Friday, April 06, 2007

Article: Making maché

I’ve always wanted to do papier-mâché. I don’t know why. And I don’t know why I had never have until this year. It was on my life list but apparently very close to the bottom. Still, this year I decided to cross it off. To that end, I enlisted the help of my eight year old granddaughter, Celeste.

To implement my plan, I bought a couple of books on papier-mâché and gave them to Celeste for the winter holiday. On New Year’s Day Celeste and I poured through the books and picked a project. I wanted to make a cute little snake but Celeste is more of a cat person. Since the books and the project were nominally her gift and not just a thinly disguised excuse for me fulfilling a life-long dream, the cat project won out.

I had the necessary items available: newspaper, plastic bags, masking tape, flour, salt and water. Plus a plastic tablecloth, a true essential for such a messy project. Celeste soon bored of ripping strips of newspaper. I should have done that the day before. But she loved picking out shreds of wrapping paper from the holiday festivities to stuff into our cat. Never mind that the shiny remainders would never be seen again, it was still important to use the prettiest pieces.

After plumping the bags and taping them together, it was time to apply the papier-mâché. At first Celeste enjoyed wrapping strips of dripping wet flour-covered newspaper on our creation. She’s a clean kid though and eventually decided she didn’t like getting her hands wet and gooey. Plus, we had to admit that our cat did not look like the cats in the book. In fact, our cat did not look like a cat at all.

Since the papier-mâché had to dry, we couldn’t complete the project on the same day. Philip assured me they would return on the weekend so Celeste and I could paint our creation. Things being as they are, that didn’t happen. And it didn’t happen the next weekend. Or the next month. Or the month after that. Everyone is so busy these days that we didn’t get to work on the cat again until last weekend.

April 1st is a long way from January 1st but luckily the kitchen table wasn’t used during that entire time. The project was exactly where we left it. All it needed was paint. We eyed the “cat” warily. It didn’t seem possible that a thin veneer of color would transform the shapeless blob into something recognizable. Still, we picked up our brushes and set to work.

Celeste chose baby blue as the base color. As we worked it became apparent that neither of us has much talent at painting. Still, we persisted. Transformed by a uniform shade of blue, our monster was still not a cat. We needed a pattern. I voted for tiger stripes but again Celeste’s suggestion--colorful flowers--won out. I painted the outlines and Celeste filled them in.

After our work was completed, no one was more surprised than the two of us that the cat actually looked like a cat--and it was kind-of cute! Our first papier-mâché project proved a success. Celeste hasn’t taken it home yet because we still have to paint the bottom. I hope that doesn’t take another three months because I’m hyped about starting a new project. I think I can convince Celeste to do a snake this time.

One success and I am hooked on papier-mâché. I wish I didn’t have to rely on an eight year old for an alibi but wouldn’t it seem lame for a person my age to take up such a silly hobby? I don’t think I’m old enough to claim senility. That might undermine my position as Director of Engineering if word got out at work.

To make your own cat use: Papier-mâché for Kids by Sheila McGraw

Photo: Celeste on New Year's Day with our incipient cat.
Photo: Celeste applying base color to the cat.
Photo: Me and Celeste painting the cat's pattern.
Photo: The eyes are the most important part. Celeste made them a shiny green.
Photo: Nearly done! Cat and artist pose together.

1 comment:

farmgirl said...

I love the colors of the cat! They are beautiful! I think the cat is beautiful!