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Fun with non-sculptural paper

October 1, 2009

One of the formative texts of my childhood

One of the formative texts of my childhood

You know, it’s funny. I grew up loving books beyond reason. This isn’t so unusual: my dad is an English professor and my mom has a PhD in psychology, and both been devoted readers my entire life. When you come from that kind of family, it’s not so unusual to think of books that really have changed the course of your life. Some of mine are definitely heavies — The Odyssey, The Republic (in which I discovered that kings fear philosophers, but philosophers fear art), Invisible Cities — but so many more, in a sense, are pretty zany: The Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, Bloom County (I raided the shelves of older siblings in the ’80s). One of these latter was Papier-Mache for Kids by Sheila McGraw.

This is it. This is the book that showed me the way. My sister Anya holds the blame for lighting the spark, but this was the one that laid out all the instructions and got me started on a million and one vases, cats, monsters, flying pigs, snakes and, in one memorable instance, a three-bag basset hound with tin cans for feet. If anyone wants to go the book route for learning paper mache, this is absolutely the first place I would say to go.

What makes it so great? It’s got two huge things working in its favor: great instructions and fabulous photographs. The text itself is also tremendously laid-back, and takes itself seriously only insofar as it’s a guidebook to serious fun. I’m someone who learns best by seeing and imitating, and to have such clear, simple written directions alongside easy-to-follow pictures that draw you into the project set a great example. (I’ll link you to the Amazon page, which has excerpts from inside the book, but I really hope you’ll support an independent bookstore like Powell’s if you can. Yeah, I’m insufferable like that. Support small business and local economies!) I really hope to emulate her style in this blog, because it helped me work through a lot of form-building basics, and really allowed me to get my fundamentals right so I could experiment more.

So, Sheila McGraw, if you’re out there somewhere, thank you many times over for writing the best book out there on paper mache for anybody.


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