Around seven years ago, I discovered a recipe for papier-mache paste on the Internet. Yes, some of the most useful things in life ARE free! Anyway, I went on a papier-mache spree after that, with Anant joining in with his cute little starfish fingers, both of us enjoying the sensation of tearing up paper and dipping fingers in this squishy paste. I don’t quite remember if he tried eating some of this paste….it wouldn’t have mattered, as it was just flour, water and sugar. Some of our experiments were tucked away safely in a cupboard all these years. I was happy to see that they are still intact, with some weathering – the least that can happen in this climate.
Most of these experiments involve layering bits of newspaper, with a final layer of finer paper. In the case of this doll made by Anant, it was wholly made of newspaper – bits of the print can be seen through the paint.
|Anant's first experiment with papier mache. Newspaper strip papier mache, poster paints.|
For the mask “Coffee Junkie” (left) I used coffee filter paper and bits of paper from coffee packs, with jute for detailing. The coffee filter paper seems to have some kind of adverse reaction and become a bit patchy. However, the mask “Found” with a final layer of rice paper seems to look naturally weathered. I have to say I’m partial to this rice paper from Nepal, I’ve been hoarding a few sheets like they’re gold.
|Left: "Coffee Junkie", made from coffee filter paper (unused) and jute. Right: "Found" newspaper layers with final coat of rice paper.|
In sharp contrast to previous years, this time I wanted to try something more ordered using a single layer of pre-cut pieces of paper, rice paper, to make something to commemorate the Third Chakra that we were studying in our group explorations.
Actually I wanted to work on an egg. A thin white paper eggshell, in which runny egg white would be dripping all over, within which would be a beautiful hard yellow yolk, representing the colour of this Chakra. This yolk would be intact. I had it all sorted out in my mind.
I set to work, first making a small template, triangular in shape, using it to cut out pieces of the rice paper. There was something meditative as always, repetitive actions help calm the mind, and focus on the task at hand. With a whole lot of shapes cut out, I cut out a central disc around which I could arrange these pieces concentrically, overlaying them, and using the famous paste to stick the pieces together.
|The delicate strength of the rice paper is beautiful to observe.|
I used an egg-shaped clock for reference as I worked.
Somewhere along the way I lost the plot. A half eggshell it was definitely not. I still kept at it, hoping the shape could be controlled at each new layer of the concentric form I was building up. When my husband asked me if I was making a pineapple, I realized that it definitely was not working. By then, the “form” was more or less complete.
I turned it around, kept it upside down, right side up, sideways, peered into it. And decided to run with it anyway. By a happy accident, it actually ended up looking like a flower!
|Looking inwards. Another flower?|
When I look at it, I know it’s not perfect. There are tiny pinholes where I haven’t layered the pieces properly. The paper is thin like skin, and its natural texture allows light at different levels, so some parts are light and others slightly dark. It still looks beautiful. And deep inside I see the centre, intact, despite all the imperfections in this form. It holds the form together.
I felt that this process itself contained a message. Sometimes I had to make do with what I had. Sometimes things didn’t work out according to plan. Sometimes I had no plan. There are imperfections, in my physical body, in the way I might think at times, in my actions. Yet, I feel the centre is untouched and pristine despite the blows. It is still holding out. I felt an impishness come over me when I saw the image of this form on the computer, maybe it was the ghost of my youth in a sense, cocking a snook at the future. The image reminded me of a container like a glass on the underside of which you have the manufacturer’s imprint and some information about the quality. I added three words to this image (see below). They reflect what I feel at this instant in my life.
Still the sun shines through.
Still the sun shines through.
|Click to get an enlarged view.|