Monday 5 December 2011

How to make a simple papier-mâché bowl

Collect together the following items
Terracotta flower pot - This is only intended to give support to the bowl whilst it is being constructed. The size of the pot will depend on how large you want your bowl to be. Terracotta is good as it gives weight and helps to keep the process stable. Initially, work on a small bowl to practice - small flowerpot/small balloon.
A few round balloons - extra in case some burst!
String + masking tape
Box of tissue/roll of loo paper - it absorbs lots of glue + is good for the first layers - though not essential - most papers will do.
Newsprint - tissue paper, brown wrapping paper or newspaper will also be fine.
Thick paper = card is good too.
2 bowls + sieve + white glue + brush + blender.
The colour of the balloon I am working on changes throughout these sequences as balloons do deflate! It's a simple matter to remove it and blow up another inside your partly made bowl. Really!
First step - secure your balloon.
This makes an extra sticky base to add the next layer to - but is not an essential step. You can paint glue directly onto the balloons surface or onto the paper. There are no rules!
I soak the paper - newsprint, brown paper, tissue etc and then let it drip to almost dry. This makes the paper almost like fabric - flexible and easier to manipulate, tear and paste.
Repeat by adding more layers of glue and paper and allow to dry. How many layer you add really depends on the size of the balloon your working on. The bigger the balloon and therefore the bowl - the more layers. I add about 4- 5 layers when using this method. The pulp adds most of the strength to the bowl when dry.
In this method I am ripping up watercolour paper into small pieces to put in a blender to make papier mache pulp. Any paper will do.
I add warm water to help soften the paper and then whizz it all up until there are no lumps and sieve it, gently pressing about 80% of the water out. I try to avoid squeezing and making lumps!
Then I add the glue. I'm using white glue. In the U.K we call it P.V.A glue - in the U.S.A it's generally called Elmers glue. I have other recipes on my blog using flour and water paste. I do like using flour and water paste as it makes the work much more brittle. P.V.A glue brings in a little flexibility to the work which can be an advantage. The amount of glue you add depends on the amount and type of paper you are using. It's all a matter of experimentation really.
Mix it all up and then leave it on one side to absorb for a few minutes.
Add pulp in small amounts - working from top to bottom - gently pressing and smoothing out. It helps to work with wet hands - have a small bowl of water by you to dip fingers in. If the pulp should start to slip down the sides of the bowl as you are working with it, simply stop and leave it to dry and then continue later, filling in the gaps. It all works out in the end!
I have used the inner cardboard disc of an old masking tape roll to make an indentation into the top of the soft pulp which I then filled with glue and pressed the disc into. This will make the foot of the bowl.
When it is dry - pop the ballon. Notice yet another coloured balloon! Remove balloon by popping it.
Trim away excess to make your bowl the height you want it to be.
I am gently ripping away some more dried pulp as I want to create a deckle edge.
I am making traditional gesso with rabbit skin glue, ground chalk (whiting) and water. It is made in a double boiler as it is a gentle process. You can use acrylic gesso. 
Recipes for traditional gesso and homemade alternative gesso can be found by clicking the links.
Painting on coats of warm traditional gesso. Leave to dry between coats. If you build up many coats of gesso you can burnish it to a smooth finish and/or scratch surface decoration into it. I have just painted the inner part of the bowl with gesso and will add silver leaf. I want to create an aged patina to the silver so when the whole bowl is finished I will let it spent a couple of days in a cardboard box with a couple of hard boiled eggs. The result, although temporarily rather smelly is well worth it!
I am always looking for inspiration. This is a discarded piece of lead flashing in an old bucket but once edited in photoshop looks like this -
And gives me the idea for a starting point for developing the outer surface of the bowl with fragments of gold, copper and silver leaf, acrylic inks - F.W and Pearlescentiridescent tinting medium and gesso. - Will post as soon as it's done!
I have painted the outer surface of the bowl with acrylic gesso and added silver and copper leaf by 2 steps - 
First of all I painted the inside of the bowl with some Acrylic Gold Size and quickly painted random areas of the outside of the bowl with it too, using an old brush. It only takes a few minutes to go tacky and then I added the silver leaf by gently pressing it against the tacky surface. I brushed away any excess with a soft, dry brush (saving any little flakes for future projects) and then repeated the process on the inner part of the bowl to ensure it was pretty well all covered with silver leaf. 
N.B. - Acrylic Gold Size is not generally used on top of traditional gesso as it tends to form a skin which peels off. I have been using it this way for years and just work with it and if bits peel away, then I simply re-apply the size and some more silver leaf. This is because I will eventually be polishing it with beeswax or Renaissance wax polish and it will be fine. If you are using acrylic gesso there will be no little anomalies. I rather like the serendipity of anomalies as it usually leads to new discoveries.
I then repeated the process adding gold leaf.
 Next I added 
and allow to dry.
 Then I added very loose layers of thick white acrylic paint and leave to dry.

The next photos will show the addition of coloured acrylic paint and then a mixture of flakes of dyed metal leaf  - 
 and a final polishing to complete the tutorial.

I have used a couple of different gesso methods in this tutorial but you can choose which one you use. The links to products and suppliers are merely suggestions, not directions. There are many suppliers and producers all doing similar things. 


Saturday 3 December 2011

May ~ Old Containers

May 2011 - I found these two interesting old metal containers at our local recycling centre plus half a pot of black vinyl paint so thought I might combine the two.  I've no idea at the moment where to put them or quite what to put in them but not to worry as my gardening methods seem to resemble a game of creative serendipity far more that rational planning!  The table also doubles up and has to adapt to whatever is required, this morning a workbench. Next year I will level this area and terrace it as much as necessary as it's on quite a slope from both top to bottom and from side to side. It is going to require a lot of soil but I think that I have the perfect place to get it all from as I'm going to put a small greenhouse in the vegetable garden and as that is also on a slope there will be loads - quite literally, wheelbarrow loads, coming out from the foundations of it. Then I will sow some nice fine grass seed to replace the self sown field grass that is here now and which is full of weeds and lumps and bumps!
March 2011 - The shed earlier in the year! I can see how it will eventually look when it's finished in my mind's eye so I can ignore how it looks right now.  It won't be long to bring a little beauty to it's doorstep. I have every confidence that the Spring will work it's magic and Summer will be wonderful!
July 2011 - You can barely see one of the old containers now - it's to the left of where the door will be and has roses planted in it, gaining a foothold for next summer when they will scramble over the porch. The other container has become the home to a packet of mixed Sweet-Pea seeds that are just coming into flower.
A few old terracotta flowerpots and Geranium cuttings. They seem to thrive here as it gets all the early morning sun. It's also my favourite place to take my early morning cup of tea and consider my day and what to do next. Each step of the development of this cottage garden brings new challenges.
A climbing rose and another rose that will just grow about three feet high together with a lavender pink Gypsophlia and a trailing something or other! Names later. I really must keep a record of what is planted where for times like this. I am thinking of making an arty display with the labels to hang in the shed later on. I keep finding labels all over the place!

March 2012 - I am slowly developing this part of the garden to make a scented path to the shed. The standard rose is Gertrude Jekyll with Lilies, Poppies, Irises and Lavender around her. The hen population is gradually increasing and it's interesting to watch the pecking order with each new arrival. The brown one, yet to be named, was reduced to chasing a Blackbird off her patch yesterday as her only way of establishing some authority!
I have been collecting flat stones, or relatively flat, for the crazy paving for the path to the studio/shed. All looking rather brown right now. So much work at the moment is driven by imagination.
April 2012 - Almost there now and need only a few more. The path will be on a gentle slope and somehow I will try to make the surface level. I will infill with sand and probably a concrete mix so I can wash them down when (after) the ladies go walking. There are five hens now but one is in quarantine after being attacked by an untrained dog. It will be a slow recovery as she has lost all her feathers on her back and tail but the skin is healing after being stitched back together.

Pinks, Peonies and Irises - with old shed and other memories and reminders.

The summer months here in Devon have been overcast and relatively uninspiring but we just carry on doing whatever it is we have to do!  In my case it is having to loose some of my momentum in the garden to concentrate on making jewellery.  I will put up some pieces here when I have worked out how to reproduce the colours more accurately - my iphone 4 will not do so, maybe there is an app for that!
I love this picture. Peonies, lavender, aqualegia, scabious, cosmos, irises etc. But most of all the shabby shed. I know that smell so well when on a hot summers day the scent of fading creosote perfumes the air, reminding me of gardens and times long since departed. 

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