Working with papier mâché

Masks in papier mâché

An underlying clay mould could be made by the children for a mask. Undercuts in the mould that would make it impossible to remove the finished mask should be avoided: a hooked nose or an undercut chin can be added on in papier mâché. The clay should be covered in cling film to prevent the papier mâché from sticking to it, and the children will be interested to discover that they can make more than one mask on the same mould and can vary them subtly.

Plastic boxes, bottles or cardboard cylinders or even crumpled newspaper held in shape by string or wire could form the support core for all sorts of imaginative characters, for example a strange fish, bird, monster or puppet. More experienced children could make a wire skeleton for a character in papier mâché, using short strands of florists’ wire, for example. All sorts of bric-a-brac, crumpled paper, chunks of polystyrene or little boxes could be used as a base for an invented landscape, for example a desert island with cliffs, sea arches, caves, or a mysterious landscape on another planet. In senior classes, a little chicken wire could be added to the supporting materials.

Chicken wire and papier mâché are ideal for creating very large forms. Keep supplies of old leather or gardening gloves for use when cutting it. More experienced children could design and make large pieces in this medium, for example enormous heads, dragons, props for drama: look at the work of, for example, Niki de Saint Phalle and at carnival characters.

Papier mache resources:

  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard scrap
  • Paste or PVA glue
  • Tempera paint
  • Wire, chicken wire
  • Coloured paper, fibres and oddments