You may be familiar with paper mache made over balloons or chicken wire with newspapers and wheat paste. But I would like to introduce you to a method that is a bit quicker and capable of a variety of applications, masks, ornaments, and even larger projects.
This method is the 'slump' method, which means an object can have the paper mache laid on top of forms to dry but instead of a shrinking balloon to release the hardened paper form, a release agent is put onto the form before the paste and paper is applied.
What you will need to get started is a face. A pumpkin near the size of your head, or larger if you want? A ruler to measure your face so you will know later how wide the eye holes should be for the mask, and a breathing hole for the mouth and nose. The method is simple and will go quickly. Materials you will need are a pot or pan to hold about a quart of water (you can always make more)... Some cheap table salt (about 3 T.). Bring that to a rolling boil on the stove. Meanwhile put into a plastic dish or cup a 1/2 cup of cold water in which to dissolve about 3 T of cornstarch. Gather up about 3 large paper grocery bags, tear those into about a dozen pieces each, wad them up, then flatten them with your hands. Take the pumpkin and set onto a protected work surface such as a sheet of plastic. Coat your hands with some petroleum jelly and rub the surface of the pumpkin that you intend to paper mache, make sure you get into the grooves or any places that might cause the paper to stick. Now when the water is boiling pour in your coldwater/cornstarch mix and stir rapidly with a wire whisk. This is to ensure a smooth paste without lumps. When this mix just begins to show bubbles to the surface, shut off the heat. This glue should be translucent and slimy about as thick as yogurt. Let it cool for a few minutes you can pour the glue into another container to use, dip a piece of your paper into the glue and start rubbing it over the surface of the pumpkin. Do not be tempted to soak the paper in the glue, it will actually weaken the structure becoming soggy and not sticky, the same thing will happen if you try to build your wet layers too thickly. Be patient and allow two coats of paper to dry before adding one to two more layers the next day. A dry breezy warm day outdoors will dry faster, and indoors a fan set on low, can also help speed the drying time. Okay, so you will notice after about 3 or 4 layers of paper, that is dry, the paper is starting to pull away from the pumpkin, you can go ahead and pull slowly at the edges and release it. The pumpkin can be wiped off and used as a pumpkin. The mold mask now can be trimmed with scissors, elastic stapled to the insides can secure it to your head. figure where the breathing and site holes should go. Then paint your mask as you would like with cheap craft paints or tempera. You can also add additional decorations...the face can be a pumpkin or a monster, use a paper cone and make a unicorn. This is just a foundation for many things...could be you make a few and tape together, make a turtle and not a face. I've managed to make a few large props for plays and parades using this method.
Good Luck to you, and Happy and Safe holiday!
About the Author: Sandra Russell was born in rural Athens County, at mid-century modern time in a pre-Civil War farmhouse near Hebardsville, Ohio. Sandra's interests include art history, studio arts, animals both wild and domestic, and baking. She can sometimes be found on the stage performing in local community theater productions, or behind the scenes creating props or designing sets. Sandy's recent DNA results have increased her interest in learning more about Scotland.