Paper mache is a process used to create art that involves laying paper over a form and using a wet paste or adhesive to keep it together, and harden it. Most people’s experience with paper mache begins and ends in a middle school art class constructing a small animal or geometric shape, and later, painting it. Some artists have spent a lot of time and effort refining what is one of the simplest artistic processes, until it’s nearly impossible to tell how their works were constructed. Here are some of the most beautiful and impressive paper mache works out there:
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Paper mache is used for everything from art exhibit installations, to ridiculous homemade bobbleheads, and even impressive life size sculptures like the one pictured.
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Most people typical imagine something about the size of a pinata, or a basketball, when they think of paper mache. Thankfully, not everyone has such a small view of the artform, and some gloriously huge creations make their way into festivals and as street art every year.
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Paper mache definitely has its place in the art gallery, with creepy works and commentary on consumer culture easy to find (and oddly compelling), along with gorgeous creations meant to show off the undeniable skill of the artist.
Pop Culture and Characters
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Since paper mache is so easy, it’s a big hit with crafters, who, naturally, choose their favorite cultural icons as their subjects. Masks of the Joker or comic book characters, cartoon characters, and videogame icons are popular favorites. While an amateur can put together a decent looking construction, there’s a huge difference in results between the dilettante and professional.
Floats and Festivals
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Gigantic floats and paper mache figures are a huge feature at festivals like Las Fallas in Valencia, El Carnevale Viareggio, and parades throughout the world. These creations can depict political figures, cartoon and television characters, or simply scenes from the imagination of their skilled creators. Bright and celebratory colors are the norm.
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The human face is difficult to reproduce in any medium, because it’s so easy to get things wrong (we all know what it’s supposed to look like). The best artists create amazingly realistic, or humorous creations, and easily bypass any criticism. Whether it’s a portrait of a loved one, or part of a large parade float, the skill required to make such flawless creations is astounding.
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Paper mache isn’t just used to create cheap pinatas and goofy diversions; it can also be used to form gorgeous and refined decor. Some artisans choose to paint the service while others let the natural beauty of the paper stand out. Different paper, adhesives, and techniques can be used in wildly varying combinations to come up with an extensive range of creations.
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Artists like Seattle based Dan Reeder take the art of paper mache to a new level, creating bizarre monsters and creatures that are surprisingly detailed. More garish examples than Dan Reeder’s work are easy to find, considering the number of festivals worldwide that elevate and celebrate paper mache artistry. You can see an example of Dan Reeder at work here:
Paper Mache Animals
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A lot of paper mache artists get by selling their work as cute home decor, and animals are incredibly popular. These examples show the range of these animal creations, from the goofy to the modern.