Tag Archives: paper mache

Art – Greek Vases


Last year, my 5th/6th graders made Greek vases for their sculpture piece.  It’s a pretty involved project, and took several classes to complete.  However, I think they turned out pretty well!

Here are the example pieces I showed the kids.  I took these pictures in the Dallas Museum of Art when I went to visit over the Christmas holiday.

The students first attached a balloon to a bowl and covered it with paper mache.

Then, they rolled up newspaper to make handles and attached a cup to the top, then covered the entire thing with at least two layers of paper mache.

Finally, they painted the vase with copper and black acrylic.  They each picked a Greek myth they liked and used that as a reference to paint on the vases.

They looked great at our annual art show!

Art – Makin’ Monsters


I try to do at east one sculpture during the year with each class.  Sometimes it’s plaster; sometimes it’s wire, and sometimes it’s paper mache.  This was the year of paper mache for sure!  As the kids get older, they enjoy challenges, so I try to make each year a little harder than the last.  For my 7th/8th grade class, the challenge was to make a monster that was 2 feet tall, and could stand without support.

The first step was to draw out their monster.  I think this was the most difficult step of all!  I asked them to not make a monster that’s been “used” before, such as in movies or even other projects.  We talked about structure, and what types of things (legs, tails, etc.) a monster could have to act as sneaky supports.  The monster also had to have eyes and a mouth.  Looking back, I should have added a width limit, because some of these monsters got REALLY wide!  As in almost 4 feet!  Whoops…

The first thing was to start building the parts of the monster out of nothing but newspaper, masking tape and foil.  This also lent a challenge to the students.

Once the monster parts were built, they were put together and adjusted to be able to stand up.  Some designs only had two legs starting out, but quickly went to three legs or two legs and a tail to keep the balance.

Schooled in Love:  Makin' Monsters

After the monsters were assembled and structurally sound, the students added 3 layers of paper mache.  Some of the kids are finally at age where they’re really paying attention to the smoothness of the final product, and they think about this as they go.  It’s good to see them want to be proud of their work!  Some monsters were significantly bigger than others, so when the students with smaller monsters got finished, they helped out with the larger ones.  Teamwork!

Schooled in Love:  Makin' Monsters

Once the three layers were applied and dried, the next step was to add the primer.  I make my own using glue and white acrylic paint.

Schooled in Love:  Makin' Monsters

Once everything was nice and white, it was time to paint them.  This project took a long time, but the end result was work it.  Here are the completed monsters at the show:

Art – Bottle Birds


For this project with my high schoolers, we recycled wine bottles.  In order to get enough bottles, I just had to ask my co-op, and viola, they appeared.  Don’t judge!


They started out by filling the bottle with pea gravel to weigh down the bottoms.  Then, they stuck a long, heavy gauge wire into the neck, and all the way down to the gravel.  After that, they used newspaper and masking tape to make the neck, head, and beaks of the birds.  I told them they could design this bird any way they wished, and we had some very ingenious outcomes!  They were also allowed cardboard to make the wings or any other body parts they liked.

Schooled in Love:  Bottle Birds


Once they had the body, neck, head, beak, and wings formed, the students paper mached the entire sculpture to create the bird.

After layering it with paper mache, they let it dry, and then primed it.  I hate buying primer, so I make it by using a one-to-one ratio of white acrylic paint to white school glue.  Once the primer dried, it was time to paint the birds.  They turned out beautifully!  I am so proud of my high school girls!

Art: Letter Sculptures


This was a huge project (as most paper mache projects are), and it took f o r e v e r because of all our snow days!  that being said, the kids loved how they turned out.  If they’re proud of the finished project, that’s what matters, right?

Let’s get down to business:

First I gave each student two panels of cardboard that I cut from a box.  They also used a paper cup, a ruler, a pencil, and a marker.  They measured the widest part of the cup (the rim), and it was 3″.  Then, they drew their first name initial to the size of the cardboard.  With a ruler, they made the letter block-styled, keeping the width at least three inches.  Once they had the letter drawn out, I had them run the cup all through the letter just to make sure.  Finally, they used the marker to trace the line, and then cut it out.

Schooled in Love:  Letter Sculptures

For the next step, they were instructed to trace the letter onto the second cardboard panel and cut it out.  Then, I gave them a stack of cups and they glued them to the surface of the one of the letters, alternating the cups going up and down.  When they finished, they put glue (tricky!) on the tops of the cups, and laid the other letter on top.  It’s a good idea to lay something heavy on them, to keep the glue in contact with the cardboard until it dries.

Schooled in Love:  Letter Sculptures

The third step was to paper mache the dried letters.  This was described as fun, messy, gross, warm, and cold (depending on how fresh the paste was).  The best way I know how to make paste is to put all-purpose flour in a bowl, add some very hot water, and using an electric mixer, stir and keep adding water until you get the consistency of pancake batter.  Once it’s done, mix in about a tablespoon of bleach.  This way, if you need to keep it for the next day, it won’t mold.  I told the kids to criss-cross their strips of paper to build strength.

Once the letters were covered with paper mache, and they were good and dried, the kids added primer.  Now, I don’t like to buy primer paint, because I have so many kids, and it’s friggin’ expensive, so I make my own by mixing 1 part white acrylic paint to 1 part white glue.

At last the letters were ready to paint!  The students used acrylic, and if you’ve never tried the cheap paints vs. the good ones (more expensive), then you haven’t lived…  You totally get what you pay for!

Here are the finished letters!  Some students chose to paint it a solid color, and some chose to paint a pattern or a picture.  They all turned out great!

Level 1 Art – Water Bottle Fishes


Yes, “fishes” is correct:  they’re different species.  😉

To start, you’ll need the following for each student:  1 disposable water bottle, 1 12-inch dowel rod, 1 4 x 4 wooden block.

You will also need:  scissors (or an exacto knife), masking tape, scrap cardboard, a drill (with a bit the size of your dowel rod), newspaper, flour, water, a hand-mixer, mixing bowl, cheap toilet paper, joint compound, vegetable oil, Elmer’s Glue-All (NOT school glue), modge podge, sponge brushes, tissue paper, large google-eyes, Aileen’s Tacky Glue, and sequins.

First things, first.  Remove the outer wrapping, lid, and ring from the water bottle.  Drill a hole in your wooden block and push one end of the dowel rod into it.  If it’s loose, add a little glue-all to it to help it stay put.  Using your scissors (or exacto knife), cut a SMALL slit on the side of the water bottle.  Push the other end of the dowel rod all the way into the bottle.  If it’s loose, use a piece of masking tape to secure it.

Cut out fish parts from the cardboard, like the fins and tail.  Tape those to the water bottle.  Rip SMALL pieces (about 2-3 inches) of newspaper, and set them aside.


Here you can see the skeletal structure.

In a mixing bowl, put about a cup of flour, and add enough water to where it becomes the consistency of pancake batter.  Dip a piece of newspaper into the batter and pull it through your index and middle fingers to wipe it off.  Press it to the water bottle, and smooth out any wrinkles.  Once the water bottle and cardboard pieces are completely covered (make sure to look under it!), let it dry.  Add another layer of paper mache.


This is the first layer of newspaper on the fish. See the dowel rod? When we first started the project, I used bamboo skewers, not even thinking about the weight of the sculpture. Duh! Anyway, after getting real dowel rods, having them cut down to thirds, and re-drilling the hold in the wooden block, all was well in the world of Mrs. Darby’s art class.

To create the paper mache clay, remove the toilet paper from the roll, and soak it in a bowl of warm water.  Squeeze the water out of it, and pull it apart in very small chunks into a mixing bowl.  Add 3/4 cup of Elmer’s Glue-All, 1 cup of joint compound, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and a 1/2 cup of flour.  Mix on low for about 20 seconds, then mix on high for about 30 seconds.


Here is the big bucket o’ paper mache clay, ready to go!

Once the fish is dry, smear on the paper mache clay in a VERY THIN layer, smoothing it out as you go.  I made sure there were tubs of warm water at each table for when the kids were done.  I didn’t want to pour that down the sink.  Let the fish dry.


Abby puts on a thin layer of paper mache clay. This helps to fill any gaps missed and to smooth out any weird spots. Notice the new, thicker, stronger dowel rod?

You’re finally ready for the colorful part!  Cut small pieces of tissue paper and adhere with modge podge (I made ours by thinning white school glue with water).  Let dry.

When you're ready to add color, saturate the area with modge podge with a sponge brush.  Then add a piece of tissue paper and cover the area with modge podge to seal it.

When you’re ready to add color, saturate the area with modge podge with a sponge brush. Then add a piece of tissue paper and cover the area with modge podge to seal it.

This one’s ready for the next step:  Embellishment!

All the tissue paper is on!  Now to add the details...

All the tissue paper is on! Now to add the details…

Add the google-eyes and layer the sequins like scales in some areas.  Done!  🙂

Schooled in Love:  Water Bottle Fish

This project took us about 6 class periods to finish.