European Architectural Papier Mache + Traditional Construction

Traditionally papier - mache mouldings were made in two ways. The first & most common method was by building up a layered form over or within a mould simply from sheets of paper & wheat paste to produce a hollow casting. The second method was to cast a solid form using beaten paper pulp & gelatine.

Many of the recipes one sees nowadays for papier mache contain, in addition to wood based paper, strengthening additives based on plaster type compounds used for jointing or hole filling or extra fibrous material again as a reinforcement. These recipes are not historically correct & let alone of archival quality.

Before the invention & adoption of the paper machine in the early 19thC all paper was made by hand.The fibres used in the handmade mills were in general textile grade linen, hemp, jute, sisal & later cotton.It was the inherent strength of all these fibres, as opposed to the latter day wood fibres, that gave the earlier papier mache much of its strength. The rigidity of the casting was enhanced by coating the moulding with linseed oil & the surface finish could be enhanced with an application of whiting & glue. The building up of the casting using layers of paper (often 5) was the most common method of construction because a better quality of surface finish was more easily obtained.

As techniques, particularly mould making, became more refined ornate corbels, bosses & decorative wall borders, often in exquisite detail became readily available . At least three paper mills supplied bespoke paper to the papier-mache workshops. Further information & references are below. 

Please contact the Mill for bespoke archival, papier-mache papers & pulp.We can supply beaten, archival cotton pulp in dry sheet form for the repair & conservation of architectural mouldings.  If a solid casting is required the sheets are easily repulped in a blender.

Click on image to enlarge

The Manufacture of "Raised Stucco" or "Papier- Maché" Papers in Ireland c. 1750-70  Ada K. Longfield

Article giving a more technical overview of historical papier- mache from Building

Conservation of Papier- Mache at the  Miles Brewton House, Carolina by Jonathan Thornton.

18th C Papier -Mache Ceiling Decoration in Ireland by David Griffen

Reference Book

English Papier-Mache. Its origin,Development & Decline. by Geo. Dickinson. Pub.The Courier Press,London. 


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