Top Tips And A Passion For Papier Mache Activities


I was a bit of a serious Papier Mache addict for about 4 years. I designed it, made it and sold it in galleries and markets in London.  Objects including mirrors, frames, tables,  clocks and even lights. I used to go to the recycling centre (aka – The Dump) and come back with more stuff than I had dropped off, much to my Duncan’s disappointment.  My 2 CV car was known fondly as a ‘Skip on wheels’ by my mates, as the roof would be rolled back with an oddment of allsorts sticking out of the top to be transformed by the magic of ‘Papier Mache’ amongst other creative processes that I would play with!

I actually started my life’s passion  with Papier Mache when I was about 8 years old. My brothers and sisters would be sent to the shed if naughty (They were the days – I can’t imagine doing that to my boys now). However I loved the shed and would spend as many hours as I could in there, with buckets of long shreds of  newspaper and slightly toxic wallpaper paste – busy creating masterpiece after masterpiece.

Over the years I have learnt a lot of time saving techniques, ways to stop it overtaking the house.. (just…) and top tips.

Top Tip  1

Try ripping the paper you want to use across the width and also down the length. You will find that one way rips into much  better  lengths, which is much easier to work with.

Top Tip 2.

Use watered down PVA glue. You don’t need to soak the newspaper,  just dip it in and wipe off the excess. this is so much easier and far less messy. Once you have experimented, try using different type of papers and create some different effects and textures.

Top Tip 3

Create or use an object to cover. This could be a balloon, a wok (My favorite for many years – and it didn’t alter the taste of my stir fry too much either!). I used to make a lot a cardboard frames, and then Papier Mache over the top. Always use double thickness card – I would get so excited when I saw a big double walled cardboard box- I know, slightly tragic really (I was about 29 at the time as well).  You can create a shape by using masking tape to join the cut pieces of card. This works well, as the PVA dipped paper strips will stick to the masking tape quite nicely, unlike sellotape or brown tape.

Top Tip 4

If you are going to remove the object, give it a good coat of cooking oil or Vaseline first, otherwise, in my case,  my wok would have never seen the light of day again!

I will dig out  some of my artworks  and upload them if anyone would like to see them?

Do let me know if you have any questions as I would love to help!

I have since discovered and played with mod-roc, which is really good fun too.

I look forward to hearing from you

Sarah Cressall

7 responses »

  1. I’ve never really tried this since school. But this this sounds like a really fun project for me to do with my girls. And the top tips make it seem so simple!


    • It is good- but it does take a bit of patience and space! I quite like modroc now. (I did wrap my sons head in Mod roc just for fun- I left the appropriate apertures for breathing etc.!). It created a pretty weird effect! Not one of the ideas in our classes!


  2. We want photos!! Have you ever been to the papier mache shop in Clerkenwell, or the pub opposite it that has all the papier mache on the walls? (Well, it did when I worked round there, about 10 years ago) – very cool!


    • I thought you might say that! Goodness knows where the photos are – I will dig deep and locate them! I’m sure the shop in Clerkenwell is one of the locations where I used to sell my stuff. That shop was truly inspiring – amazing every day items like paper can be transformed into.


  3. I used to work near that shop in Clerkenwell, Ollie still has a Chameleon mirror bought there in his bedroom! I made a fab tortoiseshell for Ollie’s school play last year using the pva method onto a cling-flim covered ‘Bilbo’ imagination toy (think a bottom-sized walnut shell made of plastic). Only my poor camouflage painting let it down!


  4. I’d love to see some photos of your work. I actually bought a fantastic papier mache decorated mirror from a lady in West Norwood, London circa 2005/2006 which I love. Now i have a few ideas of my own and i’m really interested in learning more about papier mache (especially decorating mirrors). Do you know of any classes or workshops? I know live in Cork, Ireland but happy to travel to London for a workshop.


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