R . M . H



Papier Mache': 

 Primates for Ages 9-12


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Student Project

Supplies and Materials


  • Wallpaper Paste

  • White School Glue

  • 1" Bristle Utility Brushes (Optional)

  • Paper cups, small buckets for glue

  • 12 Gauge Steel Wire (or any relatively stiff wire.

  • Wax Paper or Freezer Paper

  • Newspaper

  • Strips of cardboard or craft sticks

  • Colored Pipe Filters

  • White Paper Towels

  • Colored Tissue Paper

  • Google Eyes

  • Foam Construction Paper

  • Various Notions

  • Scrap Materials



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Student Project

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Student Project

Session One (one hour, including clean up time)
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Wire Armature:

Wire Armature showing S-Curves

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Dry Wrapped Structure



  1. Have students write their names on the freezer paper. An 18" piece will accommodate most projects. It is not too early to emphasize the necessity of working on the shiny side of the paper -- glue doesn't stick to this surface, normally.

  2. Wire Armature

    • Cut one 18" to 24" section of the 12 gauge wire (the head and body) and two 12" sections (the arms and legs)

    • Have students make a loop at the top of the longer piece of wire. This will hold the head.

    • Have students make shoulders and hips by making S-curves in the remaining part of the long piece of wire. Squeeze these S-curves tight to make T-shape.

    • By weaving the arm and leg section through the T-shapes, twisting the wire, and taping, secure the wire sections together. (See photo: Wire Armature) 

    • Leave limbs long for spider monkeys, for shorter limbed primates fold wire up and twist together.  A quicker solution that cutting each students piece to their specifications.

  3. Dry Wrapped Structure

    • The Head: Have students crumple newspaper to make a  ball.  Place crumpled ball (depending on the desired size of the head, made from one sheet or multiple sheets) into the center of another sheet, wrap together and secure with masking tape. 

    • The Arms & Legs: Crumble newspapers (this makes the paper softer, easier to work with, and more receptive to the glue.) Uncrumble paper, smooth flat and then roll paper into long tubes. Twist these tubes to make snake-shapes, similar to coils in clay. Tape the ends and a few spots in the middle to keep the coil-shapes from untwisting. Now take the coil and tape to the end of one hand.  At a few points tape along the arm, up to the neck.  Wrap like a scarf around the neck space and then onto the body section, secure with tape. Advanced and fast-working  students may twist the section around the wire rather than just following the wire up the arm. Use the same procedure for remaining limbs.

    • The Body: Much of the body has been formed by the remainder of the limbs, but more shaping can be done by either taping wrapped coils around the body or by taping balls of newspaper to the chest or stomach. If too much tape is used there will be little exposed newspaper to hold the glue (the glue and tape are not really compatible).  To remedy this problem, the body can be wrapped with a sheet of paper and secured with as little tape as necessary. This is also a solution for overly bumpy structures.

  4. Collect projects and store till next session. Keep the insect and the freezer paper together.

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Dry Wrapped Structure

This has legs and arms shortened by folding the wire up and twisting it together.  It will become a baby gorilla.

Session Two: (one hour, or combined with the first session about an hour and half)
  1. At least 30 minutes before class, mix the wallpaper paste to a thick consistency, 1box for 15 to 20 students.  Adding a cup of white glue (PVA) will make a stronger bond.

  2. Return projects to students and give each student a cup of wallpaper paste/glue (for neatness, don't fill), a utility brush, and a section of newspaper.

  3. Show how to tear the newspaper into strips. Hold full sheet of paper, as reading, and tear downward. A rather clean, straight tear will result. Stress that perfection in tearing is not that crucial to the final project, but that the skill makes things easier.

  4. Once the newspaper is torn into long strips, have students tear into smaller sections -- about the length of their hands. (1 1/2" x 3" strips are about average, sometimes longer or shorter as needed.)

  5. Have students brush the entire animal, top and bottom, with the wallpaper paste. Mentioning how "slimy" the glue is before the students discover this fact on their own, defuses most reluctance to get it on their hands.

  6. There are several way to apply the glue and strips of paper.

    Crossing pattern for strips of newspaper


    Tip wrapping for 
    hands and feet

    (Gloves and socks)

    1. Brush on glue, apply strip, brush glue over strip. Glue. Strip. Glue.  Cross-Strip.  Emphasize that two pieces of paper cannot be stuck together without a layer of glue.  Crossing or weaving applications work best.  If one piece is laid vertical, then the next piece is laid horizontal.  Working from tips (ends) toward the center is best. (The neatest method). Tell them to put the socks and gloves on first, by covering the tips and folding the rest of the strip up to the wrist area.  Then wrap the wrist with another strip.

    2. Smear the glue on with the hands and then applying the strips. (The best for shaping fun forms, but dries slowly and is very messy.)

    3. Dip the strips in the glue and squeeze off excess glue by pulling strips between gently closed fingers.  (Most pliable paper, reflects the form underneath. Medium messy.)

  7. Encourage students to apply a complete coat and then another.  The more coats (layers) the stronger the animal's hide will be.  In some cases I alternate newspaper and paper towels to show how many layers.

  8. For the final layer, pass out white paper towels, tear into strips and apply just like newspaper.  This is a substitute for white gesso.  It gives the project a white surface so that the transparent tissue paper can cover it.

  9. Collect the project: Animal and freezer paper. Let dry two days if possible -- a hair dryer can be used to speed up process.  Good ventilation is important.

  10. If time is left explain how artists share and improve on ideas.  No one should feel like someone else has taken their idea. Have students take turns talking about decorating their primate and what their animals might be doing.  Explain that some students will want to create realistic monkeys and others very fanciful.  I mention ideas like: tutus, high-heels, gloves, helmets, belts, hats, boots.  Also, race car drivers, doctors, astronauts, basketball players, and fashion models. After that the students suggest things like: skateboard chimp, marmoset doctor,  warrior gorilla, chunky monkey teacher.  

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Student Project

This shows a wet project with the white paper towel.  Notice that the newspaper will show through the paper towel as long as it is damp.

Session Three: (Half Hour)
  1. Pass out projects, glue and brushes.

  2. Tear color tissue paper sheets into quarters. (Smaller sheets result in less waste.)  Let students have three sheets of their choice color.  Encourage thinking about patterns and textures, and explain that light colored bodies will show darker patterns.

    • Note: a few layers of white tissue paper, applied just like the newspaper strips, make a better surface. Depending on the speed of the class, this can be used.

  3. Have students tear tissue into strips and then apply like the newspaper strips. Glue. Strip. Glue. Cross-strip. Glue.

  4. Apply patterns in contrasting colors or tones of torn paper. Some students will want to cut their pattern shapes with scissors, this is okay, but I explain that the natural edges are more interesting.

  5. Collect projects. Let dry for two days if possible.  If the previous session is dry, then one day is normally enough.

  6. If time is left, pass out drawing paper and markers and have students draw where their animals live (encouraging realism or fantasy) and try to get them to express a feeling of time (morning, noon, afternoon, night, winter, summer, fall, or spring.



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Student Project

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Student Project

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Student Project

Session Four: (Half hour) + a lot of clean-up

(This session is the most variable -- some students take almost no time and others are able to work for hours. Helping each other and assigned clean-up activities can solve part of this problem.)

  1. Prepare room by setting up work stations.  Beads, buttons, google eyes in one area. Construction papers and construction fun-foams  in another.  Pile of material scraps in another.  Pipe cleaners, craft sticks.  Yarns, strings, ribbons. Pom-poms, bric-a-brac, and found objects.

  2. Each students' table should have scissors and glues.

  3. Pass out projects. Have few students to talk about their plans, this will get the creative juices going.

  4. Tell them that they may get up and select items on their own and get out of the way.  This session is what it is all about.


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rmhershberger.com    Last Modified: 09/11/2008 13:59:21