Papier mâché is a construction material made from a paper product—either pulp or torn paper and a glue — either wallpaper paste, flour and water, or resin. The pulp version is more often used for modeling, while the torn paper kind is used to make layered papier mâché products. Commercial products that combine the glue and paper material and only require the addition of water are also available. Variations for special purposes incorporate other materials, such as sawdust, glue, and oil.
Papier mâché is often shaped over something. Often it is placed over an underlying structure called an armature, that remains within the finished product. armatures are composed of lightweight but fairly rigid materials to give shape and form to the final product. Often they are constructed of materials such as wire, wood, Styrofoam, cardboard, and padding.
Papier mâché can also be constructed over balloons and properly prepared bowls and plates. Bowls and plates require coating with a release agent so that the papier mâché can be easily separated from them. Some of the materials used for this purpose are plastic wrap, Vaseline, and cooking oil.
Papier mâché is an attractive medium for a number of reasons. It is lightweight, but can be formed into a sturdy product. It can be added to other constructions. It is inexpensive to make, and it can be decorated in a variety of ways.
A sealant coat is a good first step for decorating papier mâché. Acrylic and enamel paints are popular finishing components, but the surface can also be lacquered or decorated with yarn, mosaic, fabric, edging, pipe cleaners, and other craft and hobby materials.
Historically, papier mâché was used in the creation of relief sculptures and ornamental furniture. The RCA Victor mascot dog, Nipper, was made of papier mâché, and the material has also been used to make doll heads, nativity figures, and helmets. Well known papier mâché artists include Sergio Bustamante and Philip Cox.