Often referred to as “Tissue Mache,” this sculpture lesson is a fun, hands-on art project I like to do with elementary art students toward the end of the school year.
Academically, this paper mache sculpture project can be tied in to multiple learning objectives, from creating sculptural forms, to color blending, and social studies integration. Since vessel-building can be associated with numerous cultures (African art, Native American art, primitive and classical art, etc.), paper mache bowls can be compared to Greek amphorae, basket-weaving, early ceramics and more, for a truly multi-cultural lesson.
Required art materials:
– bowl forms
– paper mache glue
– tissue paper
– stubby brushes
– table coverings
– plastic wrap
– glossy finish
1.) Lead class discussion on your desired learning objectives: history, artists, cultures and techniques.
2.) Distribute bowl forms (any bowl or bucket form can be used, though round forms are the easiest), plastic wrap and tape. Students wrap the outside of their mold in plastic wrap, then tape it to the inside of the bowl to hold in place.
3.) After discussing paper-mache techniques, the students begin to cut shapes and lines from tissue paper. These are strategically glued down as the first layer on the outside of the wrapped bowl form. Note – the first later that is glued down will eventually become the inside of their finished bowl.
To glue the tissue paper down in the least-messiest way, students dip their brush in glue, brush the area they are attaching the piece to, adhere the paper, then brush over top to hold it in place. Repeat!
4.) After finishing their first layer designs, the students cut or tear larger pieces of tissue paper to start covering the rest of the mold, allowing the colors to mingle. Encourage students to add multiple layers of tissue (the more layers, the stronger their finished bowl). Guide students to focus on layering the sides and edges of their bowls, not just the bottom.
5. When their bowls are strong enough, the final layer will consist of additional cut paper designs arranged strategically for a pleasing, interesting design.
6. When finished, let the bowls dry for a couple days, until they’re able to be removed from the molds. If enough layers were added, the students should be able to pull up on the plastic wrap and lift the bowls without a problem. The students can then trim the rough edge with scissors.
7. Lastly, the paper mache tissue bowls can be enhanced with a coat of gloss for protection and shine. If desired, students can add decorations with sequins, rhinestones, paint or other materials before the class critique.
This sculpture lesson can easily be adapted to various age levels and abilities. Younger students can focus on simple form and paper mache technique, while more developed students can be challenged to create specific, original patterns in their designs.
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