French for 'chewed paper', Papier-mâché is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch or wallpaper paste. The traditional method of making papier-mâché paste is to use a mixture of water and flour or other starch, or simply glue (like Elmers), mixed to the consistency of heavy cream. Adding oil of cloves or other additives to the mixture reduces the chances of the product developing mold. You can cut paper into strips or use paper pulp if you like, and soak it in the paste until saturated. Then, start creating! The strips may be placed on an armature, or skeleton, often of wire mesh over a structural frame, or they can be placed on an object to create a cast. If you want to make some kind of rounded object a common thing to do is to lay the strips or to pat the pulp around a balloon. Oil or grease can be used as a release agent if needed. When its all done, let it air dry. If you use an outside heat source it will warp your creation. Once dried, the resulting material can be cut, sanded and painted. The great thing about papier-mâché is that its totally non toxic, so kids can go crazy with it. And you can also make some pretty big things with it, since its so easy to manipulate and its so lightweight.
Our star example of Papier-mâché that we have in the store is this lovable deerhead. It was recently featured in Monica's favorite things. What a classic.
Here are some more papier-mache animals for your viewing pleasure:
these are made in Haiti, from recycled French books: