As a kid, I associated papier-mâché with making piñatas for a birthday party or crafting a mask in art class. Now that I’m an adult, I see it’s more than just a craft for children. Lately, some amazing designs, from little lumps to intricate vases to massive pieces of furniture, are popping up on my radar. The paper-pulp composite—that’s really all it needs to be!—is composed of pulped or mashed paper pieces, sometimes reinforced with fabric, bound with an adhesive such as glue, paste, or starch. The material is quite versatile, and it’s sustainable, too (typically, the paper used is leftover scraps). The best part: This humble pulp transforms into a beautiful surface full of potential—like clay, but without a kiln.
Chiaozza’s papier-mâché Lump Nubbin series—essentially bumpy little plant-like creations—are made from the duo’s studio paper scraps. The imaginative shapes, set on concrete bases and decorated with brightly colored paint and rubber sprouts, showcase how a simple, amorphous shape can take on so much character.
In 2012, trained paper conservators Julie Stordiau, Vincent Farelly, and Jean-Baptiste Martin came together to form A Paris Chez Antoinette Poisson. The company’s name honors Louis XV’s favorite mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour, patron of the arts and wallpaper enthusiast. Known for hand-blocked, decorative sheets of domino paper, the studio also makes some elegant plates and urns, available at John Derian.
At first, HAY’s colorful papier-mâché masks seem a bit unexpected, coming from a brand that typically sells very streamlined, functional products. But on second thought, they fit right in. While quirky, they’re still minimal, and could be used as art or as a costume. The goofy facial expressions would liven up any room, and they’re inspiring us to try our hand at making our own masks as grown-ups.
We first noticed sculptor Mark Gagnon ‘s enchanting papier-mâché work when he collaborated with florist Emily Thompson on a Bergdorf Goodman window display. With their intricate patterns and flowers, his urns, vases, and tureens are whimsical, but they’re also a bit eerie and dark, often painted black with snakes wrapping themselves around the flora.
Thomas Barger takes the recycling aspect of the craft to a whole new level, setting out to find shredded paper on New York City’s recycling pickup days. He blends his discoveries into pulp and applies it to simple chairs to create furniture that looks like it was plucked right out of a cartoon or kid’s crayon drawing. His jovial first solo show at Salon 94 Design last year shows just how big papier-mâché projects can become.