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Paper mache can be made into a variety of different types of crafts, from fine art sculptures to pinatas and kids' crafts. There are two forms of paper mache: one uses pulped paper and one uses torn strips of paper. The pulp type of paper mache is most often used to create molded and sculpted pieces, while the strip form is used to cover existing surfaces, making hollow and flat pieces like pinatas and masks. Since paper mache crafts are inexpensive and easy to make, they are popular for kids' crafting and school projects as well.
Pulped paper mache crafts are made by combining torn newsprint or paper, water, and flour, or glue blended to make a clay-like paste. In some cases, an armature is formed out of cardboard, aluminum foil, or wire, and then the object is covered with paper mache. Paper mache crafts made with pulp need to dry for about a week before they can be painted and then dry to a hard, durable finish. This method is used to make molded or cast pieces, dolls, sculptures, and holiday decorations. Pulp paper mache crafts are dense and heavy for their size and should not be exposed to water because they could melt.
Torn strips of thin paper or newsprint are used to make paper mache crafts that need to be hollow. This is the most commonly used paper mache technique, which combines long strips of paper with glue and water. Strips are applied to an existing surface, like a balloon, cardboard box, or other item. Paper mache crafts made with the strip method dry in a day or two, depending on the humidity level and temperature of the room they are in. Strip paper mache crafts include pinatas, holiday decorations, home decor, and masks.
Years ago, in Vacation Bible School, we made hot air balloons out of paper mache. We covered inflated balloons in newspaper strips and when they dried, we popped the balloon and covered the paper mache with construction paper, fabric and other materials to make colorful balloons. We attached stings that had been dipped in starch to make them stiff and made little baskets from popsicle sticks. It's amazing what you can do with paper mache with just a little ingenuity.
Paper mache is messy to work with and it takes time, which makes it less than popular for younger kids. They want instant results. However, for those who are willing to take the time to do it right, this can be a fun craft that yields good results.
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