Friday 4 April 2014

April 2014 - speeding up the drying process for papier-mache.

I tried drying out air dried papier-mache in a microwave oven last year and it worked perfectly. Also rolled loo paper beads, dipped in water, squeezed to shape.
 Now I am about to run some experiments so that I can teach a class of 6 people how to make a reasonably crisp, hard dish/platter/bowl that can then be decorated in 1 hour or even less.

All my previous workshops have taken place over a weekend in my kitchen and of course I had my trusty old Rayburn to lend a hand
overnight. People very often like to learn a craft in a day or even half a day, or at least, the beginnings of one so that they can then decide whether it's something they'd like to pursue as a hobby. I meet lots of people who love to have a day out with a friend or friends or family, learn something together, meet new, like minded people, have lunch and take a finished piece home with them. So, I'm tailoring workshops to cater for these kinds of events as well as my workshops that take place over a weekend and/or over 2 or 3 half or full days. Some simply processes demand more time.
I'm using a flat bottomed Pyrex dish in this video and putting good old Cling Film inside it by way of a release agent. It can then be removed after the first 2 or 3 layers as the dish will usually hold it's shape by then. You are the judge of it.
I ripped layers of white photo-copying paper and a cold water and plain white flour mix.
  It's simply 1 part cold water added to 1 part flour. I also added a desert spoonful of cornflour as it makes for a smoother mix. It's very important to microwave in short
  blasts of a few seconds and then let out the steam.

My smaller objects could be dry in 4 seconds, so it's 
important to really
concentrate only on 
the job in hand and 
not wander off and 
start something else!
The colours look rather darker than they are here in the photographs. In fact the bowl looks rather lovely just as it is. It's very light weight and very strong and can be made in half an hour!   This process does allow papier-mache bowls to be made in one day or even half day workshops and be able to decorate in the same day. Shapes will of course depend on the Pyrex dish being used. 
For larger pieces I would still use more traditional methods of working on large balloons, buoys, clay plaques or plaster moulds.
I found an interesting link for working with Plaster of Paris here
for anyone interested. I use PoP for a number of things and it's important to be aware that reuse of your uncontaminated Plaster of Paris can be accomplished by breaking the set plaster into small pieces, placing it in an old roasting pan and reheating it to its melting point -- 325 degrees Fahrenheit -- to remove water. When the material can easily be crushed into powder it is ready for reuse. Complete the process away from other projects and follow recommended safety precautions. These include wearing goggles for eye protection, a face mask to prevent inhalation of dust particles and gloves to prevent skin irritation. I've heard that it can also be composted but I have yet to experiment with this fact.
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