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How to Make a Papier Mache Fish

This comical papier mache fish is inexpensive to make and adds whimsy to party decor.

Figure F

Materials and Tools:

balloons
wallpaper paste
newsprint cut into 1" x 5" to 10" strips
industrial brown paper towels
plastic cocktail cups (one for each fish)
mixing bowl
water
manila folder
spray paint
acrylic paint
size #4 or #5 paintbrush (other sizes as desired)
tacky glue
grommets
grommet punch
fishing leader
sequins
yarns
rhinestones
buttons

Steps:

Day 1

1. Blow up a balloon to the desired size and knot the end.

2. Pour a small amount of wallpaper paste into a bowl. To make three fish, use 1/4 cup of paste.

3. Slowly add warm water to the paste. Mix the paste to the consistency of pudding.

4. Dip the newspaper strips one at a time into the bowl of paste. Do not fully submerge or soak them, as they will start to fall apart if too saturated. Squeeze the strips between two fingers to remove excess paste and lumps as you remove them from the bowl.

5. Wrap the wet paper strips around the balloon in crisscrossing patterns for strength. Apply a couple of layers over the knot where you tied the balloon off.

6. Rest the fish on a plastic cup as you prepare the next strip.

7. Continue attaching strips until the entire balloon is covered and there are no thin areas or spaces exposed. Smooth out any bumps or wrinkles and remove any excess paste with your hands.

8. Place the fish (on the cup) on the floor near a heater to dry overnight. It may take a day or two to completely dry depending on the humidity in the air. 

9. Check the balloon the following morning and rotate the fish's position on the cup. The section of the balloon that is in the cup tends to dry a bit slower and will need to be exposed to dry thoroughly.

Day 2 or 3 (depending on dry time)

10. Design fins and cut them out of a recycled manila folder. Test the fit of each fin on the curve of the balloon.

11. Mix up a bowl of wallpaper paste as described above.

12. Cut newspaper strips 1/2" x 3" to 6" long.

13. Dip the newspaper strips in the wallpaper paste and attach the fins to the balloon. Start with the tail fin and secure each fin in place. Cover the entire fin with newspaper strips.

14. Put extra support strips at the base of each fin similar to a hinge to add strength. Use the cup to balance the fish so it doesn't roll onto its newly added fins. The fins will be extremely fragile while they are wet.

15. Wad up newspaper into 1-inch balls and attach them to the face of the fish for eyes and lips. Use one ball for each eye and two balls stacked on top of each other for the lips.

16. Place the fish in the plastic cup and let it dry near a heat source overnight.

Day 3

17. Cut brown paper towels into 1- to 1-1/2-inch wide strips and make an assortment of long and short lengths (5- and 10-inches).

18. Cover the entire fish with the brown paper strips for the final layer. Smooth all edges to eliminate all the wrinkles.

19. Place the fish on the cup to dry. Rotate the fish to ensure that the entire piece completely dries.

Day 4

20. Hold the fish from its dorsal fin to locate the center area for hanging. Use a grommet punch and punch it tightly to the desired spot.

21. Create a hook or use fishing leader to create a loop to hang the fish.

22. Hang the fish from a tree for painting. Spray paint the fish from all directions, under and over, behind all the fins. Be careful not to soak it. Let the paint dry according to the directions on the can. Apply a second coat.

23. Bring the fish inside and hang the fish in a well-ventilated area and allow it to dry. 

Day 5

24. Apply color to the eyes, lips and swirls on the sides with acrylic paints. Let dry.

25. Glue rhinestones, jewels, buttons or any desired embellishments to the fish. 

26. Hang the fish with fishing leader. If you are hanging multiple fish in one space, hang them at different heights to add visual interest.

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