Learning, the act of gaining knowledge, is a craft unto itself. It starts with questions - the what ifs, how abouts, whys, . . . leading from the unknown to the known, through inquiry, experimentation, travel, and of course pure accident.

This is about how it happens in my life.

About the Papier Mache Project

When The Star started appearing on my door step as part of an unsolicited trial I was conflicted about what to do with all the paper.  I decided to experiment with papier mache, (this page shows all the works) something I had not done since I was a kid, and knew held great creative possibilities.  The one site I found most useful for learning the basics again was http://www.papiermache.co.uk/.   It also gave me inspiration for what else can be done with this amazing and accessible medium. 
You need some space to make a mess for a few days, some kind of plastic (old shower curtains are awesome for crafts!) for a work surface, and some paper. Don't used newspaper to protect your table unless you want to papier mache your table top while you are at it (you could do this, of course, finished with a good coat of lacquer!)
I used sunshine and a small heating fan in the bathroom to assist with drying times.  The faster things dry the greater chance of warping, of course.

the snowmen, pre painting
I used paper from the September 2011 daily delivery of The Star, including much of the non-glossy inserts.

here you see the unfinished versions of all the bowls

 To make the glue I used about 1kg of flour in total, 1/2c per batch with 5 cups water. Here's what I did: bring 4c to a boil, add in the remaining 1c which has the 1/2c flour mixed into it. Turn down heat to med and let simmer while you keep stirring, about 4 min. To test when done:  dip spoon in and lift out. run your finger down the back of the spoon. the mark should stay, with very little bleeding at the edge.
The glue thickens as it cools, but can be easily thinned out with more water as needed.
It would take me until Tuesday to catch up from Saturday; that day alone required more than 2 batches of glue.
 I used about 1ltr of acrylic paint/gesso/mediums, and all items noted as food safe are finished with shellac, (the excretion of the female lac bug, which is native to India and Thailand. Honest. see here) and has been used by the confectionery industry for years to create shine. You've eaten this stuff, so it's okay on the bowls etc!

Each piece involved hours of work, not including time for drying. I used a combination of techniques to build up the shapes, with stainless steel bowls and other household objects acting as forms.
you can see the trees in the background, some of the papier mached bags, some coffee tins used as forms and all sizes of paper ready to be used.
The plastic bags shielding the paper from the rain were used to ensure easy release, since the glue won't stick to it. Some of the shapes were formed around other paper (the trees and pumpkins), while others are paper all the way through, such as the snowmen and penguins.  
It has taken me as long to paint the items as it did to create them.
Out of just over 100 pieces, about 15 didn't work out for various reasons and have been recycled already.  All the items I made when I tried making paper clay got caught in a rain storm while I was away from home. They were out on the front porch drying at the time.



 There are still many items that haven't any paint on them at all yet. The bowl to the left was one of the first things I made and is still just newspaper.

'off kilter red' uses an lcbo bag which I papier mached to make it rigid


As the pieces piled up I had to decide what to do with them. I decided to give them away as an incentive to donate to the Santa Claus Fund, since all the pieces are made of The Star and all.
I was interviewed by Vit Wagner at The Star about my papier mache project after I emailed them about it. I didn't want to get in trouble for "soliciting" on their behalf, which is why I've made it clear from the start to donate directly to the fund, and pick a piece free.

Here is a link to the article and video: crafty approach to philanthropy

These items are remarkably strong, even before the acrylic paint is applied.  As few as 6 layers of paper is rigid enough to remain horizontal as a 16x16 square, just holding it at the edge.
I'd like to use this kind of technique on a wall, maybe with maps or blue prints . . .I'll keep you posted on what ever comes next!

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