paper and paint

a dictionary and a mixing bowl form mending the crack {paper mache bowl project} (2) mending the crack {paper mache bowl project} (1)

Before Thanksgiving I started making the large paper mâché bowl pictured above.  I set it aside to work on a smaller paper mâché bowl I wanted to give as a wedding gift, then took some time off before revisiting the original.  The three photos above offer a brief recap of how the process began:

1. Flour-and-water paste on blank newspaper formed the structural base, which was too snugly molded to remove from its mixing-bowl form.

2. I had to slice my beautiful bowl to pry it loose.

3. Duct tape is the answer to half my problems.  (The answer to the other half is WD 40.)

4. (not pictured) I added a layer of dictionary clippings, brushed into place with DIY Mod Podge, which is half school glue & half water.  Thank you, Pinterest people.  (Original source seems to be Life in Rehab, but I found it via Pinterest.)

Which brings us to the present.  May I present the effect of a paper bowl meeting a gold-dipped paintbrush?

gold inside, paper outside

From the rim downward, the whole inside is gold, while the outside remains a hodgepodge of dictionary words.  Those words are carefully selected to give clues to, if not outright tell the story of, my history with Lovey.  “Dandelion,” “beaker,” “starry,” and “mailbox” are references to a bouquet he gave me, his chemistry degree, our first date (and many subsequent ones), and our long-distance summer.  “Matrimony,” “kiss,” “lover,” and “marvel” are more about now.

gold inside, paper outside  (2)

Here’s a glimpse of how the paper and paint textures play against each other.  I love the contrast of gloss and matte, just one way to bring the high-low concept into a room.  I also have to show you how gold paint became to this bowl what a topographic map is to a landscape:

empty bowl gold inside

So, full of oranges as I imagined from the very beginning, or empty with its silver gold lining agleam, I love this practical craft project!  It was time-consuming but worth every minute.  What’s the last thing you made out of paper mâché?  Are you ready to reimagine the medium?!


You’ve all been exposed to, if not completely sucked in by, Pinterest by now, right?  Well, it got real in my life recently.  No, I didn’t date a movie star or get a cute little tattoo with my best friend; but I did go to my friend J’s Pinterest party.  Each guest brought treats inspired by a recipe found on Pinterest, then we made a Pinterest craft together.  We kicked off the evening with our “light dinner.”  The top-heavy food pyramid included…

pumpkin dip with nilla wafers and apples

…light-as-a-cloud pumpkin dip with Nilla wafers and apple slices…

apple bread

…sweet apple bread with aromatic autumn spices…

banana-chocolate chip oatmeal muffins

…wholesome-but-tasty banana-chocolate muffins with oatmeal…

peanut butter bars

…butter-laden peanut butter cup bars…

no-bake type chocolate balls with flax seed

…and no-bake chocolate treats that were a little like no-bake cookies but better for you.  I’m not sure of all the ingredients but I remember that flax seed was involved.  So, yes, it was a dessert-dinner, but there were redeeming elements.

dessert dinner: apple slices, pumpkin dip, oatmeal banana-chocolate muffin, apple bread, chocolate treats

After we chatted and grazed for a while, we put on our thinking caps to decide what wise words to permanently emblazon onto Sharpies

plain blue mug

It got really quiet while we thought about what saying we wanted to wake up to every morning–or maybe unwind with every evening.  Finally everyone settled on something and set about lettering it onto her mug.  Here are S & S carefully writing out their inspirations while a cozy fire flickered in the background.

S & S carefully writing on their mugs

We chatted a little more while we baked the mugs at 350 for 30 minutes.  Some crafters who went before us claimed that this technique wouldn’t make the writing really permanent, but it didn’t smudge when our mugs were cool, so we’re going with Myth Busted.  (And we’ll hand wash them, just to be safe.)  Here they are:

four mugs with Sharpied sayings on them

They say:

1. You are precious and honored in my sight. You are loved.  (The other side paraphrases the rest of Isaiah 43:4, which says, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and nations in exchange for your life.”)

2. One who kneels before God can stand before anyone.

3. Wisdom begins in wonder. -Socrates

4. beautifully (The whole thing, continued from the other side, is “Live life beautifully.”)

Here’s a parting shot of me with the evening’s lovely host, J:

M & J

She suggested making craft night a monthly-ish event, and I really hope we’re able to get that going!  It’s so refreshing to spend a few hours bonding over beautiful things with other ladies.  And delicious things don’t hurt either.  We can definitely bond over those!

Have you whipped up anything creative or edible lately?  Maybe both?  Send me a link to it if you want.  I think it’s fun to see how people adapt Pinterest ideas to fit into their real lives, because we can’t all live in treehouses or dress children in knickers and knee socks.

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:





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!