Tutorial: Making a Paper Cast Bowl
These are the resources you will need in order to make paper:
  • a water source
  • an electricity source
  • a blender
  • a Rubbermaid dishwashing pan (or some other deep pan)
  • a towel
  • shop towels - you can buy these in a roll at any auto supply store. They look like blue paper towels, but they are made of cloth and can be washed and used again. Don't use paper towels for this!
  • a paper mould (buy one from me, or follow my tutorial on how to make one)
  • a sponge
  • mould-release spray
  • metal or glass bowl with no foot, and a smooth surface

I wrote a tutorial on how to make handmade paper from junk mail. If you've never made paper before, you should read over that tutorial, because the first step to making a paper bowl is to create a stack of paper. For a small bowl, you need about 8-9 sheets. For the bowl I used in this tutorial, I needed 20 sheets.

The metal bowl will be the mould that I use for creating the paper bowl. The can I'm holding is mould release spray; I've read that Pam cooking spray works fine too, though I've been hesitant to try it, thinking it will leave oily residue on the paper. But it certainly would be a lot less expensive. I bought my mould release spray from papermaking.net. And the pile of handmade paper is stacked between shop towels in the right hand side of the photo. Note that they are still wet. They are freshly made, and should not be allowed to dry before making the bowl.
Tear the sheets into smaller pieces. I like to make very thick paper when I'm making paper bowls; it tears more easily and it's more sturdy. And I'll have to make fewer sheets, too.
Tear up two or three sheets before continuing. The mould release spray can instructions state that you should spray the mould immediately before laying down the casting, and having a stack of paper ready to go is best.

Spray the mould. Make sure the whole thing gets covered, especially the rim.

Now you're ready to start making the bowl. Each sheet of paper has two sides to it: one side that shows the screening of the paper mould, and one side that shows the texture of the shop towel. I think the texture of the shop towel is more appealing than the screening, so I lay the torn pieces of paper with the towel-texture down. Overlap the pieces as you go. Pat the seams down with your fingers. Make sure all of the bowl gets covered.

After the first layer is done, switch over to laying the torn pieces of paper with the towel-texture up. The outside of the bowl will end up have towel-texture showing too.

Use at least three layers of paper to make your bowl. If you only use one or two, your bowl will be very flexible. You want a bowl that will be sturdy.

After all three-plus layers have been laid on the bowl, take a sponge and carefully press down over the entire surface of the bowl. With pressure, you are creating a smooth surface to the inside of the bowl, and binding the three layers of paper together into one strong layer. Water will flow from the pressure; just keep wringing out the sponge and keep going until you feel all the seams are strong and the paper has been pressed as hard as it can.

After the sponging, the bowl looks like this. Notice it still looks wet; it is still quite wet. Let it dry in front of a fan for at least 24 hours. Do not skimp on the time. If you pop it off too early and it's still wet inside, it may stick or warp.
If you sprayed it well, you should be able to separate the bowl from the mould by just pulling the two apart with some gentle pressure. If it refuses to give at first, just keep turning the bowl around and try from a different angle.

You may want to put the bowl in front of the fan again for a few hours just to make sure the inside is completely dry.

This is what the bowl looks like fresh off the mould. I made this one with old bank statements, old credit card statements, and old utility bills. I also shredded some multicolor flower petals, which shredded into the threads you see in the paper, and added some irridescent confetti for some shine.
At this point, I give each bowl two coats of matte Mod Podge, to seal in all the confetti and flower petals so that they don't peel off the surface of the bowl with handling. This is what the bowl looks like after the Mod Podge; it's a little darker than the raw bowl, and has a bit more of a sheen to it.
The surprise with this bowl was the surface of the outside of the bowl; it looked so different than the inside, and that is quite unusual! The green freckles formed, I believe, from the seeds that were in the flower heads. I don't know why they ended up mostly on the outside papers and not on the inside. There's a mystery to every bowl! This photo was taken after the two coats of Mod Podge, too.

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact: Donna Albino