Reference Library: Papier-mâché
'Papier-mâché' (French for 'chewed-up paper'), sometimes called 'paper-maché', is a construction material that consists of pieces of paper, sometimes reinforced with textiles, stuck together using a wet paste (e.g. glue, starch, or wallpaper adhesive). The crafted object becomes solid when the paste dries.
A form of papier-mâché had existed in China for hundreds of years until a much stronger version (including glue) was patented by Henry Clay of Birmingham England in 1702. It was a common technique for making dolls in the 19th century, before plastics became available. Piñatas are an example, as is one of the Papal Tiaras. Constructing papier-mâché is a common craft used to entertain children.
In Russia a variety of utilitarian as well as decorative objects have been fashioned from papier-mâché since the late 18th century. These items include wall plaques, trays, boxes, salt cellars, desk sets and paper knives, storage jars for tea and tobacco, album covers, beads cases, bracelets and brooches.
After the entire surface of the finished blank has been sanded smooth, several coats of black lacquer are applied to each article. It is then given to the artists for decoration. Highly complex and finely detailed miniature scenes are painted onto even the smallest black lacquered object.
Russian lacquer art on papier-mâché has flourished for well over 200 years and has achieved the transition from folk art to fine art.
Papier-mâché was one of the first composite materials, and using the right techniques, it can build suprisingly strong structures. One common item made in the 1800s in America was the paper canoe. The invention of the continuous sheet paper machine allows paper sheets to be made of any length, and this made an ideal material for building a seamless boat hull. The paper of the time was significantly stretchier than modern paper, especially when damp, and this was used to good effect in the manufacture of paper boats. A layer of thick, dampened paper would be placed over a hull mold, and tacked down at the edges. A layer of glue would be added, allowed to dry, and be sanded down. Additional layers of paper and glue could be added to achieve the desired thickness, and cloth could be added as well to provide additional strength and stiffness. The final product would be trimmed, reinforced with wooden strips at the keel and gunwales to provide stiffness, and waterproofed. Paper racing shells were highly competitive during the late 1800s. Unfortunately, few examples of paper boats survived. One of the best known paper boats was the canoe "The Maria Theresa", used by Nathaniel Holmes Bishop to travel from New York to Florida in 1874 - 1875. An account of his travels was published in the book "Voyage of the Paper Canoe."
Paper mache paste is the substance which holds the paper together. The traditional method of making paper mache paste is to add a one part water to one part flour. Some artists prefer to boil the paste, saying that it makes the consistency more smooth (water to flour ratio is changed to five parts water and one part flour in this case). Other artists use a three to one or a one to one ratio of water and white glue. Still others say that starch makes a fine paste.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Papier-mâché".