I took a break from studying for my Chemistry midterm exam to make a papier-mâché sculpture! Papier-mâché is French for “chewed paper” and I think it’s one of the coolest things ever. You dip paper strips in some flour or glue water and it turns into a rock solid object! It’s a great way to recycle paper and make artwork or even practical pieces! I can’t wait to figure out the chemistry of how it works.
Here’s some information I learned from this cool website that also has some good tips and instructions if you want to get started: http://science-at-home.org/paper-mache-easter-baskets/
Paper is processed plant matter, created from a solution that consists of cellulose filaments suspended in water. Cellulose is a polymer of the sugar glucose. A screen is passed through this solution so that the filaments collect on it and form paper.
When you add flour to water, it becomes suspended in the water. When making papier-mâché, the glue in the flour is crosslinking, making the paste. The water allows everything to move freely. Getting the paper strips saturated in the paste makes the bonded cellulose filaments weaken (that’s why wet paper is so much easier to tear!) When the water evaporates from the paste, it leaves everything bonded together, nice and rock solid! Make sure to work in thin layers and let it dry thoroughly to prevent your sculpture from rotting because it’s still wet inside!
You should also seal your papier-mâché with a waterproof sealant to help prevent it from getting wet and weakening again. I’m going to borrow some mod podge from our art room to seal my sculpture so that it’s glossy and shiny! Mod Podge is made with PVA or polyvinyl acetate, which is the substance used as base for white glue. PVA is mixed with a gel type medium, so it has water-resistant properties ideal for coating and protecting craft projects. Mod Podge is marketed in varieties like matte, gloss, and satin finishes.