How to Make Papier-Mache Bowls

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Try using patterned paper for the final layer on these papier-mache bowls for an interesting decoupage effect.
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Papier-mache is a very kid-friendly craft — just cut paper strips before starting, and prepare bowls to use as molds.
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For a smoother surface, use a thin layer of gesso on your papier-mache bowls before painting.
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Amanda Soule presents 33 projects made by reusing and repurposing materials in "Handmade Home." From picnic blankets made out of repurposed bed sheets to curtains made out of vintage handkerchiefs, these projects will help fill your home with beauty, integrity and joy.

In Handmade Home(Trumpeter Books, 2009), Amanda Blake Soule offers simple sewing and craft projects for the home that reflect the needs, activities and personalities of today’s families. Our homes are places of comfort, nourishment and love, and the 33 projects in Handmade Home express the sense of making something new out of something old as a way to live a simpler, more connected and more mindful life. The following papier-mache bowls from “Nourish” make lovely containers for found objects and special treasures.

Papier-mâché is one of the most frequently requested craft projects by my little ones. Calvin most of all loves to make these bowls for storing all the special treasures that his seven-year-old self collects—rocks, pinecones, corks, bottle caps, and marbles. He makes a bowl for each collection. By using an existing bowl as a mold, this project is satisfying and successful for even the youngest among us. Don’t let papier-mâché intimidate you—it’s really just a matter of “making a big pile of glue and newspaper and turning it into something!” as Calvin tells me. He’s right. Though, if you’d like more specific instructions, read on.

Pattern Details

• Beginner
• A half-day project (plus drying time)
• Suitable for little hands
• Finished size: As desired

Use What You Have

This wonderful project is perfect for repurposing some of those piles of paper that I’m sure are around your home—mail, envelopes, newspaper, copy paper, and more. Thin paper works best. Heavier paper, such as grocery bags, is a bit more difficult to manipulate. Lightweight paper alone is a little too thin, however, it can make for a nice layer on top of other papers. (The photographed bowls, 8 inches in diameter, are made from newspaper and a final layer of decorative tissue paper.)


• Paper: Thin papers, such as newspaper, cut into 1-inch x 5-inch strips
• Bowl to use as a mold
• Tinfoil or plastic wrap
• Paste (see recipe in the Crafty Tip on page 45, or purchase premade paste at art supply stores)
• Paintbrush for applying paste
• Optional: gesso for smoothing out layers at the end (similar to a primer, available at art supply stores)
• Optional: Acrylic paint for finishing

Make the Papier-Mache Bowls

1. Prepare Materials: Gather all materials and cut the paper to the measurements given above. Prepare a surface on which to work, as the paste can be messy. I keep old vinyl tablecloths around for these kinds of projects. A layer of newspaper also works well.
Prepare your bowl as a mold by placing it upside down on the work surface and covering it tightly with foil or plastic wrap. Smooth out the foil or wrap.

2. Paste Strips to Mold: Use a paintbrush to apply a layer of paste to one side of a newspaper strip, and then apply the strip to the covered bowl. Repeat until the entire bowl has been encased in at least four layers. There is no need to wait for each layer to dry before starting another layer.
For a sturdier bowl, finish with a layer of computer paper atop the newspaper layers. Use the paintbrush and your fingers to smooth out all the wrinkles at the final layer. Let the bowl dry. Depending on the humidity, this process can take several days. In the sun, it might take just one day.

3. Remove Paper Bowl from Mold: When the bowl is completely dry, remove your new bowl from its mold by carefully and slowly lifting the foil or wrap from the original bowl mold. Then gently remove the foil or wrap from the papier-mâché bowl.

4. Finish Bowl: I like to use a thin layer of gesso to further smooth out the bowl and provide a good base to apply paint. With acrylic paints, you can paint the outside and inside of your bowls. (Note: Papier-mâché bowls are not suitable for food).

Crafty Tip

Making your own papier-mâché paste is economical, easy, and fun. Simply combine 1/2 cup of flour, 2-1/2 cups of water, and 1 tablespoon of salt in a saucepan. Cook the mixture on medium heat, stirring often, until it forms a gluelike paste (about five to ten minutes). Add one drop of clove oil to prevent the glue from turning moldy. Let the mixture cool. Stir before using. Unused paste can be stored in a glass jar to be used within seven days.

More from Handmade Home:

Make a Cozy DIY Bath Mat

From Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures by Amanda Blake Soule, © 2009 by Amanda Blake Soule. Reprinted by arrangement with Trumpeter Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boston, MA.