Papier mache is an art form, which is also known as paper - mache. The term is a French word, which means ‘chewed up paper’. It is basically a type of construction material, which consists of paper pieces that are reinforced with textiles. The pieces are glued together, using a wet paste of glue, starch and wallpaper adhesive. The crafted object on which it is applied takes its shape when the paste dries and becomes hard. This explains what papier-mache is. Initially, the papier-mache paste is prepared by a mixture of water, flour or other starch blended with a heavy cream.
Once the paste is prepared, strips of paper are soaked into it till they are saturated. The saturated pieces are then applied over the surface of the object and kept aside for drying. The paper along, with the paste, can either be placed on an armature or skeleton, often of wire mesh, over a structural frame or they can be simply placed on an object, to create a cast. As a releasing agent, oil or grease can be used. Once the paste dries, the resulting material can be cut, sanded and painted. It is usually waterproofed by painting with a suitable water repelling paint.
Papier - mache was quite popular between 1800s and 1900s and was used for a number of purposes in different parts of the world. In the modern times, it is not that popular any more. However, its high resistance and low cost properties make it popular in the field of arts and crafts. It is extensively used in making carnival floats, comprising of number of characters, props and scenic elements, all organized around a theme. They can accommodate several dozens people and have moveable parts. It is said that Italian float makers are the best in the world. Papier mache also finds application in theatre for both the set & costumes.