to have and to hold

My cousin got married!  Read about it here if you haven’t already.  Her invitation was very frank and funny: it gave the details and then announced that Kansas City barbeque and “awkward but enthusiastic dancing” would follow the ceremony.  It encouraged BYOB and reminded us that RSVPs are important: “Though we sincerely hope that you will be joining us on our big day, please do not assume that we can read minds….”

I liked the way they told us exactly what to expect from them as hosts and what they expected from us as guests.  One of the things mentioned in the details was that they would be happy to receive handmade and secondhand gifts.  I’m sure you can imagine how fast my mind took off with that idea!

letters 'to have and to hold'

I had already started a papier mâché bowl for myself, and I thought since it was going pretty well I’d make one for them too.  I had learned a couple things making my own bowl, so I felt confident that I could do an even better job on theirs since it wouldn’t be a test run.  I used flour and water to make my papier mâché paste.

flour on a plate

flour and water on a plate

flour and water mixed--messy hand!

I used plain white paper (salvaged from book boxes unpacked at the library) for the first few layers to build strength, then dictionary pages on the top layers to add interest.

a dictionary and a mixing bowl form

The problem I encountered with my first bowl was that I was way too careful.  I know that probably sounds strange, but in striving to smooth all the paper tightly against my form (a melamine mixing bowl covered in plastic wrap) I made it unmoldable.  Eventually I had to slice through the paper to gain the leverage I needed to pry the handmade bowl loose!  You can see it in the next photo, which makes me think of “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

light shining through the crack

In other contexts, I’m all for light getting in.  In this context, though, a little duct tape was in order.  When I finish this bowl I want to use it to hold oranges–or other fruit, but every time I picture it, it’s oranges.

mending the crack with duct tape

Anyway, I set that project aside for a while, lessons learned, and moved on to the smaller bowl I wanted to make for my cousin and her lovebird.  This time I draped plastic over the bowl in a cross shape so I could pull from more than one direction to loosen the molded bowl.  I also left the plastic much looser than I did the first time!

mini bowl covered with plastic wrap

When the papier mâché had dried enough to hold its shape, I transferred it to a ceramic bowl so I could dry it in a 200-degree oven.  I read that it would dry harder under heat than at room temperature.  Before popping it in the oven, I smoothed the ragged top edge with scissors.

trimming edges smooth

After a few days drying (which ensured that the papier mâché was completely cured) I began to layer on dictionary pages.  I was going to use Mod Podge for this step until I saw on Pinterest that you can mix glue and water 1:1 and get the same result.  I already had glue, so that was a no-brainer.  (Buy another craft item or don’t…?)

DIY mod podge

I chose some of my pages carefully, saving their special words for the outer layer:

LOVE ~ JOLLITY ~ SWEETHEART

love

jollity

sweetheart

On the bottom of the bowl I pasted a little illustration of sweet pea flowers because Sweet Pea is one of my cousin’s nicknames.  She even has a tattoo of it.

sweet pea close-up

On the inside I pasted a wedding-day message that I figured will apply just as well to the everyday function of this bowl: it says “to have and to hold.”

view from top with "to have and to hold" and eggs

The eggs, which I think came from a Clinique ad, seemed like a sweet symbol of “nesting” in a new home together.  I could wax metaphorical about how marriage, like eggs,  blends fragility with the promise of life–or I could just say I thought the eggs were cute, which is about all the thought I actually put into it.  The possibility of deeper meaning is there, but that’s not why I initially chose to include the picture.  Anyway, here’s how I imagine the bowl will look when it’s hard at work holding stuff.

tableau with bowl holding keys and phone

I hope the bride and groom enjoy using it.  Would you trust your catchall items to a paper bowl?  This one turned out pretty sturdy; now I’m eager to finish the one I started for myself!

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  1. paper and paint « wellcrafted

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