We are in Week 3 of community quarantine! To those of you who have kids at home, I totally understand if you find yourself at your wits end, completely out of any more creative ideas to do with them at home. At the beginning of the lockdown, we worked on this project that wasn’t exactly quick and easy. But I thought, we’ve got so much time in our hands, we might as well do something more immersive and can stretch for a longer period of time. So I’m sharing this paper mache project with you now. It’s a craft technique that has been around for as long as I can remember but have only recently taught my daughters. Perhaps, this is something you and the children (even the adults!) in your home can enjoy doing together too.
When we worked on this project two weeks ago, my daughters and I were still learning about Yayoi Kusama. You can check out our previous projects HERE. We started off with flat work so we wanted to try something three dimensional this time. Our insipration were Kusama’s bizaare sculptures. We saw one of her popular dotted pumpkins in Hong Kong last year (see photo above). It was quite difficult to miss!
We also searched online for pictures of her other colorful sculptures. These gigantic flowers that look like they’re from Alice in Wonderland are the girls’ favorites!
After taking in some inspiration from Kusama’s work, we started working on our own sculptures and I’ve broken it down step by step for you. Here’s how!
STEP 1: I gave the kids a pile of cardboard TP rolls, empty boxes, empty bottles and paper straws then told them to imagine of shapes or figures they can create with them. With some masking tape, we assembled our figures together. Don’t have to worry about it being perfect. In fact, the weirder the shape, the better! The girls all made their own versions of character shapes.
STEP 2: Set aside the figures you’ve created using recycled material and make your PAPER MACHE SOLUTION. Mix 1 cup of white glue with 3 cups of water in a basin. Make sure the glue dissolves completely. You can adjust the measurement of the glue and water depending on how many you are making but for the four of us, this was just enough.
STEP 3: Get a stack of newspaper or any scratch paper you have lying around. Rip them into manageable strips.
STEP 4: Soak the strips of paper into the paper mache solution. Once completely soaked, wrap the strips around your figure until it is completely covered. Put as many layers as needed and smoothen corners by covering it with smaller pieces of soaked paper. The goal is to cover every surface and make it look as smooth and crease-free as possible! This part of the process will take at least 40 mins.
STEP 5: Once you’re done and happy with your scultpure, you will have to let it sit overnight to dry. For best results, dry it out in the sun.
The next day, check your sculptures and make sure that they are thoroughly dry. You’ll find that they’ve become harder and sturdier, specially if you used many layers of newspaper.
STEP 6: Now’s it’s time to paint! If you’ll look back at Kusama’s sculptures, there is always a base color under all the dots and details. Pick your base colors and paint every surface of the sculpture.
STEP 7: Let the base paint dry then proceed to paint the details. It’s best to use a smaller brush for this part. You can paint dots as Yayoi did or you can come up with your own, like diamonds, teardrops, check marks, etc. The goal is to fill every part of it with pattern and design. Make it as colorful as you want!
TIP: Even if you created a very familiar shape, like a pear or a girl, be a little more adventurous by painting it in an unusual way. I love how Summer painted colorful stripes on her entire character sculpture!
Lastly, let the paint dry completely and there you have it! Vibrant, quirky, one-of-a-kind sculptures your kids can play with or display in their rooms.
Emma even made a little Yayoi exhibit!
Aside from Yayoi Kusama-inspired sculptures, there are many other things you can create with paper mache, like toys, bowls, picture frames, animal figures and jewelry organizers. Perhaps now is the best time to try this age-old craft!