Practical Paper Mache Project – Let’s Build it Together!

Paper Mache Pin Holder by mumblion / KINYA HANADA
Paper Mache Pin Holder by mumblion / KINYA HANADA

Yesterday I said I was thinking about having a contest to show off all the ways that paper mache can be used to create useful and practical items. After receiving some great advice from readers and mulling it over for a few more hours, I decided that what I really want is not a contest, but a collaboration. That way, we all get to create something together — a special page here on this blog, and eventually an eBook — that will be as useful as the individual paper mache items we all submit to the project. When we collaborate, we all win — just by participating!

Helping to build a useful collection of ideas will be fun, challenging, and worthwhile for everyone who participates. After all, this is really just an extension of the creative sharing that we do every day on this blog — you readers are always so generous with your ideas and encouragement.  Now, we’ll channel some of that creativity for a specific purpose – to discover as many ways as possible to use paper mache to make useful, functional items. (I found the pin holder in the image above out on Flickr – it’s just one example of how beauty and function can come together with paper mache.)

Since we want as many people as possible to have access to the ideas we come up with, each item submitted will be showcased on this blog on a special “practical paper mache page.” (A link to that page will show up at the top of the blog as soon as your submissions start coming in.) To make sure that people find that page, I’ll highlight some of the ideas in regular blog posts.

Once the deadline is past, (May 30, 2011), I will gather all the photos, descriptions and names into a professionally-designed eBook, which can be downloaded and printed by anyone, for free. Both the special blog page and the eBook will be available under the Creative Commons license, to be freely shared and distributed. When it’s available for download, your eBook will show up in the right-hand column of this blog, so it will be seen and downloaded by as many people as possible.

The Rules:

  • The items must be made from paper mache (paper strips held together with paste or glue). Include the estimated cost in your submission. Found objects can be used along with paper mache. If you can think of ways to use paper mache to repair something so it doesn’t have to be thrown out, that also qualifies.
  • The items must be practical – in other words, there must be some function or use for the item. Try to think outside the box – almost anything that can be made from wood or plastic can be made from paper mache.  Also remember that common items that we usually throw away (like oatmeal boxes, for instance) can become beautiful, functional possessions when a bit of paper mache and creativity has been added. Look around your house or workplace and see what you can invent, reuse, or repair with paper mache.
  • I retain the right to reject any submission if it looks like it might be unsafe or if it it might be too “adult” for a general audience.
  • Only submit items that you have actually made – not just something that you think could be made. Photos will be needed, too.
  • You can submit more than one item — after all, we want as many ideas as possible.

What do you get out of participating?

Fame (well, sort of), recognition, and the pleasure that comes from helping to build something larger than any of us could do on our own – you’ll be helping to create a free resource that can’t exist without your help. While designing your item, try to imagine a person discovering your idea and using it to create something useful for their own home — how cool is that? This collaborative project can be as important as we choose to make it – so have fun, explore new ideas, and start working on that project!

How to Submit Your Paper Mache Item for the Practical Paper Mache Project

Please use this form to submit your photo and a description of your entry. Please give as much detail as you can. Include the materials that you used, an estimate of the cost, and an explanation of how the item can be used. Tell me exactly how you want your name to appear on the special blog page and eBook.

It will take up to 24 hours for me to place your submission on the new Practical Paper Mache project page. (Perhaps a few hours more if the garden needs attention…). The eBook should be ready for download a few weeks after the May 30 deadline.

If you have suggestions for the project as a whole – such as a catchier name, for instance –  please add your suggestions in the comment area in the area below, here on the blog. If you’re currently working on something and would like some advice from other readers, or if you have an idea that you think somebody could make but you don’t personally have time to do it, go ahead and put that in the comment section, too. This is a collaboration, after all, so let’s share.

And, speaking of sharing, if you understand Facebook and Twitter better than I do, please spread the word so we can get as many participants as possible.

27 thoughts on “Practical Paper Mache Project – Let’s Build it Together!”

  1. Hi Jonni,

    My son really wants to make this pin holder Donkey. Do you have step by step instruction on how to do so? He’s dreaming about making this! 🙂

        • I see– the problem. I used a stock image for that post, to encourage people to join in on a project we did a few years back. But nobody made a pin holder like this, so we don’t have a tutorial for it. It looks like a bowl, with legs and neck added. I think if I did it, I would make the entire shape out of crumpled aluminum foil. Tape it all together with masking tape, and add three or four layers of paper and paste. Make sure the aluminum foil form stands up nice and straight before adding the paper mache. It would be a fun project!

          • Thank you Jonni,

            I will try what you suggested. and if it comes out I’ll post to here for you. I’ve never attempted Paper Mache. Where can I get the basics on how to make the solution from flour and water?

  2. I am not able to load my project picture. I was attempting to use Photobucket on the form posted here…but no can do.

    What is the trick?

    • Sharon, the form is asking for the image that’s saved on your computer. I don’t think it will grab a photo that’s already been uploaded to another website. However, you can just paste the URL of your photobucket image in the comment area, and I can grab it from there manually.

      I can’t wait to see what you’re going to share with us.

      • I’m sorry, I should have followed up. I did use the image on my computer with no problem on my project. Thank you for your quick response. I’m just not computer savy.

        • I received your entry, and it’s fabulous – I’ll post it on the Practical Paper Mache page right away. You’ll get some compliments, I’m sure.

          • It’s up there, and it looks great. However, the page itself seems to be loading very slowly – we may be getting too many photos on the page, and that could be slowing things down. I may build separate pages for each entry – which would be rather nice, in a way. The main page (this one) could hold a list of all the projects and links to the separate projects (which would make it easier for people to comment, too. If anyone has any other suggestions for making this project a smashing success for all our readers, please let me know.

          • Aw, thank you Jonni,
            It was a great way to get rid of cereal boxes, junk mail, and empty toilet paper rolls. And it’s served it’s purpose – a handy place for bills waiting til the last minute before I pay them 😀

  3. What a great, and quintessentially Jonni-esque, way to go (rather than the contest)! I can’t wait to see what your creative readers come up with. I may have to put my mind to something practical, myself. Sounds like fun!

  4. Now this is much better. I know when i first started out showing my works i felt a LOT of pressure (still do) knowing there were much better artists out there than me (still are) but once i got going it eased off. Not being a contest more a show & help thing works much easier i think for those of us who doubt they’re skills. This way it will feel more like a collaberation of advice giving/sharing than out doing anyone.

    I definately like this idea & will most certainly be taking part. Since my own blog is more intended as a HOW TO more than i I CAN thing this feels like a extension of that theme which i am well adept at making things from what laying around the house so to speak lol.

    Your more than likely going to be well under way before i get to submitting anything, but i will be here supplying a few bits n bobs as soon as i can. Can’t wait in fact lol.

    Once this gets going properly i’ll get some links news updates etc going on my blog for it too.

  5. Hi Jonni, I like this idea of sharing instead of a contest, will be great to see what people come up with, got lots of ideas running through my head already.
    Will be very interesting to see what people come up with.

    • Excellent video, Paco. I love the idea of using the transparent bowls with the candles – as long as the cat leaves them alone. And I agree with your statement that things change – a lot – when you start to sell something that you enjoy making. Some people enjoy the challenge of production, and it helps their creativity flow even more intensely. Others prefer a more laid-back approach. I think I fit into the latter category, and that’s why I don’t actively promote my sculptures for sale. Teaching others to make their own sculptures is so much more fun.

      • I have been wanting to get the time to make some tissue ‘spheres’ for some time now. Sadly unlike Paco’s excellent tissue sconces my spheres would have to be more supportive as i intend to use them as part of a bigger project. So i have the problem of how thick is enough to be supportive & how much is too much for allowing the light through.

        They do look beautiful lit up though.

        • I wonder if your spheres would be stronger if you used some thread, criss-crossing it under the last layer. I’ve never worked with tissue paper, but it does look like it has some real possibilities.

          • Techincally the strengths not the problem. Hm better explain a little i think. Sometimes you find the odd dragon pictures online with Chinese dragons holding small flaming spheres. I want to make one (eventually) posed over a larger sphere with light inside, Making a tissue sphere on its own to hold lights inside is no problem, but to have the weight of a dragon even hollow as i work then the sphere needs to be stronger.

            Having anything inside the tissue that would show through with the light inside would ruin the effect of a clear tissue sphere lol.

            So the question for me is how thick need i make the sphere that i can get away with for strength & still let the light shine through as brightly as possible as the sphere would be the lamp/illumination up under the dragon.

            • Interesting problem, Jonty. It will be interesting to see if you can actually do it with paper mache. Knowing you, you’ll probably keep working at until you find a way. Good luck with it.

    • Paco, very nice! A well-planned, simple demo with a very inviting feel to it. The tissue-paper sconces at the end were lovely! Also, the use of the small cheese boxes has given me inspiration for what to do with my own small collection (how can you throw them away??)

      Thanks, Paco. Good luck with your workshops.

    • Oh Paco! A very lovely video, and as another stated; very inviting indeed! You will make a great teacher!!! Non-intimidating teachers are the key to great learning!! 🙂

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