Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Flour Arranging

Flour is such an impressively versatile substance. Forget about the endless varieties of bread that you can achieve, this holidays we have been using it in several different ways as the staple ingredient of our craft activities. That makes me sound like a frightfully efficient mother with a themed holiday ‘program’ all mapped out. The truth is more of a distracted mum, hidden behind the computer screen, deaf to all the rumpus, occasionally giving in to entreaties to please try making this modelling clay from this book. Ingredients for modelling clay: flour, salt, water. Ingredients for play dough: flour, salt, water, oil. Ingredients for papier-mache paste: flour, water, sugar. I can feel a book coming on - 101 ways to entertain your child from the contents of your cupboards. Don't pinch it , I might even write it one day!

Yesterday as it was the last day of the school holidays I gave up any idea of trying to do any useful work on the computer and surrendered to the previously unappreciated joys of being a SAHM, instead of trying to be a WAHM. It’s a very fine line between those two states, fine, wobbly and blurred at the edges. Anyway my son has long been asking to do some papier-mache, and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow has been my answer. My memories of papier-mache all involved a lot of mess, gloopy glue, soggy paper and the house is already in such a mess that a layer of glue on top would probably preserve it in that state until the end of time.

In the end I took off my boring grown-up hat, looked up the recipe for home-made glue on the internet and we cooked up a great panful. It’s amazing how just half a cup of flour can turn 5 cups of water into a very respectable gloopy paste.

While the paste cooled, I dragooned the girls into clearing up just some of their ‘mess’ with the threat of their brother getting sole mandate over the papier mache proceedings if they didn’t. He has far less to clear up than they do these days – he’ll wear the same clothes for several days, so avoids the snowflake scattering of cast-off clothes that litter the ground and form drifts around their beds. He spends hours either reading or playing with a ball, while they are building elaborate stage sets for their animals and dolls, usually in the sitting room, whence it must all be transported reluctantly back to their bedroom.

Eventually the paste was cool enough and the bedroom was tidy enough (sort of) and we set up shop. Unfortunately a very imaginative book on the subject has given my son ideas way beyond my immediate capabilities in the realm of papier-mache. The thought of constructing frames of wire mesh and cardboard was too much. I firmly decreed that we were going to start off making plates. I remember making a plate myself as a child in art class and it survived for years, plus it was easy.

We took an enamel plate or bowl each, smeared it with Vaseline and there was our mold ready to start. Tearing up the paper into little pieces was achieved and then came the fun part. Dipping each piece into the gloop, squeezing off the excess and creating a patchwork of overlapping pieces over our plates. I gave myself one to do too, throwing the grown-up hat to the winds and getting my hands right in the gloop, good therapeutic stuff, gloop. So now we have done the first few layers and have left them overnight to dry, my son having completed several layers effortlessly, whereas youngest flagged after covering only half her plate.

The Scrooge-like thriftiness in me just loves the thought of all this creativity with the barest of materials: old newspaper, flour and water. We may have to splash out for some paint and varnish to finish them off, and our paint brushes are disintegrating, but maybe those old toothbrushes could be pressed into service....


  1. You sound like the coolest holiday craft mamma! Plus you also did the pink cakes a while back... next holiday I am packing my kids off to your holiday camp! My kids went back to school today and it was actually so lovely to come home and just sit with a cup of tea and enjoy it in my time!

  2. The reality of it is a little patchier than it sounds - occasional outbursts of craft, interspersed with longer periods of ignoring most of the alarming sounds and hoping nothing too dreadful is going on!

  3. Moments to savor..messiness and all. :) The very best kind.

  4. hey nice article!!! But what flour do you use for making clay? Plain clay will do. Won't it?

  5. Hi Sowmya,
    It's not really clay at all, just a firm flour dough that the children can use like clay to model and make shapes. Real clay is much better but we don't have any, so making our own squidgy stuff to roll and model is the answer. When it's done we dry it, bake it hard in the oven then paint it.


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