I can make large elephants to be used in Hindu weddings here in the US. If you know anyone who might be willing to take on these projects in the future, please let me know so I can pass on the name if I receive any future requests. I’m sure the people who already asked me no longer need the beasts (and I hope the couples are now happily married), but the question may come up again in the future.

This would make an interesting home-based business, if you made the elephants over a form like the paper mache boxes you see in craft stores. There’s a YouTube video showing a guy making sculptures for the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration that way. But it would take a lot of research to know if there would be enough customers for the elephants once they’re done. Maybe the only two people who would be interested have already moved on.

Lighted Paper Mache Sphere – Ideas Needed

And finally, Ruth sent in this question:

I am hoping to make some paper mache spheres that can be illuminated with battery operated LEDs, so they need to be translucent. I plan to use punch-ball balloons and white tissue paper. Any suggestions or tips?

This question has come up before. It sounds like an interesting idea, but I’ve never tried doing anything like this myself. Any ideas for Ruth?

Thanks for your help, everyone.


23 Responses

  1. Papermasher
    Papermasher at |

    Papermasherâ„¢ bags are specially designed and used to safely dispose your confidential documents without the time consuming effort it takes to use a shredding machine. When Orly Kadosh, a Tenafly NJ mache’ artist, saw the bags she was very excited and suggested we should introduce it the the mache’ artists community… so, here is the link: http://www.papermasher.com

  2. Chris
    Chris at |

    I need to make a paper mache sphere about three foot (84 cm’s) across, but cannot find a form that size. is there any way to make a spherical form that size, or make it without a form?

  3. Nine
    Nine at |

    I recently found that vinegar works very very well for getting dried glue off of brushes. I soaked some brushes I’d completely given up on in apple cider vinegar for a day, and after that you can peel the gunk right off the bristles. (You don’t have to use apple cider vinegar, that’s just what I had on hand. Any vinegar should work.)

    I’m a mask-maker and looking forward to using some of these excellent techniques in my masks!


  4. Amber
    Amber at |

    Hi how do you clean the painbrushes after using them to paint the flour water acrylic paint and glue mixture? My paintbrush has clumped up and I don’t know how to clean it.

  5. Nikki
    Nikki at |

    Wow! There really are some great ideas that people have shared about the translucent requirement! Again, not sure if this will be of interest, but on the chance that someone out there is in need of ideas for making armatures, I found a wonderful book that has several ideas when I started doing sculpting with cement. ‘Tho it deals specifically with the use of cement, I’m thinking that it might still be useful for helping create that always crucial inner structure. Here is the info, and I also have taken some photos of some of sculptures at various stages , if this would be of any help to anyone, I might be able to make a video of them and post that on YouTube. The book is Sculpting with Cement by Lynn Olsen. It can be purchased for around $23 on this web site: http://www.buildersbooksource.com
    It is such a great book that I loaned it out, and have never gotten it back! It is listed at way too high a price on amazon.com so don’t bother there.

    Hope it helps someone!

  6. Xan
    Xan at |

    These are such … enticing challenges, Jonni! I wish I weren’t already busy, or I’d love to try taking some of them on! Big elephants?? How fun would that be? Shipping them might be an even bigger challenge, but … whoo! :D How interesting that you’ve gotten so many over-the-transom requests for these large projects. Sounds like a business for an enterprising artist.

    I was thinking that the transparent globes might be reinforced with a fine wire or … what’s that stuff, like a string of rattan? Is it rattan? … wound around the balloon, then covered with rice paper (that would be so pretty!) I have, in fact, a paperglobe lamp pretty much like that, but it’s not pm, and will collapse into a flat shape if asked nicely. Seems like it might work well with the pm, and maybe even add an interesting element.

  7. Annie
    Annie at |

    orbs work well with very fine ‘florists’ paper, many layers, no scrunching, over a balloon, using a half and half mixture of water and white ‘Elmers’ glue, after four or five layers it won’t matter if the balloon pops, the glue is the strength! if you use electric lights be sure to use pin holes for ventilation, these make beautiful ‘moons’ and with the pin holes representing the stars!

  8. Joyce Reyes
    Joyce Reyes at |

    Ruth, I love your idea. I’m wondering if you used avairy wire. {Like chicken wire but smaller} to make your form for the light tissue paper would work. Like they do for garden topiaries. It would be strong to hold the little lights. Kind of like the Oriental lanterns. Just an old ladies idea. LOL

  9. Joyce Reyes
    Joyce Reyes at |

    WOW, This sounds like a fun thing for someone. To be used as props is a great idea. Wish I could help but no way now. I will be watching to see if you get some response. Good luck

  10. Carmen
    Carmen at |

    What about rice paper? It is a little bit more durable and is transluscent. I made a lamp shade once a long time ago. Actually I redid a shade for a very unique lamp I got at a thrift store. I got rice paper in sheets. They probably carry that at Michaels or Hobby Lobby. I could cut it and bend it to fit the shape I wanted pretty easily, and glued it together. Hope that helps.

  11. Ivon
    Ivon at |

    Tissue paper is a great idea. Try scrunching the paper and flattening it our to create wrinkles. After it’s dry, coat it with a cornstarch glue made by cooking 1/3 cup of cornstarch with 1 cup of water.. This will give it a very nice sheen when dry.

  12. Nikki
    Nikki at |

    Re: translucent paper mache question: Not sure if this will help or not: I recently made some “dragon eggs” for my grandsons (to go along with a book we’ve been enjoying:Dragon in the Sock Drawer) I used tissue paper strips and then did the bottom parts with the paper clay mixture. I used a “mod podge” type mixture to put the tissue paper onto the ballon, and it was transparent. Only problem is that after several layers that part of the egg was still not hard, but softer. This worked out perfecly for me, however, and a story about the eggs, developing baby dragons, etc. emerged. I’m not sure how to get this hard or stiff, as Ruth’s project might need. I’ll try to post a photo of this project.

  13. Jonty
    Jonty at |

    Hi i work with balloons 80% of the time & as it happens i have a similar idea for the punch ball balloons. Though whilst mine will also be ‘inside lit’ they are going to be for some dragons to be posed with (on over) them.

    When PM’ing balloons to make a ‘working shell’ by that i mean where you can safely remove the balloons (or they accidentally burst/shrink) you need at least 6/8 layers of news print over them. The first layer works/sticks best with undilutted PVA glue (or similar) directly on the balloon before the first layer goes on.

    I have yet to experiment with tissues but assume around 8/10 layers would be required to make a safe ‘shell’. Depending on the strength of the inside lighting i would reccomend at least a single layer of white 80gsm printer paper as your first layer.

    You can find a list on my blog of 30 balloon facts in my archives.

    when things fall to pieces make those pieces into something


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