Easy, Illustrated Instructions on How to Paper Mache

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Step 1: Go to the bathroom. Your hands are going to be in warm water for the next 45 minutes, so you might as well empty your bladder before you get started.

Mix 3 cups water with 2 1/2 cups flour. I usually use my hand for mixing because it is easy to smoosh the chunks of flour and get them mixed in to a nice thick soup. Warm water is more enjoyable, but optional. I'm sure that this paste would work in both a very thin and a very thick consistency, but I prefer a particular viscosity.

Make your paste as thick as pancake batter. Thinner than honey. Thicker than tomato soup. Thinner than white school glue. Thicker than egg nog.


Strip tease
Next you will need some strips of newspaper. Hold a section of newspaper (up to 10 pages) and tear off 2-inch strips. The paper should tear neatly down the page, resulting in long strips. I think tearing works better than cutting because the torn strips tend to have thinner edges.

As you tear off the strips, toss them into a loose pile. With luck, the bundle of strips will flutter apart a little bit as they land. This should make it a little easier to grab individual strips when you begin using them.

I don't know how many you will need. Make a big pile. If you mess up some of the strips, making them too thin or too thick, just throw them away.

Also, avoid using the extra glossy ad inserts from the newspaper. Those don't absorb paste as well, and finally, don't use strips which have a sharp fold along them, they don't lay flat.

Paper Mache!
With all the prep taken care of, it is time to start dipping some strips into the paste and draping them across your structure. If you are like me, you will find that putting the strips on is pretty fun.

Hold one end of a single strip of newspaper and dunk it into the bowl of paste. The paste is actually too thick for the newspaper to sink, so you should use the other hand to poke it into the bowl. You don't have to completely submerge the strip. As long as at least one side is gooed up, it should work.

Pull the strip out of the paste and hold it above the bowl. If one side is totally dry, I usually use my hand to smear a couple of globs of paste onto it.

Next, use a two-finger squeegee move down the length of the strip.

This will scrape off most of the paste and spread it around. Ideally, when you get to the bottom of the strip, it will be completely wet, with just a thin layer of paste covering the whole thing.

Lay the strip across your structure. It might not have much "stick" at this stage, especially if you are working with chicken wire. I recommend starting at the top of your armature, where gravity won't pull it off. Once the strip is on the structure, smooth it down flat with your hands.

If you are really having trouble getting the strips to stick to chicken wire, try poking one end through the hexes, and touching the end of the strip to itself. Once you have a few strips on there, it should become easier.

Wet newspaper tears easily, and it sticks to itself, so it takes a little experience to tame these strips and get them onto your sculpture.

Please continue reading page 3 of Easy, Illustrated Instructions on How to Papermache.

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October 29, 2007 

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