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papier mâché

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Definition:

(noun) - Papier mâché is a French term that means "chewed paper" - although there are, please believe me, much more pleasant/efficient methods of pulping paper than chewing it.

Papier mâché's technique involves saturating paper with an adhesive binder (glue, wallpaper paste or the flour-and-water combo every 1st-grader has had to taste) and forming it into an object. Optimum results are obtained by using something such as a balloon or chicken wire as an armature.

Most of us are probably familiar with this craft as it humbly applies to a K-6 art class project or your basic piñata. Papier mâché has quite a grand history though, being some 1,800 years old. It has been used to create highly decorative (and expensive) objects that, when lacquered, are dead ringers for woodenware. Because the medium is easily molded, everything from dolls to curved furniture have been cast from it. Papier mâché also lends itself well to ornamentation from any number of paints, gold leaf or semi-precious overlays. Papier mâché: It's definitely more than child's play.

Pronunciation: pap·yay mah·shay
Alternate Spellings: paper mache

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