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Papier-mâché Gifts for Diwali: When Parents Pursue their Own Curiosity, the Child Learns Naturally

papier mache bowls handmade green gifts that kids can make Mommy Labs

Papier-mâché (or, paper mache) is much like pottery, isn’t it! It’s an art of giving form to something that was formless. Yes, Papier-mâché, I feel is really about transforming paper – that had no concrete form – into something else completely different – full of form, textures, beauty, colours, life. Even aroma! (how about adding some essential oil into it) The process itself is a sensory experience.

Why don’t I share our creations, the creative process and the interactions and observations along the way…

My initial idea was to first make paper pulp (the way we did in our handmade paper) and then create some bowls and other knick knacks out of it. But then, my eagerness and enthusiasm got the better of me. Making pulp would need time – all that soaking overnight, squishing etc. So, instead, I adopted the other technique – of layering scraps of newspaper using white glue (we can use handmade adhesive too).

This whole week, Pari has been somewhat restricted in her movement as she hurt both her knees when playing in the park. So, I thought, this art activity would be perfect. Sitting at a table and indulging in this playful, process-oriented art. As such, I’ve been craving to indulge in papier mache for a long time now.

But, oh, you never know! She said, “nooooo, I don’t want to do this. I just want to sit and watch you doing. I don’t feel like doing anything.”

Okay. So be it. I set up the space for myself and organized all that I would need:

  • A ceramic bowl (you can use glass or steel bowl, too)
  • Cling film
  • Newspapers (try avoiding the parts that are high on black ink)
  • White Glue (Fevikol, here in India)
  • A Flat Brush (to pick the paper scrap and layer it on the bowl)

When Parents are Curious, the Child Learns Naturally

As I was tearing newspaper by *hand, Pari was watching me on the opposite side of the table. With a few minutes, she asked if she can help me with tearing paper. I said, “why not, I’ll need a lot of those.” (but hey, she only wanted to watch me, right?!)

(*it’s better to tear by hand rather than with scissors as when the edges are soft and weak, they adhere easily and merge with other scraps. Also, you get better textures.)

Once we’d torn a heap-full of scraps, I started the process of pasting those scraps. Oh, before that, you’d need to turn the bowl upside down and wrap a cling film all around it. You can tuck the edges of the cling film inside the bowl’s rim, with tape, so that the film doesn’t move as you work on it.

Here’s a picture after all the scraps have been pasted and I start to decorate with fabric and handmade paper (from old greeting cards)
how to make papier mache bowls

The bigger bowl is mine. But, the smaller one that you see – yes, that’s Pari’s! (voila!)

So, no sooner than I started pasting the scraps, she was intrigued and wanted to join. YAY! She gets a bowl for herself – smaller than mine and is engrossed after that for more than an hour. No stopping her till she’d finished the whole thing.

This has happened over here so many times now. I never sit down with a plan for JUST HER. I tell her that I’d be exploring this or that and that she can join me too. She may not show interest to begin with, often. But then, slowly – out of her own natural curiosity, she joins me and goes on to pursue it with passion and zeal. And, forms many natural learning connections.

It has also happened that she may not join me at all – that very day. But then, she finds it interesting to watch me do it. And, she remembers it for the future. This was the case with zentangle. Those days, I did it almost every single day. Pari would only admire and praise me. But thought that zentangle was too complicated for her to try. A few days later, she drew a “princess dress” and filled it with zentagle-like patterns. She’s been doing that for months now and has a dedicated journal for it!

Be it writing a diary, writing poetry or letters; wanting to start her own blog or, her love affair with the camera – seeing me indulge in a variety of things has always fed her interest, curiosity and creativity.

Together, we listen to a wide range of songs everyday, hold singing sessions together and even dance together.

I’m not an expert at any of these things. Far from it. But, I’m curious. Like REALLY curious. I’ve always been like that – since I was a little girl. Now, with a little girl at my side, we go about exploring every small and big thing and keep our sense of wonder alive. And, that’s how most of her learning happens.

Coming back to our Papier-mâché…

Pari decided that she’d paint her bowl after it had dried the next day, while I added a final decorative layer on the outside – with tie-dye fabric scraps etc.

The next day, we put it out them out in the sun. After just an hour, they were crisp and dry.

Now, the stage that I was a little anxious about – removing the Papier-mâché formation off the bowl.

Pari insisted that she’d remove her own.

removing papier mache bowl

Surprisngly, removing hers was not very tough. I think the reason was she had not pressed the paper scraps too hard at the rim of the bowl, while I did that just so the rims of the Papier-mâché bowl would turn out nice and solid.

removing papier mache bowl

As you can guess, removing mine was an ordeal and I had to huff and puff over it for at least 30 mins! I’d almost given up hope. But, I did remove ultimately and what helped me turn my fortune was a long quilting needle! Yes, I poked it gently creating space between the papier mache layer and the bowl. The space widened slowly and just as I got a good hold of the ceramic bowl, I pulled it in opposite direction.

The cling film that was stuck to the inside of the papier mache bowl – I removed that too. This part was easy and fun.

Pari went on to decorate inside with oil paint and acrylic paint; and outside with wool yarn, silk fabric etc.

papier mache mommy labs

Though Pari and I share the same table, I love that she’s very in tune with her own creative instinct, rather than following what I do. While I decorated the outside and inside in a collagy fashion, she was clear that she wants to paint the inside in rainbow colours.

We left the bowls out in the sun for the paint and glue to dry up and harden. (oil paint takes time to dry)

ecofriendly craft papier mache

And a little photo shoot that I staged today in admiration of our creations! :-) Photo shoots are fun!

papier mache bowls kid made

(That’s my chiffon dupatta. I thought the colour and texture was very cheerful and festive.)

papier mache paper art craft ideas for children

Pari named it “the rainbow bonanza”. (she’s in love with this word – bonanza – due to how it sounds!)

papier mache process-oriented art craft for children homeschool India Mommy Labs

A better view of the outside walls…

And mine….

papier mache bowls as Diwali gift

The outside….

papier mache art craft gifts for Diwali Christmas

Trying a different background…

paper papier mache bowl Diwali holiday gifts

And a different angle, perspective and Depth-of-field.

natural light photography papier mache bowls

We’re going to make some more in the next few days – to gift to family and friends for Diwali. We’ll try different shapes and sizes.
I’m inclined to try animal and human figures too. Or, some musical maracas like we made last time (we’d gifted those to Pari’s friend Pratyaksh for his birthday. Interestingly, the theme for his birthday party was – “nothing from market”. Nice, isn’t it?).

Will you be making handmade gifts for Diwali or Thanksgiving and Christmas?

What ideas are you exploring?

(Like this post? Please spread the word by sharing with your friends and family.)

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Vandana M Khemka October 26, 2012, 4:45 pm

    So beautiful!….what a memory run…using papier mache when i was a kid bring so many creative memories… :)…damn waiting eagerly for Lv to grow so we can do all this fun thing with her like my mom :)

  • Esther October 26, 2012, 6:08 pm

    Beautiful Rashmie! I love Pari’s Rainbow Bonanza and I love your creation with the beautiful color contrast!

  • Melissa @The Chocolate Muffin Tree October 27, 2012, 2:38 am

    So pretty! You and Pari make such beautiful art!

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs October 30, 2012, 6:58 pm

      Thank you, Melissa! You and your daughter make inspirational stuff too :-)

  • shalini October 27, 2012, 4:20 pm

    Thanks Rashmi … I’m gonna make this for Diwali :) Also another tip is lining the bowls with petroleum jelly (Vaseline). Works like a charm :)
    Use your recyclable yogurt jars (Masti dahi wale) and those make stunning jars!

  • Selina October 27, 2012, 10:13 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful bowls and beautiful story about you and your daughter. Whenever I invites my son to do some projects with me he always show some interests at first, but later he lost the enthusiasm quickly. Most of time he just doesn’t want to do it, which makes me so frustrated. Today I was encouraged by your blog cause we met the same problem when doing arts project. Kids are always like this, not only my son. I will try next time to do it by myself if my son doesn’t want join at first. Thank you.

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs October 30, 2012, 7:06 pm

      Thank you, Selina, for being here at Mommy Labs and for connecting. I’m glad you like our paper mache bowls and my thoughts. Yes, I can vouch for how effective it is when the mother/father pursue their own interests. The learning environment we create that way is irreplaceable.

  • Mary October 28, 2012, 2:40 am

    Thank you for sharing you method of papier mache. The colors are beautiful and can brighten up a room. Best, Mary@diligentnanny.webs.com

  • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs October 30, 2012, 7:07 pm

    Thank you, Mary. Glad you like our paper mache bowls. See you here often :-)

  • maggy, red ted art October 31, 2012, 3:29 pm

    Ooh these turned out so pretty! I LOVE the colours – so warm and happy. What lovely gifts.

    Thanks for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


  • Sweeti February 19, 2016, 1:46 pm

    Wow! Thank you SO much for sharing these pthoos! I often look at my 2 sculptures that I bought from you and wonder what the process was like to make each one (especially the dress on the Blue Heart girl…amazing!).Anyway, I had popped on here to see if Daisy Chain girl was still available as I am thisclose to snapping her up as well…what can I say, I absolutely LOVE your work! But now I think I’ll wait to see what this piece looks like once it’s completed.So! If anyone has been looking at Daisy Chain girl, ya might wanna grab her before I do! ;-)Sorry for the long post, but I do indeed love your sculptures…I’m so glad I found you through my friend Vanessa (A Fanciful Twist)!