Tools of our Trade – Papier-Mâché

Papier-mâché means “chewed paper” in French and is a technique for making 3D models using layers of paper glued together onto a skeleton structure, made of wire, cardboard, or often a balloon. The Henry Brothers use pieces of old newspaper and a home-made glue of flour and water to make masks, models and other props for our shows and presentations.

This picture shows the construction of a papier-mâché pig using a balloon with toilet-roll holders for the legs and snout…

Once the glue has dried the paper can be cut and painted and other decoration added. Here’s a papier-mâché house that John made with his daughter Ela for a school project. It’s hard and much stronger than the cardboard model that we began with, so it’s able to support details like a chimney, window frames and drainpipes.

The technique is thousands of years old, even the ancient Egyptians made papier-mâché objects using papyrus. Today it’s widely used in primary schools as a craft activity, a way to get children making sculpture as well as the two-dimensional drawing and painting that most art lessons consist of. It’s colourful and creative and very, very messy so the kids love it. Papier-mâché is also well known as a material for theatrical masks, costumes and equipment such as this huge carnival float from Massafra in Italy.

And here’s an example of the Henry Brothers’ papier-mâché; the Toby the Tiger mask we made to help promote the Join In series by Herbert Puchta and Gunter Gerngross. Masks can be made of plastic, rubber, cardboard, textiles or even wood but papier-mâché is an easy way to create a strong, solid mask that can be painted and can carry intricate decoration. And it costs almost nothing!

Toby the Tiger

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About The Henry Brothers

We are English teachers involved in ELT publishing in Turkey, and also touring the country giving workshops and presentations to English teachers, mainly on the use of poetry, storytelling and other lively activities in the classroom. We can be contacted by e-mail to istanbuljohnm@hotmail.co.uk.
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