09 March 2010

Papier-mâché....was surprised to find it has French origins!!!

Although I am aware & collect artefacts made of Papier-mâché, I was under the impression that it had a very Persian & Middle eastern origin because in India, these are commonly made in Kashmir. It thus took me quite by surprise when I went online to research it, that its history goes as far back as the 1700's & it actually originated in France!!!

Papier-mâché (French: chewed up paper) is actually an object made by gluing together pieces of paper soaked in a wet paste i.e glue, starch or adhesive, & applied on a base/ frame till it is dry . The basic principle involved is to make three dimensional objects out of paper pulp. It was originally done as a low cost alternative to carved wood & was quite well received.

The wet paper prepared is placed on a base surface and allowed to dry slowly. The crafted object becomes solid when the paste dries. Once dried, the resulting material can be cut, sanded and/or painted, and waterproofed by painting with a suitable water repelling paint. Adding oil of cloves reduces mold development & also makes the product long-lasting.

In the old days, the qualities of Papier-mâché such as resilience, sturdiness & lightness of weight, was used to make all kinds of products, from ornaments, masks, furniture to even firearms & telescope refractory domes!!

In recent times, they have been used to make large temporary sculptures & floats & are also used in theatrical props. Many contemporary artists like John Connell & Kiki Smith use this medium in their sculptures.

The advent of plastics has no doubt restricted its use, but it has still managed to survive & continues capturing the imagination of people everywhere, especially me!!!

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