Outdoor Paper Mache
Will it Stand Up to the Weather?

I've been asked many times if outdoor paper mache will stand the test of time.

I have to be honest and say that I have never done it myself. However, it appears it can be done as there are many artists creating sculptures from paper mache to be displayed outside.

Although I have heard a story of a man who apparently made and sailed a paper mache boat, in my experience it is very difficult to truly waterproof.

A few things to bear in mind if you want to give outdoor paper mache a try:

  • Make sure you place your sculpture where it will not end up standing in water and preferably give it some sort of protection from the elements by placing it under a roof or in a sheltered corner of your garden.
  • Try to avoid complex shapes so that you can be sure to get your varnish into every nook and cranny. Even the smallest gap in your varnish will let in moisture and ruin your work.
  • Consider coating your outdoor sculpture with latex rather than varnish. This should waterproof your art reasonably well if it is completely covered.
  • You may want to cheat a little by using fabric rather than paper. You can get some very interesting effects by using torn strips of old material in place of paper.

If you do decide to give it a go, make sure you use strong glue. PVA or wood glue should work well with most fabrics.

New products

Again, this is something I haven't tried yet, but I am keen to do so. I've had an email from a reader called Lynn telling me about a product called Paverpol. It's actually a textile hardener, but apparently it's brilliant as a waterproof coating for paper mache.

I've now found a UK supplier, and I'm planning to get hold of some and give it a test drive over the summer. We'll be posting the results on there so, as they say, watch this space :)

Not pure PM but...

Sue's Easter Island ManEaster Island Man by Sue from Australia

Now, this is something I find really exciting and I definitely want to have a go at.

Sue from Australia has made a fantastic Easter Island Man letterbox, and he stands outside in her garden.

You can have a look at how she made him in the Your Art section of the site and in more detail on About.com.

So, here's why I say not pure PM. Sue made the basic shape out of paper mache but then she covered it with fibreglass.

Once it was set she hosed out the paper and cardboard and was left with a completely waterproof piece of art.

Brilliant. It may end up not being PM at all, but it did start out that way, and you can guarantee that it will be fully waterproof and last for many years in the garden.

› Outdoor Paper Mache

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