Birthdays, Christmas Day, Mother’s day, they all have one thing in common; a mountain of torn wrapping paper at the end of it! You could carefully fold it up and put it out for recycling but wrapping paper costs almost as much as the presents these days so I would rather not throw it away. An easy way to upcycle rather than recycle is to mache paper mache bowls from the torn paper. You never seem to have enough serving bowls for parties and being made from paper it wont matter if they get broken by enthusiastic guests as they were headed for the bin anyway. You can use them for fruit, wrapped sweets, or dry snacks but probably best not to use them as punch bowls.
These bowls take a bit of time to dry, but they aren’t hard to make you will need a large bowl to use as a mould.
I found a huge ceramic pasta bowl was perfect. Floor wax is great to stop the paper mache from sticking and you can remove it from the bowl later with hot water and detergent and, if it’s really stubborn, add some cloudy ammonia.
You will need lots of torn wrapping paper, and I do mean lots, you will want it at least 3 layers thick but the thicker the better. Also its best to hand tear the paper into long thin strips as this will keep the long fibres together and make you bowl stronger than if you cut the paper up with scissor, it will also allow you to remove any sticky tape.
You can just use PVA or decoupage glue to stick everything together and exterior PVA glue costs a little more but dries to a firmer more water resistant finish. Alternatively you can use a more tradition recipe of; two cups PVA, 2 tablespoon boiled linseed oil, a few drops oil of cloves or oil of wintergreen to stop mould, and a ¼ cup Wallpaper Paste.
Dip the paper into the glue and make sure it is well coated then lay as interleaved strips in the pasta bowl like you were making a bad lasagna Creating a herring bone pattern will give you maximum strength but still look good. but the strips should lie flat without any bubbling. You can brush the sponge brush over all the strips to keep them flat. Repeat until you have about ten layers then let it all dry completely, this can take a couple of days depending on how thick you’ve made the bowl. Since we have been using wrapping paper you should find that the outside of the bowl will be white and the inside the chosen colours of your wrap in a overlapping herring bone pattern.
Once dry you can give it three coats of varnish or a coat of glass-coat if you prefer.
So now you’ve made a useful bowl from something that would have ended up as landfill meaning your creation has a negative carbon footprint.
Although I like the idea of not having a bulging bin out the front acting like a beacon for thieves and I get to save money while being green.
A few tips though, remember to keep them out of the dishwasher and clean them using a dry towel or almost dry cloth for more stubborn stains and don’t use them for serving wet things like sliced fruit.
And, if you’ve done a really good job, you might be able to give them to the people who gave you the wrapping paper in the first place.
Check out some wonderful paper mache jewelry by RecyCoolArt on Etsy.com!