How to Make Papier Mache Bowls with Your Holiday Leftovers

comments (15) December 28th, 2012     

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kaytet kayte terry, contributor
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Papier mache bowls made of wrapping paper, kraft paper, and tissue are artful and pretty.
Papier mache bowls made of wrapping paper, kraft paper, and tissue are artful and pretty.

Papier mache bowls made of wrapping paper, kraft paper, and tissue are artful and pretty.

Photo: Kayte Terry

It's hard to think of post-holiday craft projects. We crafters gear up for the big December gift-making, house-decorating rush and feel pretty drained when it's all over. But sometimes making a craft project, especially with a family member or friend, can be very relaxing.

This year, for the first time in a decade, I was able to take off a week for the holidays and spend time with my family. My mom is also a crafty lady, and we thought it would be fun to make something together. We decided on a project that isn't a gift, that's pretty easy to make, and uses materials most people have lying around the house after the holidays.

"Hmmmm...tree branches? Garland? Fruitcakes?" I asked.

"Oh, I know!" said my mom. "Wrapping paper!"

"Brilliant!" I said.

I pulled the bag of paper out of the recycling bin and ripped it open to reveal glittery tissue paper, gold kraft paper, and wrapping paper in reds and greens.

"What about papier mache bowls?" I asked. "We can use them for the New Year's party and for Christmas next year."

"Brilliant!" said my mom.

These papier mache bowls are great because you are truly upcycling a used material that would have normally ended up in the trash and they remind you of holidays past. You can use them for fruit, wrapped candies, coins, and photos and make them as small or large as you like. We used some funny Christmas-themed nesting bowls as our mold, but any bowl you have lying around the house will do. We also made one bowl with some old newspapers, too-I'm sure you have no shortage of those either!

These bowls take a bit of time to make, but they aren't hard at all, so they are a perfect craft for when your mind is post-holiday mush!

What you'll need:

  • Bowls for molds
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Lots of wrapping paper, tissue, newsprint, paper bags, and/or newspapers
  • White glue
  • Dish for glue
  • Water
  • Sponge brush
  • Scissors
  • Varnish

1. Smear a layer of petroleum jelly all over the inside and edge of the bowl you are using for a mold. Make sure not to miss any spots.

  Here's what I had to work with!

2. Gather all of your different paper and decide which ones you want to use.

  Tear your newspaper or kraft paper strips first and then your decorative or wrapping paper into the thin triangles. If you don't want to tear them, you can cut them with scissors.

3. Tear newspaper or kraft paper into strips that are about 1 inch wide. You are going to need enough to cover the bowl all over in 10 layers. Also tear or cut some wrapping paper and tissue paper into long, thin triangles.

4. Pour glue into a dish and water down slightly. The ratio should be one part water to three parts glue. Mix it well with a sponge brush.

  Start your first layer of papier mache: The strips should meet in the center of the bowl.

5. Start with your first layer: We used kraft paper for one bowl and newspaper for the other bowl. Dip a strip of paper in the glue mixture and spread it all over the strip to cover it. Work your way around the bowl with the paper strips as shown. You want the strips just to meet in the middle, so tear them to the size you need. You can patch up spots that get missed. The layers don't have to be super-neat as you will make an outer and inner layer, but the strips should lie flat without any bubbling. You can brush the sponge brush over all the strips to keep them flat.

  This is the tenth layer of the bowl. You can use the sponge brush to make each layer flat and well glued.

6. Repeat to make 10 more layers. Allow the bowl to dry completely. We left ours overnight.

7. Gently pull the bowl out of the bowl mold.

  Applying the decorative layer of the bowl: The strips should meet in the middle. It doesn't have to be perfect, though, so don't go crazy!

8. Now you are going to cover the inside and outside of the bowl. We used gold kraft paper for the outside of the bowl and a mix of wrapping papers and tissue paper for the inside. Dip each strip into glue as in step 4, and paste them into the inside of the bowl all around.

9. Do the same for the outside of the bowl.

10. Let dry again, for a few hours. Use your scissors to trim around the bowl. Add a little bit of the glue mix to the edges of the bowl if they aren't stuck together.

11. With a clean sponge brush, brush varnish all around the bowl to seal it. Allow to dry completely. Repeat for two more coats.


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Comments (15)

trudy5115 writes: I was wondering the same thing pjshop was...doesn't the vaseline keep the glue and paper from sticking together after you take it off the bowl? Now if I just had more time to do this!
Posted: 12:17 am on December 27th
pjshop writes: Love this idea. One question: How do you get the vasaline off the inside of the bowl or does the paper just stick to it as you add a couple of more layers?
Posted: 2:31 pm on December 29th
beaderonboard writes: What a great recycling idea.
I have lots of wrapping paper scraps that I just couldn't bring myself to throw away, they will perfect for making these bowls.
Thank You for sharing.
Posted: 1:55 pm on April 28th
SARASTA_IN_VA writes: What a great idea! I love it. I have so much scrap paper--I knew there was a reason I was saving it. I will do this with my boys (3 & 6). Thanks.
Posted: 9:56 am on January 25th
sigridsoto writes: thank u for keeping all that wrapping paper out of the trash
Posted: 4:47 am on January 24th
debroby writes: Great project. I remember doing a similar craft way back in elementary school.

And.. gardenpartynyc.. overlapping thin layers of tissue paper makes a wonderful display for candles.
Posted: 9:52 am on January 20th
gardenpartynyc writes: super cute.

do you think if you just used tissue paper, you could make "wraps" for glass vases & have candlelight show thru???

Posted: 6:22 pm on January 19th
andreacreates writes: This sounds like a fun project to use up those tiny bits of pretty papers I love to save.
Posted: 12:01 pm on January 19th
eveh writes: I was wondering if I can use a stainless steel bowl that I have, because it is smooth all over, and just drape it over the outside of that?
Great idea to use up all my pretty wrap. I was looking a beautiful piece of gold this morning and wondering how I could use it. Thanks.
Posted: 2:22 pm on January 18th
Peg_in_virginia writes: Repurposing with something I plenty of and with an outcome I can really enjoy. Bravo!
Posted: 9:53 am on January 6th
Jen1964 writes: Could be a way to say thank you to grandparents, when kids are too young to write much. We love our assorted crazy bowls for the holidays. There's always something to use them for.
Posted: 9:58 am on January 5th
meganc writes: FYI--I just blogged about this here:

Posted: 12:47 am on January 5th
meganc writes: Love it. I'm going to do this with my 3 year old tomorrow. She might not have the patience to complete the entire project, but she will love helping with the messy parts.

Posted: 12:18 am on January 5th
Sister_Diane writes: So pretty! I love this idea!
Posted: 5:48 pm on January 1st
MrsKwitty writes: What a wonderful project--and a perfect way to re-use those pretty papers! Thank you.
Smiles, Karen
Posted: 3:19 pm on January 1st
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