You may wonder why a Victorian themed blog would be posting about papier mache. Well that is because, while on our Christmas photo shoot, I got an upclose and personal view of a couple of items in the Dalnavert Museums parlour (a room that you normally can only see from the roped off doorway).
The items were functional and made out of papier mache.
They also made full-sized furniture. In this case a chess table.
Here is the view of the top of the chess set. It looks like the white squares are mother of pearl.
My memory may have been faulty of this matter but I thought I was told this was done as a craft…like knitting or needle point…at home. I’m not finding any information out there that suggests that is true. So either my hearing and/or memory is going and I was not told that or it is true and I just haven’t found the proof for it or my tour guide missed the mark there.
Wikipedia’s description of the process for making furniture quality pieces sounds like it would have been quite the task for an upper crust person to be engaging in for a hobby.
Starting around 1725 in Europe, gilded papier-mâché began to appear as a low-cost alternative to similarly treated plaster or carved wood in architecture. Henry Clay of Birmingham, England, patented a process for treating laminated sheets of paper with linseed oil to produce waterproof panels in 1772. These sheets were used for building coach door panels, amongst other structural uses. Theodore Jennens patented a process in 1847 for steaming and pressing these laminated sheets into various shapes, which was then used to manufacture trays, chair backs, and structural panels, usually laid over a wood or metal armature for strength. The papier-mâché was smoothed and lacquered, or finished with a pearl shell finish. The industry lasted through the 19th century. Russia had a thriving industry in ornamental papier-mâché. A large assortment of painted Russian papier-mâché items appear in a Tiffany & Co. catalog from 1893. Martin Travers the English ecclesiastical designer made much use of papier mache for his church furnishings in the 1930s.
Papier-mâché has been used for doll heads starting as early as 1540, molded in two parts from a mixture of paper pulp, clay, and plaster, and then glued together, with the head then smoothed, painted and varnished.
The most I could imagine for crafts is purchasing the papier mache item and then painting it and finishing it at home. I may have to ask History Myths Debunked to clarify that for me.