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All you need

Paper mache is unbelievably simple. Here’s all you need to make great stuff:

  • All-purpose white flour
  • Warm water
  • Salt
  • Old newspapers or plain newsprint
  • That’s it. I know, right?

    Torn newspaper is what you build a piece with. Newsprint has a grain, and will tear nicely in even strips. Hold a few sheets (no more than four) of paper by the fold and rip downward, slowly. Store your strips in a container, like a shoebox. Rinse, lather and repeat until you have more paper than you think you’ll need. (Trust me, you don’t want to run out in the middle, when you’re up to your elbows in paste.)

    Making the paste is easy. Get a large bowl and line it with a plastic grocery bag. Pour in some flour. Start off with half a cup if you’re not sure. Add a small handful of salt: this will keep your project from going moldy, which you definitely don’t want. Add some warm water and break up the clumps of flour with your fingers. Continue until you’ve got a mixture at a soupy consistency. If it gets too watery, add some more flour; if it’s too lumpy, add more water.

    To make your project, dip the strips of newspaper into the paste, swipe off excess paste by running it between your fingers and then slather your strip onto your base. Depending on the size and build of your project, keep going until you’ve done between two and eight layers. Let it dry. Toss the plastic bag with the remains of your paste. Voila! You’ve got something to decorate now.
    You can build your base out of all sorts of materials easily found around the house or apartment. Once you start, you’ll never look at leftover packing material the same way again.

  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Plastic bags (grocery bags, bagel or bread bags, sandwich bags…)
  • Wire coat hangers
  • Toilet paper or paper towel tubes
  • Empty bottles
  • Old chopsticks
    You’ll need a few extras to help you construct your base, almost all of which can be purchased at a drug store, office supply store or art/craft supply store, if you don’t have them already.

  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife (highly recommended)
  • Masking or painters tape
  • Vaseline (for use with molds)
  • Ruler
  • Sharpie
  • Cutting board
  • Wire cutters
  • Drying rack
  • Some of these are more optional than not, but again, the project will dictate what supplies you need.

    Paper mache isn’t a very time-consuming hobby either, though you can get lost in the pleasant space of making art and getting messy. An hour a night for a few nights in a row lets you make something really neat with your evenings. It’s all what you make of it, if you’ll pardon the pun.

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