A Papier Maché Legion – lots of possibilities on a modest budget, art and craft activity to do at home or in the classroom.
What fun it is to create these characters out of plastic drinking bottles and paper. This activity offers students lots of possibilities; to create anything they like to imagine. For example, as the picture above shows, cats, cows, birds, people, to mention just a few. The activity presented here was done at home during the Easter Holidays by different age group children, but it is a great technique for the classroom. A theme like Egyptian Cats, or birds, insects, plants and trees for example, can be done in the classroom as a group project. Students can also combine different materials to decorate the characters. Things like feathers, pompons, yarns, buttons, felt and many other recycled materials can be used to add expression to the characters.
There is a list of recycled materials to send home with the students well ahead before you actually start. Parents will be happy to donate bibs and bobs for your papier mache lesson, tick what you need from home and parents will happy to supply. View our Recycled Art Materials list for an easy checklist.
Glue and paper dispensing
Recycled materials like plastic drinking bottles, any size and any shape will be fine. Bottles should be clean and dry. You will also need newspaper and tissue paper, see the list of materials below. Heavy materials like pebbles or clean sand will be placed inside the bottles in order to give the bottles the stability needed to stand up and to hold the weight of the head.
Making the head and applying newspaper to bottle
The glue to be used will depend on the age group of the students, for very young children it is important to get the right kind of glue which can be bought already mixed. For older students and adults there are a number of different glues already mixed or it could also be a powder cellulose based glue to mix with warm water. I wouldn’t recommend wall paper paste as it normally contains strong anti mould chemicals.
The newspaper and the tissue paper should be pre-cut to about 7.5 x 7.5 cm (3 x 3 inches) in a square shape rather than strips as square shapes are a lot easier to handle. The tissue paper should be applied dry to the wet newspaper.
One to two layers of newspaper and one layer of tissue paper are enough as the plastic bottles are a strong base. The head is made of a ball of paper with a neck to be inserted on the top of the bottle, watch video for more details on the process:
List of materials:
- 1 or 2 newspapers cut up into 3” x 3” square or 7.5 x 7.5 cm
- 25 sheets of tissue paper cut up into 3” x 3” square
- 2 lt. or 0.500 gallon glue suitable for paper mache
- 4 rolls of masking tape, 1 per table
- 4 lt. or 1 gallon of school quality Gesso, to under paint.
A selection of colours, ideally the 6 primary colours, good quality tempera or acrylic paint will be best. Six primary colours means: cool yellow, warm yellow, cool blue, warm blue, cool red, warm red plus black and white. For a small budget, choose the 3 Cool Primary colours only.
Painting equipment – brushes medium and small size – water containers – plastic containers to dispense paint – rags for cleaning – and decorators, from the recycled materials list.