PHOTO: Patricia Lehnhardt
Patricia Lehnhardt
April 28, 2016

My mom was a crafter and a lover of nature. When I was young, Sunday afternoons were devoted to learning a new craft. Sometimes we would plan and buy supplies, and sometimes it was a spur of the moment creation. For those on-the-fly occasions we often turned to papier-mache because paper, flour and water were always available.

In her stash of garden books, I found an old volume of Contemporary Perennials from 1960. The pages were a bit yellowed, and there were great line drawings of plants—the perfect combination to decorate a bowl. I even found her plant and seeds lists, which I incorporated on the artsy shallow dish to hold my seed packets ready for spring.

The materials I used for this project brought back warm memories of my mom. Feel free to use special-to-you materials for your own project or get creative with what’s lying around. Get ready to be messy! It’s one of those crafts that’s good to do near a sink so you can rinse your hands occasionally.

What You’ll Need

paper mache bowls
Patricia Lehnhardt
  • a bowl or jar to use as a form
  • plastic wrap
  • dish and spoon (to mix paste)
  • brushes
  • all-purpose flour
  • water
  • paper strips
  • gesso (optional, but gives a good surface to adhere your paint or decoupage)
  • paints or Modge Podge and book pages to decoupage

Step 1

Tear paper into 1/2-inch strips in the length needed for your bowl.

Step 2

paper mache bowls
Patricia Lehnhardt

Mix equal parts flour and water. Stir well to make it as smooth as possible, though there will still be some lumps. The paste should be the consistency of thick pudding. I used about 1/4 cup of each for the small bowls, adding a bit more water to get the right thickness.

Step 3

Turn the bowl or jar used for the form over and cover with plastic wrap.

Step 4

paper mache bowls
Patricia Lehnhardt

Dip the paper strips in the paste and pull through your fingers to remove the excess. It needs to be covered, but not too goopy. Lay the strip on the bowl. Continue adding strips of paper, overlapping slightly to solidly cover your bowl or form.

Step 5

paper mache bowls
Patricia Lehnhardt

Crosshatch the bowl with a second layer, and again in the opposite direction for a third layer. Three layers are good, but you can keep adding one or two more for added strength.

Step 6

paper mache bowls
Patricia Lehnhardt

Use a damp paper towel to wipe off the excess paste when you’re finished. Let dry overnight. Remove from the form and allow it to dry another day.

Decorating Your Bowl

paper mache bowls
Patricia Lehnhardt

Here’s where it’s fun to get creative with your homemade bowl. I used a couple decoration methods: decoupaging with the plant book pages and painting. Because I’m not so good at painting, I prefer the decoupage method, but that’s just me. The bowls are rather imperfect in all ways possible, so the funky paint job may be the way to go. Use your imagination to make the perfect bowl for you or the mom you’re gifting it to. Here are some ideas:

paper mache bowls
Patricia Lehnhardt
  • Trim the edge of the bowl for a clean look, or leave it ragged for something more eclectic.
  • Brush on a coat of gesso and allow it to dry overnight.
  • Paint with acrylic paints.
  • Tear old book pages in irregular shapes. Paint Modge Podge on a small section and place the scrap of paper on the bowl, brushing with more Modge Podge on top of it to secure and seal. Repeat with more scraps, overlapping slightly. Let dry overnight and repeat with the other side.



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