Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Papier Mâché Fish

I've always been impressed with the craft of Mary Robinette Kowal, so after she posted a papier mâché tutorial,  I knew that I had to try to make some fish.

I used scissors to freehand cut out fish shapes out of an old cereal box (I get more milage out of those boxes).  These were about nine inches by four inches.  I had a vague notion that it would be fun to hang a school of them from the ceiling (which is sort of passe when one lives in the Pacific Northwest, but it does look cool).

I found an old paper bag -- this was slightly harder than I thought it would be because we have about eight fabric bags we go shopping with.  I also dragged out about four reams worth of printer paper that had been printed on both sides with short story rough drafts.  A helper and I ripped them into strips about an inch by six inches.  

Then dinner happened.  One thing sort of lead to another, and now that I'm actually re-reading Mary's tutorial, the only instructions I followed was use to whole wheat flour and paper bags.  (There was post-dinner hot chocolate involved, so I was busy with a whisk, a double-boiler, and a hot stovetop when the rest of my family decided to start.)

Somehow the cardboard fish were dumped into a pretty wet mixture of flour (with maybe some salt and no paste -- I wasn't in the room to see the actual mixing process).  Mark decided he wanted his fish to curl around.  So here's a picture of his.  Mary suggests using a painting tin, as you can see, we used a Very Large Mixing Bowl.

For my fish, I applied a base of the paper bag strips along the belly of the fish to try to give it some depth.  At the time it seemed like it was getting pretty thick, but I think that was wishful thinking because I wanted to be through dodging the papier mâché  being splattered around the room (no, the large drop cloth we'd put down wasn't big enough, and I'm still finding odd blobs of the stuff on the floors and used mugs of hot chocolate).

We avoided a Tasmanian Devil moment with the craft materials and put the fish out in the garage to dry.  That was last night.  This afternoon they're still kind of wet and pliable (it's Thanksgiving time in Oregon, so the sun puts in about a half-hour's worth of time).  

I can't help but look at the random words from a short story on my fish and remember the words of Eric Witchey, who, when using a fish metaphor for selling short stories, said, "Even a dead fish will float down stream."  

I'm pretty sure this fish will be a prototype, and the next batch I might try using two cardboard cutouts to get a jump on the three-dimensionality.  


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