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Start arrow Papier Mache arrow History arrow History the Papier Mache
History the Papier Mache Print

Papier Mache (literally "chewed paper") has gained popularity worldwide because of its versatility.  Historically it has been made in a wide range of applications, from decorative profiles and moldings, boats, buildings and furniture.  It can also be seen in the colorful products of may folk traditions.

Paper was invented in China in the second century AD, and at about this time began to use Paper Mache as a good way to re-use the material which was then expensive and hardly accessible.
An important advantage is that it can be very strong but also very light. With strengthening layers of varnish, it was even used to make soldiers' helmets.
Over time, with the spread of trade, the Papier Mache technique was introduced in Samarkand and Morocco and beyond until, in the tenth century, it was known in Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Persia and India.

It was French craftsmen who first recognized the great potential of Papier Mache, making cups and snuff boxes and imitating stucco and plaster work. In England a strong development was in molding and baking either layered sheets or shredded paper to produce a strong board or, with lacquer, products like those made popular in Japan.  For building work it was soaked in linseed oil before beiing baked.

In the later eighteenth century, the production of Papier Mache was one of the most important crafts in Central England, with Birmingham as a major centre.  Trays, tables, chairs, lamps, book shelves, wall decoration, screens, bed frames were regularly made from Papier Mache.  The lacquer work was mostly on a bolack background with patterns of flowers, with gilding and inlay with nacre.  In France and Germany Papier Mache  furniture was very popular.  In America one manufacturer made boats. Russia and Scandinavia also developed their own industries.  In 1793 in Norway a church, made in Papier Mache  stood for 37 years.

Large scale production lasted for about a hundred years in Europe but began to decline from about 1870.  While mass production has discontinued, the craft of papier Mache has gained considerable popularity and now has world wide participants.