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Paper Mache Letters and the Beauty of Unfolding Your Multiple Creative Selves

papier mache letters tutorial

When it comes to art or craft (or, any other subject for that matter) I keep getting smitten by a new form or type or tool every so often. There’s just so much to explore and learn and yet such limited time to create with a 2.5 year old around. An over dose of curiosity and an under dose of free time to ‘make’ is a tough combination. And that has an impact. It impacts my ability to master a specific art form that I’m exploring at a particular time. (Paper Mache, right now…..).

And yet, is that really a ‘negative’ impact? I think not. For, specialization comes at a price. A hefty price, in my view. A compromise – to be compartmentalized: create that narrow niche (and stay cubby holed in it) if you want to be popular, gain stardom and success. It steals from you the sense of satisfaction – the satisfaction that comes with exploring what your heart wants to go after – and not limit yourself because therein lies the fame and prestige. Specialization fits you into a box and asks you to stay stifled in it for the rest of your life.

That’s scary, for me.

I’ve always been a creative person with multiple passions. But, people didn’t get that. They saw it as a flaw in my learning and being. They thought I wasn’t focused enough; I wasn’t making clear choices. Their analysis made me look at myself in poor light. Until I met people like me who nurtured multiple passions and they were happy to be amateurs.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I don’t want to be an expert piano player. Or, an expert dancer. Or, really master the techniques of DSLR photography. Or, for that matter, read every possible book on the rich history and culture of my country as well as world history. I do want to get to the depth of all things I’m learning and am passionate about. I feel I can be good at whatever I set my mind to and hands on.

But, to be an expert at it, we need to work on it again and again. And then some more. Sadly, that’s not possible right now for me. I want to make and create every day but I’m too fascinated with a lot of things to be able to master just one art form and dedicate all (miniscule free time) my time to it. There’s water colour, paper mache, furniture painting, photography, crocheting, knitting, paper embroidery, pottery, soap-making, home decor. And, of course there’s my kitchen garden where I can spend the whole day toiling.

So, tell me, where’s the scope for specializing? Ha! folks, my fate probably is sealed right now. I’m happy to be a generalist. For now. May be for ever! Who knows. Let me be honest, it’s super fun to be a generalist – that way, I can let my curiosity go wild. I can remain a starry-eyed child for ever. I’m not contained by popular demand. Or, the traps of ‘prestige’ that comes with the expert tag.

Sure, gaining expertise will mean prestige and power. But, it takes a toll too.

This article on Brain Pickings navigates well the subject of ‘specialization’. It quotes the philosopher Roman Krznaric who suggests that specialization robs us of an essential part of being human…

Specialization may be all well very well if you happen to have skills particularly suited to these jobs, or if you are passionate about a niche area of work, and of course there is also the benefit of feeling pride in being considered an expert. But there is equally the danger of becoming dissatisfied by the repetition inherent in many specialist professions. … Moreover, our culture of specialization conflicts with something most of us intuitively recognize, but which career advisers are only beginning to understand: we each have multiple selves. … We have complex, multi-faceted experiences, interests, values and talents, which might mean that we could also find fulfillment as a web designer, or a community police officer, or running an organic cafe.

This is a potentially liberating idea with radical implications. It raises the possibility that we might discover career fulfillment by escaping the confines of specialization and cultivating ourselves as wide achievers … allowing the various petals of our identity to fully unfold.

So, here I am – a generalist flirting with a plethora of ‘loves’ right now. One of those is paper mache – an old-time flame (paper mache bowls, paper mache handmade paper) I’m still in love with!

paper mache letters step by step tutorial

Pari and I recently made some paper mache letters that gave us oodles of joy! And, literally so!

If you’d like to make such letters, you’ll be turning your waste into pieces of art. Yes, really.

You see, a big portion of what we used could have gone into trash.

You’ll need:

  • Flaps/pieces from old cardboard boxes
  • Newspaper
  • Glue
  • Paper cutter
  • Acrylic or tempera paint (we used acrylic)
  • Tissue paper or paper towels
  • Brushes to paint

Now follow this series of pictures to see how we made. I’m going to add bits and pieces of info under the pics to make it easier to follow.


how to make paper mache letters


Cut out letters from cardboard. Scrunch up big or small pieces of newspaper to put them in place all over the cut out letter. Tape the pieces with painter’s tape. We used painter’s tape so that in the next step when we apply tissue and glue, it’ll stay intact. Transparent tape will make it difficult.


paper mache letters





5. easy paper mache letters step by step tutorial

This was the result of a beautiful team-work between Pari (my 10-year old daughter) and me. While I cut out the letters from the cardboards, she did the gluing on with tissue paper. I added the dimension with newspaper and she painted the base coat. She drew the dots and the swirls, while I did the final embellishing.

Though we often tend to think that artwork and writing is more personal an artform (I’ve always felt this way). This time, I truly experienced the joy of co-creating this art. I’m now so open to making art in the spirit of a team.

Some more pictures of the JOY!










how to make paper mache letters and words

Meanwhile, tell me, are you also discovering your multiple identities? Are you in the process of unfolding your diverse interests and passions? Or, are you right now able to dedicate yourself to the depths of one soul-immersing passion? What are you leaning towards?

Go ahead and share your thoughts. I’ll be waiting to hear from you. It’s always a JOY!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sudha June 8, 2016, 5:44 pm

    This is what i am going through exatly after we ditched school last year april,i realised i was wasting so much energy in hurrying things…now that we have slowed down magic is hapening and so much even 24hrs seems less…i did my whole family dolls wth wool last winter,knitted a bag now strugling to finish a woven basket of paper pipes…and to add i have a 4 yr and a 8 yr who interchange ages….but im liking it…

    • Rashmie June 14, 2016, 1:28 am

      Sudha, yes, there’s magic in day-to-day living. Only when we have the time and the mind space can we experience it. Homeschooling gives that time and space. I can’t imagine now after all these years of homeschooling what it’s like to run by the clock and hurry, hurry, hurry. Phew!
      All those things that you mentioned you’ve been making, I want to make too. Paper pipe basket is on the agenda. :-)

  • Miquela June 10, 2016, 8:56 pm

    I am definitely a generalist and a dabbler, too. Too many interesting things to learn and practice. I do sometimes feel guilt though when I ditch one creative outlet for another. It makes me think I can’t stick with any one thing long enough to really get good at it. Ah well. No regrets how I spend my minimal free time, either, as long as I’m using it wisely by resting or creating, no matter how scattered my endeavors may be.

    • Rashmie June 14, 2016, 1:31 am

      Miquela, you’re truly my kindred soul, I feel :-)
      I was thinking about the illustrated children’s book you were working on. How’s that coming along?

  • Sunita June 13, 2016, 7:54 pm

    Coincidentally, we were JUST having this conversation this morning about how you don’t need to specialize in just one thing AND the kids were asking to do paper mache again just a few days ago! I was telling the kids that when I studied plant science at university, we never learned anything about animals, and in fact we were xenophobic toward the people who studied animals! That divide was very odd when you think about how much plants and animals overlap and intermingle all over the world in all types of ecosystems. We have a number of winter olympic athletes from our town who, of course, are very specialized, and the ones who seem most well-rounded and best suited to transition back into “normal” life after retirement are the ones who have multiple interest areas outside of their sport. When one of my kids was little he said he wanted to be a doctor-scientist-teacher-daddy-policeman-detective. Now he says he wants to be a writer and rocket scientist. I think it’s so great to feel like the world is your oyster!

    • Rashmie June 14, 2016, 1:40 am

      Interesting, how we keep having these coincidences thousands of miles apart :-)
      The divide that you mention, it’s no where more alarming than in the specialized (compartmentalized) world of doctors and care givers. We’ve experienced it first hand when my mom would be prescribed meds for her joints that would be antagonistic to her heart (after surgery) and meds for high cholesterol that would cause damage to her already fragile nerves. No doctor could look beyond and outside of his/her specialization; an ailing person is merely a ‘heart’ or ‘knees’ or ‘kidney’ or ‘lungs’. Not a whole, full-body ‘person’ who needs to be treated in whole and holistically!