It’s hard to believe that workshop partner Val Bembenek and I have been offering classes in my studio in Oracle for a year. We call it three seasons, since we started in Spring 2011, then offered workshops in the Fall, 2011 and had our last Spring 2012 workshop this week.

Papier Mache is not just for kids, although it can be very fun to teach children this process. As Val tells it, she first started by becoming a paper maker, using native materials in her paper pulps. Once she got really good at making paper, she needed to be able to use the paper in some way. This led her to bookmaking. Val makes wonderful books, cards and other items from her handmade paper.

Eventually she realized that she was beginning to fill her refrigerator with the remnants of all of those paper pulps. Committed recycler that she is, she just hated to throw out all of those leftover portions, so she proceeded to research ways in which to use this stuff. Voila! Her papier mache bowls were born. Made from a variety of pulps they fulfill her desire to make use of all her materials while also creating incredibly lovely and sophisticated bowls and other papier mache items. Still more pulp left over, she now offers occasional papier mache workshops, thus putting to good use a portion of her batches of paper pulp.

She cleared her refrigerator this week, teaching a marvelous workshop. I admit that I’ve taken it from her before, but I just couldn’t resist giving it another try. It’s amazing to be able to take such an humble looking ingredient and transform it. Papier Mache is not just for kids!

Here we are, just getting started.

Getting started papier mache workshop in Oracle Arizona

In the foreground are an array of beautiful papers for decorating our creations


Bobbie and Val, papier mache workshop, Oracle Arizona

Val (on the right) is giving Bobbie some advice on getting started


The first bowls we worked on were layered rather than pulped. First we laid decorative papers dipped in wallpaper paste in various configurations inside the metal bowl that served as a form. Then we used strips of paper dipped in wallpaper paste to cover the decorative embellishments and to cover the entire inside of the metal bowl. Next we added more decorations dipped in wallpaper paste to the inside of the bowl. Out they went into our cooperative hot Arizona sunshine to dry. Within a few hours they were dry enough to pop out of the metal bowls and take on a life of their own. Below are some of the results.

Geri, bowl, papier mache workshop, Oracle Arizona

Geri is showing off the bottom of one of her bowls.


Polly, bowl, papier mache workshop in Oracle, Arizona

Polly, holding one of her layered bowls.


Bobbie, bottom of bowls,papier mache workshop, Oracle Arizona

Bobbie, showing off the bottom of two of her layered bowls


Bobbie, inside of bowls, workshop, Oracle Arizona

The decorative inside of Bobbie's layered bowls


These bowls are very light weight and delicate looking, but are incredibly sturdy. Papier Mache is not just for kids!

Moving along, we got into the challenge of making pulp bowls. The pulp bowls are made out of mushed up gobs of paper  mixed with wallpaper paste to which we added lavender or saffron botanicals to the mix to add texture and color.

Geri working on paper pulp bowl, workshop in Oracle Arizona

Geri working on paper pulp bowl


Shaping these pulp bowls is similar to working with clay.


Polly is working away at shaping her bowl. The bowls are formed around empty plastic containers. Yet another great way to keep materials out of the landfill and into good use!  The bowls look heavy and at first they are. But when dry, they are quite lightweight. It takes several days for these guys to dry. Once dry, they can be sanded and finished with a clear acrylic. Papier Mache is not just for kids!

Thanks again for another great workshop, Val. And thanks to all who participated over the last year. Never fear we’ll be back in the Fall with more creative fun for everyone.