Papier-mache has to be my all-time favorite medium for self-expression. It’s easy, accessible and the materials are cheap. That said, the final product can range from primitive to ethereal. The pieces can be purely functional or be classed as fine art. It has limitless potential.
For the average crafter, finding the right base to build on can be difficult. Cardboard is great, but needs to be carefully measured and cut. Wire and mesh can be difficult and a little dangerous to maneuver (always wear safety specs!).
For my money, nothing beats the lowly lampshade as a base for papier-mache baskets. They come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll be sure to find something that suits.
Drop in at any thrift store and you’re sure to find a shelf or two of these shades, forever separated from their lamp-partners and ready to start a new life. Strip off the fabric and you’ve got your basket base.
You’ll need to do a bit of cardboard cutting, to give your new basket a useable bottom. Just trace around the outside of the shade. Cut one piece that size and one a little smaller to go on the inside. If the wires that hold the shade to the lamp are relatively flat, you can just encase them in the two layers of cardboard. If they have a noticeable bend, you may want to cut them off. Use heavy-duty snips for this.
Then, just tape the two pieces of cardboard in and start layering on the paper, inside and out.
How many layers you need to finish your basket will depend on its final use. If you’re planning to store your knitting supplies, three layers will do. If you want to keep something heavy in it, add more layers until it feels sturdy enough.
How you finish your basket depends entirely on you. Some people like to paint the final product. I prefer to let the paper itself shine through. Newsprint, tissue paper, ephemera of all kinds inspires design ideas.
After that, a final coat of varnish to make it easy to clean, and another sad lampshade has found new purpose.
Barb McMahon writes the blog May December Home - home decor with a focus on environmentally friendly/handmade/re-used design.