I’ve recently been stumped by some comments and emails I’ve received from readers. Paper mache can be used for so many different kinds of projects, and I have to admit that I’m not an expert in every single one of them. I thought it would be useful to compile a few of the more common questions here, in case you and other readers might be able to offer some suggestions. So – here goes:
1. How do youÂ make a paper mache tree? This has been asked a number of times. Some people would like to know how to make realistic bark textures (I always suggest using the paper mache clay and using real bark as a stamp, but you may have other ideas). Our latest commenter wants to put a very large tree in her classroom, and the first thing I think of when I hear about that type of project is “how do youÂ make it safe?” If you’ve made a paper mache tree for your home or classroom, please offer your suggestions and advice below.
2. Have you ever used expanding foam (the kind used to insulate cracks in walls) to make a paper mache sculpture both strong and light? This has come up several times lately, and one reader suggested it to Joanne, who makes life-sized figures with paper mache. But so far, we haven’t heard from anyone who has given step-by-step instructions that we can use for our own projects. If you’ve used this product for a paper mache project, please let us know how it turned out, and how you did it.
3. The foam question actually fits in with this next question, too. As you might recall, I originally intended to use my baby elephant as an experiment to see if it really is possible to make paper mache waterproof enough to stand up to the weather. I chickened out after spending several weeks making her. I even wrote a post linking to another artist who has done smaller experiments and who claims that marine (spar) varnish will protect paper mache outside.
So here’s where the foam fits in – I think I’ll do a smaller sculpture (one that takes days rather than weeks), and use the paper mache clay instead of paper strips and paste. Once the clay is dry, I would remove the crumpled paper and masking tape form, to reduce the possibility of mold growing inside, and replace it with expanding foam. Then I’d paint the sculpture and protect it with marine varnish. Has anyone ever tried anything like this? If so, I’d love to know how it turned out.
4. Have you ever tried using either the make-it-yourself paper mache clay or a commercial paper mache product to make a three-dimensional painting? Brynn is making an acrylic painting on canvas and needs to add paper mache. Will it stick? Should something stiffer than canvas be used for this type of project? Have you tried it, and did it work?
5. Denise would like to know ifÂ liquid starch can be used as the paste for a paper mache project. I’ve never tried it. Have you? (Her class is making a river dolphin. How fun is that?)
That’s enough questions for today. If you have the answer to any of the questions, please enlighten us in the comments area below.