Papier-mâché

Papier-mâché (UK: /ˌpæpi.eɪ ˈmæʃeɪ/, US: /ˌpeɪpər məˈʃeɪ/; French: [papje mɑʃe], literally “chewed paper”) is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or paper pulp, reinforced with textiles or other materials and mixed with adhesives such as glue, starch, seeds or wallpaper paste.

Historically papier-mâché has been an integral part of human civilisation and a form of art.

In ancient Egypt, coffins and death masks were often made from cartonnage — layers of papyrus (paper) or linen covered with plaster. In Kashmir as in Persia, papier-mâché has been used to manufacture small painted boxes, bowls lined with metals, trays, étagères and cases. In Europe, gilded papier-mâché began to appear as a low-cost alternative to similarly treated plaster or carved wood in architecture as far as in 1725. Papier-mâché panels were used in the late 19th century and early 20th century to produce lightweight domes, used primarily for observatories.

Ajit Kumar Nair uses the traditional method of papier-mâché taught by his mother who had learnt it in her childhood days in Kerala, India. Paper strips or pieces are left in water to soak, or boiled in abundant water until the paper dissolves in a pulp. The excess water is drained, an adhesive is added and the papier-mâché is applied to a basic structure of wood, metal and/or metal wire. Once dried details are added and paint is applied.