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Making art out of just paper and glue; Antiques & Auctions PAPIER MACHE: Process dates back to the 2nd Century AD in China.


IS PAPER an everyday necessity or a work of art? Paper was invented in China in the 2nd Century AD, but it wasn't until the 10th Century that paper in its true form took the place of papyrus fibres as a means of recording information; the word paper being a derivation of papyrus.

As the inventors of paper, it follows that the Chinese should also be the first to "discover" the medium of papier-mache.

The binding agent was usually "glue-water", which is a combination of dried animal glue mixed with water until it reaches a thick, syrupy stage. This was mixed in with the pulped paper and poured into moulds to produce intricate mouldings, or formed into panels for furniture.

Although little is known about the precise period in history which saw the first objects made from this material, we do know that by the middle of the 16th Century, large quantities of objects were exported from China across Europe.

The interest in this new, cheap, durable and decorative material only received a half-hearted welcome in many parts but it caught the imagination of the French who fully embraced papier-mache and made it their own.

Long before machines were invented to grind the paper, French women would purchase waste paper from print sellers and bookbinders and pulp it by chewing - hence the word mache. In France papier-mache was used for the heads of dolls as early as the 16th Century but it was not until the 17th Century that it was first used on a large commercial scale by French craftsmen.

The 18th Century saw an increased interest in all things Eastern across Europe and this led to the rise in the popularity of papier-mache in Britain.

At this time the British overtook the French as the most productive in the industry.

Henry Clay, a furniture designer and manufacturer further developed and patented the use of papier-mache in the UK in 1772. This process was further developed in the early to mid 19th Century by the factory of Jenners and Betteridge. These and other manufacturers were producing fantastic pieces of papier-mache furniture, including tables and chairs.

The death of the papier-mache industry came to an end in the mid 19th Century with the invention of electroplating on a commercial scale.

Contact Ryan Beach at Anthemion Auctions. Tel: 029 2071 2608.


ART: A Victorian papier mache Standish inlaid with mother of pearl sold at Anthemion auctions for pounds 140
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 8, 2001
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