Practical Paper Mache – Anyone Up for a Contest?

I want to have a contest. The details haven’t been worked out yet, so I hope you’ll help me figure out how to make this work.

[edit: The contest idea quickly morphed into a reader-supported project. You can read about it here. You can see what we’ve come up with so far here. And you can also pretty much ignore the rest of this post… 🙂 ]

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • I’d like the contest project to be limited to ideas/examples/tutorials for using paper mache for practical objects. By “practical,” I mean that the finished project will be more than purely decorative – beautiful as well as functional should get extra points, of course. (Points? – another issue that hasn’t been worked out).
  • I’d like the ideas to be useful to people with limited means. I think extra points should go to ideas that could make life better for someone living in a tar-paper shack, and equally useful for someone living in suburbia.

A few examples of practical paper mache: The Chinese once used laminated paper to make military helmets, the French made furniture that still sells for big bucks on eBay, and the Japanese (when they don’t have other things to worry about) repair baskets so they can go on using them instead of throwing them away. Those are just a few of the hundreds of things that can be made with paper mache. If we put our minds to it, we can come up with many more than that.

My hope is that the contest project will create a body of work that would be useful to people from all walks of life. This blog gets as many as 2,000 readers a day from all over the world – which means that your idea could travel to places you may have never heard of. Even if you don’t officially win, your idea could be exactly what someone thousands of miles away needs to make their life easier. How cool is that?

Since laminated paper (paper layered together with paste or glue) is the strongest form of paper mache, I think we should limit the ideas to that form. It’s also the form of paper mache that is accessible to almost everyone, since the supplies are so cheap.

Anyone who submits a practical paper mache project will need to understand that their idea will be published here on this blog, and once ideas show up here they tend to take on a life of their own.

OK – your turn. How do you think we could make this work? Do you think it would be fun? Start writing in the comment section below. (Be sure to add comments here on the blog instead of sending me an email, so everyone can read your ideas.)

See this page for the “rules” and how to submit your entry. All entries will be published here. Enjoy!

15 thoughts on “Practical Paper Mache – Anyone Up for a Contest?”

  1. Hi,

    I found your site the other day and it’s wonderfully helpful! Thank you a thousand times for giving so much useful info.

    Regarding the contest –
    One thought that occurs to me is that some people, like me, do not know what the term ‘tar-paper shack’ means. Are people living in such places without basics, like water, electricity, indoor restrooms etc.? Or do they have modern conveniences, just not luxaries? Do they have open air markets or modern groceries? Transporation? Perhaps I’m the only one unfamiliar with the term, but a brief explanation of the term ‘tar-paper shack’ would assist me if determining what might be useful.

    Your book would be a fabulous prize! Maybe it could be the grand prize and some other item(s) could be 2nd – whatever place.

    A simple age category would be helpful; pre-18/youth and post-18/adult. Lots of categories would be confusing, but a slight division would give the less experienced artists a chance.

    Let people vote on the best one, or you be the judge.

    Don’t *require * people to take photos and describe the project as part of the submission process, but offer them the option of adding a link to their blog if they want to share it. Do encourage winners to write up a little something.

    Just thoughts…

    • Hi Sue. Thanks for your ideas. The “contest” has actually morphed into a reader-submitted/supported Practical Paper Mache Project, and you can see all the items that have already come in here. I decided to make it a group project instead of a contest, so everybody wins. You can see the “rules” here, along with a link to the submission form.

      Tar paper shacks are often the form of housing available in squatter towns and homeless villages. I only tried to convey that it would be nice if people with very little means could make the items that are included in our project. So far, every item we’ve received has actually been free – people are using materials found around the house, and turning them into beautiful, functional items.

  2. hello! i’m pretty new to this blog, but i am an old fan of some others that also do some contests, so i have some suggestions that could help you organize your contest…
    on the matter of choosing a winner, i think everyone should vote on thier favorite entry from each age group rather than have a pannel of judges. then evryone gets a say in the matter rather than just a few selected and possibly biased individuals.
    as for regulations, i cant help you much there, but i can send you into the right direction. check out Kelly Armstrong’s blog at, and go to the section titled Communication Center where you will find her email adress. Kelly does a lot of contests and is an expert about legal problems and regulations, as she is an author.
    if a press release is what i think it is (a due date for entries) then yes that is a very good thing. it gets people motivated to do things and makes voting WAY easier.
    Age groups i would also consider a good thing. i am a beginner at paper mache. before i found your blog, i was still using balloons for molds. so i think we should do realative age groups, probably starting at 12 or 13. i doubt anyone much younger than that would be making paper mache and/or blogging about it.
    I also think that ideas are a good thing, but should be categorized all thier own. As for ideas that have actually been tried, i think instructions should be mandatory. as you said, this couldf help people around the world, but not if they cant figure out how to make the object. as for pictures, those should be prefered, and possibly worth an extra point or two, but not mandatory. some computers cannot download pictures very well and it would be unfair to computerly challanged people to have pictures be mandtatory.
    Last on the agenda is the question of a submission form. i think a submission form would make everything a little more official and organized, but if you don’t want to make one i doubt it would matter much.
    thanks for reading my suggestions and more thanks to your blog! it has greatly helped my paper mache. i really enjoy your blog! thanks so much!

    • Hi Leah – you made some excellent points. You also reminded me that I didn’t update this post when I should have, several days ago. We decided to do a community project, rather than a contest. That way, everyone wins. We’ve already received a number of excellent submissions, and all of them are going on a new page, which you can find here, and through the Practical Paper Mache tab at the top of every post.

      I hope you’ll contribute some of your own ideas – we would love to see what you come up with. (And I intend to check out that link you gave us about contests – my daughter has contests on her oil painting blog quite often, and I’ll pass it on to her. Thanks!)

  3. Wonderful idea..I really hope I can come up with something useful and original.
    Thanks for pushing creativity.

  4. Great idea for a contest – I can envision several future contests around different themes (e.g., wall hangings, lamps, freestanding sculpture, masks). Here are my suggestions for the contest:
    1. One judge – you. Keeps it simple.
    2. Finished projects only! Good ideas are wonderful, but they only become art when they are realized as 3D creations. Also, not all great designs are feasible when you actually try to construct them.
    3. Entrys submitted through a dedicated email or web address, so everything is in one place for judge to browse.
    4. Entrys should be simple, consisting of name and contact info for artist, two sentences describing the object and at least one photo. First sentence to provide description of object and its function, while second to provide a techical description of the object (materials, dimensions).
    5. No detailed description of construction details unless requested by judge. Winner(s) agree to provide details for posting on your blog.
    6. No age or other sub-groups – too much hassle with verification.
    7. One top prize winner, then second and third place runners-up, followed by 5-10 (or more) honorable mentions. Photos of these works would be posted on this blog for all to see and admire.

  5. Jonni, excellent idea! Sounds like a lot of fun.

    My suggestion would be to create a form where submitted ideas/projects would feed into an organized “how to” repository. An index sort of page where ideas are organized by title. That way after the contest the information would still be organized and people could reference it.

    The published ideas could be voted on using something like survey monkey.

    Yes I do think the projects should include instructions with images.

    Totally think the winner should get a small animal mask from you.

    🙂 Good luck!!

    • The mask – I didn’t think of that. Good idea. We’ll have to look at all the suggestions that come in during the next day or two, and then choose the best configuration for the contest. I think there are programs that allow folks to have their own page on someone else’s blog (like mine, for instance) but I haven’t figured them out yet. That might be a way to put all the entries in one place, so everyone can see them – whether they make the “final cut” or not. On the other hand, we don’t want things to get too technical…

  6. Definetly interested just a bit busy right now trying to get some projects together for my Etsy shop. If nothing else put me down for a panel judge if thats all i end up having tme for thats if it comes to that lol. I will be popping by when i have time to see how things are progressing for sure. If you need me for anything then you know where to find me lol. Good luck great idea.

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