Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Papier Mache

I had been hoping to send C off with the boys for the soccer round Robin Saturday so I could bag a half-dozen hikes for the Other Blog before hunting season, snow and general hiking-unfriendly weather set in. However, when the forecast called for two inches of rain, soccer was postponed and C planned a day of work at a friend's house, I switched gears into full-project-mode.

I began the day helping M with his rainforest animal project, which was due Monday. Helping M with homework is always a challenge, and despite my efforts to walk gently on the eggshells, I always end up breaking a few. When it had been assigned three weeks earlier, M came home and immediately completed the worksheet portion of the assignment. He showed it to me and I made the mistake of not praising his work and efforts before pointing out the part where he had misunderstood the directions. This was followed by much wailing of "You hate me! I'm stupid!" et cetera, ad nauseum. We put the project away for a bit, and I kept slipping the "buy posterboard" from my mental list, resulting in our late start. Our efforts began well, watching videos of giant centipedes devouring snakes and tarantulas on You Tube, and making notes of facts from Wikipedia (god, how did parents do these things before the Internet? Libraries?), but the waterworks began immediately upon sitting down with our posterboard. Last year I let M lead the way and do his posters how he wanted (and thus could feel superior to the kids' whose posters looked like they'd been put together as a display for Scrappers Paradise or some such store), but this time I thought I'd introduce him to the concept of planning, making a sketch and deciding what you want to include before touching pencil to poster. After setting things aside (again) for lunch, we were able to come up with a plan, M drew a centipede and we found C's letter stencils for the title. He got it partially colored and then we put it aside for completion Sunday in favor of the much anticipated making of an Army helmet.

I followed the papier mache bowl instructions and paste recipe in Handmade Home, which are fairly straightforward (although I probably would never have thought of the plastic wrap and would have bowls permanently encased in paper and paste). M got to work on a bowl about the right size for his head and E and I set to work on bowls of our own. Z preferred to draw, but became interested at about the point E gave up on his, so I had to put him off while I finished both E's and my bowl (working on two bowls at once is doable, but three would be a bit much).

All three kids loved this project (using a paint brush rather than one's fingers--which is how we've done it in the past--made it much more tolerable to M who doesn't like gooey stuff on his hands), but E and Z ran out of interest quickly, and I got to finish theirs, which is fine, since I was having a great time. For some reason my phone always rings off the hook when I'm up to my elbows in slime (happily one of those calls was C, offering to bring home Thai food, leaving me off the hook for dinner and giving us the time needed to finish).
I don't have any process photos, because I didn't want to take the time to look for the camera, and it was dark and gloomy all day (those two inches of rain remember), so they wouldn't be much to look at. Fortunately the sun came out Sunday and Monday, drying the bowls out (I did take them off the forms a bit prematurely, hoping they would dry faster--M's bowl/helmet, by far the thickest and wettest warped a bit, which was fine with him because we ended up using a rubber band to warp it more into an oval shape, and some of the tissue paper tore from the inside of E's--but otherwise, they turned out really cool. It's shocking how light they felt when they came off the mold, after carting heavy Pyrex bowls to various sunny spots, I somehow expected the papier mache to be heavy too (and I really love writing papier mache).

Here are our final products:

E chose the pink flower and teal tissue paper...I love that one of my kids likes something other than camouflage once in a while. Z's is the red-white-and-blue on the far right (my patriotic boy).

And, of course the soldier helmet, which M says "looks like a bowl." Hmm. I told him to pretend he'd been hit in the head by a shell, which made a perfectly flat dent on top. Stay tuned for a picture of the final, painted project on the Junior G.I.'s head.

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