Papier-mâché is one of a handful of useful materials that have been almost completely usurped by plastic. I was surprised to find out that the panels for observatory domes used to be made from papier-mâché. This material is very strong and rigid when made correctly. My elementary school projects tended to be mushy and lopsided. It would be irresponsible of me to advise a novice to make a building or a sea faring craft. If you want to do something constructive with Papier-mâché, start by making masks for Halloween or Mardi Gras. Plastic Halloween masks are a pretty disposable commodity and there seems to be a serious over supply. I see Spiderman masks for sale in the dark alleys of the Kasbah and most people don’t celebrate Halloween or Carnival here.
When I was in Florence last month, I took my kids into the shop of a master of the art of mask making. Agostino Dessi knows what he is doing. His daughter is continuing in his footsteps and they offer short courses for anyone who is interested.
Photo credit: mjbinut
If we as a society are going to use less plastic we are going to have to look back at some of the materials that we used before plastic came along. Papier-mâché has some obvious limitations but it also has some very interesting potential. You can easily formulate a biodegradable version.