Friday, May 27, 2011

Papier-Mache Art Bowls 9: Paper Weights

Alongside the Scrabble Bowl I made two other more purely artistic bowls, exploring the possibilities inherent in different weights of paper.

The first bowl was made from heavyweight cardstock paper. I have found through experiment that this weight of paper, although it can be difficult to work with, produces sturdy, heavy finished pieces that hold their shape well. Cardstock paper is heavier weight, heavy than construction paper, heavier even than most greeting cards. It's between normal weight paper and cardboard in thickness and durability. When working this weight of paper for papier-maché, you might have to soak the strips of paper longer in the glue-water matrix, or the paper will remain very stiff. I have found that soaking it a bit longer than usual makes it very workable, and has the side effect of absorbing enough of the matrix that pieces stick together readily even when still wet.

This dark green bowl is part of an ongoing series of darker colored bowls that have accents of gold or yellow on them. In this case, I used shapes cut from a yellow mulberry paper sheet (the same as used below). This ties this green bowl into the same series as the blue and gold bowls made earlier; which are two of my own favorite art bowls.

This dark green paper is among the rainbow of colors available at some of the craft stores in their paper and scrapbooking departments. I plan, now, to make a series of these bowls out of a rainbow of colors: each bowl having a similar shape and size, but with the colors changing to make a rainbow. I plan to display this set as a grouping, at some point.

(bases of dark green cardstock, and indigo mulberry bowls)

Next, I made another bowl out of natural mulberry paper, some of the stock I have left over from previous projects. This dyed mulberry paper is fibrous and tough, but very thin. To make a papier-maché bowl with this paper, you have to use several layers, to obtain enough thickness to give the bowl enough structural strength. So I used two sheets each of indigo and purple, with one sheet of yellow mulberry accent, to make this bowl. When dried, the bowl is pretty strong, but it's very fragile when still wet, so you might want to leave it drying in the mold a bit longer than usual.

Paper this light can be very hard to work when wet, as it tears easily; on the other hand, because this mulberry paper has such large fibers, that helps hold it together. It's best to use several layers of paper, because of its lightness, although you might choose to experiment with lightness and fragility as integral to the finished piece. I'm still playing with this concept myself.

Playing with the light weight nature of this paper, I let spikes and spines dangle over the lip of the mold, pointing downwards, and let them dry that way. This gives the bowl, I think, a ragged yet whimsical outline. It's the first time I've let edges dangle down, and I like the result. There's something almost like a harlequin belled hat look to the edges of this bowl. The spikes dried as curves rather than creases, which gives the bowl a distinctively organic appearance, as though it were a plant growing out of its own constraints.

The yellow mulberry paper stock took on a much darker appearance here, in this bowl, because the dyed colors can bleed with this lightweight mulberry paper. The indigo and purple colors soaked into the yellow, darkening it. I like the result, actually, although I was hoping for more contrast, a brighter shock of yellow against the darker colors. I might try making a brighter yellow swatch another time, to up the contrast, by using several layers of yellow: letting the dye bleed into the lower layers but not the upper ones.

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