Paper Mache Grape-Leaf Wall Art
This mini grape leaf mural is made from paper mache, broken bits of mirror and small stones.
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Project by Linda Merica from Vista, Calif.
Linda is convinced that paper mache isn’t just for school science projects. She constantly experiments with creating new and interesting crafts using paper mache, such as stone floors, archways, countertops and her mini grapeleaf murals.
shredded office paper or newspaper
small broken bits of mirror
black aquarium gravel
30 1"-2" smooth gray beach stones
craft paint: burgundy, dark green, pine green, black
clear waterbased polyurethane sealer
small paint brush
wallpaper paste powder
12"-14" piece of wire
craft stick or 2 toothpicks
old blender or food processor
plastic bowls or small buckets
colander or strainer
metal baking sheet
wire cutter or scissors
small piece of PVC pipe or rolling pin (optional)
plastic knife or clay tools
Note: All supplies should be non-toxic.
1. To make the pulp: Soak shredded paper in a bowl until saturated. Put soaked paper (with water) in a food processor or blender, a handful at a time. Blend until it is a pulp.
2. Place colander or strainer over a large bowl, and let pulp drain in the strainer. Press down on pulp to force excess water out.
3. Continue blending handfuls of paper and water and draining in the strainer. When you have about 12 cups of pulp, squeeze out more water, place in a bowl.
4. Add binding ingredients (what makes the paper stick together) to bowl: about 1 cup of white glue and about 1 cup of wallpaper paste powder. Mix together with your hands until well blended.
5. Line metal baking pan with waxed paper. Press prepared pulp into baking pan until completely filled. Set extra pulp to the side; you'll need it for the grape leaves and vines.
6. Smooth out pulp with the flat of your hand or by rolling a pipe over it. Set pan aside.
7. Break craft stick in half and, using piece of wire, twist each end of wire around stick piece. Holding a piece of the stick in each hand, embed it in your pan of paper pulp. Make sure wire "loop" is not stuck in pulp and is exposed. This will be used to hang project.
8. There are four methods for drying your project, and you can choose which works best:
Air-drying outside is only good in the summertime when the sun will dry your paper quickly.
To dry with a table fan, place your project directly under the fan to dry. This will take a few days of continuous drying.
To use the oven, which is the easiest and quickest, just set the oven on a low warming temperature (200-250 F degrees) and check progress every hour. Be careful not to leave oven on overnight or when unwatched. Just turn oven off if you have to leave project, and turn back on as needed--it will not affect your project. This method will take approximately 12 hours of total oven time.
A dehumidifier dries items more slowly and evenly and needs very little watching. Just place item in front of dehumidifier and wait four or five days.
9. To decorate the project: Remove it from pan and peel wax paper off back. Don’t worry if some wax paper stays on--it will be covered up later on. Lay it out on your work area to decorate with wire side down.
10. Glue seven or eight pieces of broken mirror in a scattered pattern on background. Brush on a nice layer of white glue around mirror pieces, taking care not to dirty the mirrors.
11. Pour black aquarium pebbles over glue and let dry. When dry, pour off excess pebbles.
12. To make the leaves and vines: Place about 3 cups of wet prepared pulp in a bowl and about 1 cup in another bowl. Add pine green paint to the 3 cups and the dark green paint to the 1 cup. Mix into each bowl separately.
13. Working on top of a piece of wax paper, form dark green pulp into long snakes for vines. If pulp is too sticky, add a bit of wallpaper powder or baking flour to your hands. Place vines on your project in a random pattern (you can even cross some of the mirror bits), but take into account where you are going to place your grape leaves afterwards.
14. For grapes: Decide how many clusters you’d like on your project. Depending on the size of your gray beach stones and your project board, you’ll need six to 10 grapes per cluster. Use a bit of paper pulp with a few extra drops of white glue mixed in to make it extra sticky; place a blob down wherever a grape cluster is going to go, to attach it to your project. The glue alone will work, but the pulp gives it a bit more strength.
15. Paint stones with two coats of the burgundy paint. Let paint dry.
16. Form pine green pulp into grape leaves (if you need to, look at a picture of a grape leaf as a guide) using a knife and the PVC pipe to smooth it out. Don’t forget to add veining to the grape leaves. Place two or three leaves on top of each grape cluster.
17. Dry the vines and grape leaves on your project in the same manner as discussed before. When dry, paint some accents by detailing the leaf veins or vines with the black or green paints.
18. Seal front and back with two or three coats of polyurethane (add another coat if project will be placed outside).
Karen Mills incorporates Chinese brushstroke techniques in her translucent rice paper wall hanging.