Papier-mâché and Portholes


About a month ago I styled a nautical–themed first birthday party, complete with all the elements you’d find at sea, from boats to portholes to life preservers!  A lot of papier-mâchéing went into the styling of this party. The reason I love this art form is that you can make just about anything you want- any size, shape, and form- all it takes is some flour, water, newspaper strips, and lots of drying time.

I thought portholes would add a nice touch to the party, kind of make the guests feel like they were cruising inside a yacht!

Papier-mâché recipe:
-Masking Tape

The last three on that list are optional. If you add salt to your paste, it will not mold. If you add cinnamon, it will not smell. If you cover your base with masking tape before you papier-mâché, it will not warp the shape (a lesson I learned the hard way).

In a bowl, add flour. Start small as you can always add more later.  I started with a cup of flour.  Then slowly add in water, mixing as you go, until you achieve the consistency you think will work well.  A lot of sources say to use the 1:1 ratio, but I found it to be thicker than I’d like.  Add in some salt and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and you’re ready to paste!

Note- this stuff will dry like glue, so make sure you work on a cleanable surface. Not carpet.  Err.

I used cardboard from an old moving box and shaped it into a porthole. Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of this process. For the first porthole I went straight into papier-mâchéing it directly onto the cardboard. What I should have done (if you’re a perfectionist like me) was wrapped it completely in masking tape before I papier-mâché-ed it.  The reason is that the moisture of the paste will warp the original shape when it has dried. It’s not THAT big a deal if you skip the masking tape, but when you’re working with thin layers, it’s important not to skip this step or your original shape won’t be as smooth as what you started out with. Here is a picture of the second porthole–after learning the hard way.

Next, you add strips of newspaper. The number of layers is completely up to you, but the more layers you add, the sturdier your piece will be! Note: Add each layer AFTER the previous layers have dried.

After your piece has dried, you’ll need to mod-podge to make your surface nice and smooth, and ready for painting/spray-painting.

Now, if you have a cute little helper, it makes the process much more enjoyable.  Here is mine, helping me mod podge after all the layers of newspapers have dried.

After your mod-podge has dried, next comes the fun part of painting.  Here, I spray-painted the porthole. It’s much faster, and dries much quicker.  Just remember to shut the front door before spray-painting, or you’ll be spending the next hour airing out your house.  Err.

Paint a picture of the sea…

And voila!  You have yourself a porthole that looks pretty gosh darn legit!

Lastly, I leave you with a picture of my little helper and her good friend MJ, the big brother of the birthday boy!


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