/Paper Mache Art

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Paper Mache Art

Mexican Paper Mache

Our travels around Guanajuato have connected us to three renowned makers of paper mache art, one of Mexico’s most traditional art forms. Since the days of Spanish rule in the early 17th century, the country’s catroneros, as they were called, have been making colorful art from strips of discarded paper, soaked in a soup of flour and water. The creations range from masks and religious figures, to piñatas, Day of the Dead Catrinas and the towering human forms called mojigangas. Take a look at our evolving collection, and enjoy the work here by Pedro Hernandez Cruz, Betzabe Orozco Segoviano, and Francisco de Jesús Juárez Mújica.

Paper mache sculptures are one of Mexico's most traditional art forms, originating back in the Spanish colonial days of the 1600s. It was, at first, a means of making inexpensive yet durable objects for use in various ceremonies of the Catholic church. The craft was most developed in central Mexico. In cities such as Mexico City and Celaya, particular families took up the trade, adapting and developing it for new uses, down through the generations. Like other forms of Mexican Folk Art, the raw materials are plentiful and inexpensive. Paper mache artwork is generated with scrap paper and cardboard - old newspapers and boxes, discarded manilla wrapping paper. What is of most value is priceless: the artist's talent, drive and creativity.

Many of Mexico's paper mache artists work with a simple, age-old recipe of torn strips of discarded paper, soaked in a soup of flour and water. The recipe is simply two parts water to one part flour, whisked until it is the consistency of pancake batter. Artists soak the bits of paper in this goopy paste until the paper is droopy and wet. Depending on the object to be made, a mask for example, the artist uses a ceramic mold and presses multiple small, saturated strips of paper into the greased mold. The strips are applied over-lapping each other and smoothed down to form a packed layer. The usual process is three layers of pressed paper, allowing 24 hours of drying time between each.

When it's completely dry, the artist removes the paper mache mask from the mold. Now it is ready for painting. First step is to paint the exterior with a white primer. Then, using colorful acrylic paints, the paper mache artist applies the creative details and facial expression to the mask. The last step is to apply a transparent, protective coat of varnish or to spray it with a glossy coat of polyurethane.

How strong is paper mache? The finished sculpture is tough, rigid and lightweight, as if it were made of a durable plastic.

Paper Mache Mexican Folk Art

In Mexico, makers of paper mache figures are also known as cartonería craftsmen. Over many generations, these artisans have produced a wide variety of items important in the country's cultural and religious celebrations. These include figures of Judas Iscariot, as large as 35 feet tall, which are paraded through the streets and then burned on Holy Saturday. This tradition continues in places like Mexico City, Celaya and Toluca. Another form of giant, popular figures are the mojigangas, towering papier-mâché human forms created over a hollow, wicker frame. They are worn on the head and shoulders of a dancer hidden inside.

A Day of the Dead celebration is not complete without the addition of colorfully-painted paper mache skulls, dangly skeletons with moveable arms and legs and little cardboard coffins with a skull that peeks out when a string is pulled. And on any day of the year, no Mexican birthday party is complete without a paper mache piñata. Shaped like an animal, clown or a big star, the hollow figures are decorated with colorful crepe paper and filled with candy, fruit and other prizes for the blindfolded children who compete at breaking open the piñata.

Famous Paper Mache Artists

Perhaps the most celebrated Mexican paper mache artists are members of the Linares family in Mexico City. Pedro Linares began the family business in the 1930s, making piñatas and other figures. A turning point in his career came later that decade when, at the age of 30, he became sick and had a hallucinatory dream filled with strange, threatening animals who came after him shouting the word, "alebrije." After he recovered, he molded and painted the figures he remembered, calling them alebrijes. His mythical creatures painted in bright colors, soon attracted the attention of other artists in Mexico, including the woodcarvers in Oaxaca, who began making their own versions of alebrijes with copal wood. His skeletal figures commissioned for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and a 1975 documentary film, "Pedro Linares: Artisano de Cartón brought him international fame. In 1990, the Mexican government awarded him its distinguished National Prize for Arts and Sciences. His family continues to produce their art from workshops close to the Sonora Market in Mexico City.

Among the acclaimed paper mache artists of modern Mexico are:

" Betzabe Orozco Segoviano, working from the Belfina Art Studio in Leon. Her sister, Edith, and their mother Delfina are also makers of imaginative paper mache sculptures. Betzabe's lifelike figures, such as the skeleton grandmother seated on a chair on our website, are made with a paper mache body, dressed in woven fabric clothing.

" Pedro Hernandez Cruz in San Miguel de Allende has a long-established workshop producing a wide array of day of the dead and alebrije figures, rattles, hearts with wings, children's toys, and those beautifully hand-painted skull masks that you see here on our webpage.

" Francisco de Jesús Juárez Mújica and his wife Lourdes Alhondiga from Guanajuato city make the most beautiful, detailed and colorful paper mache Catrina dolls I've yet to see. We have several of them on our website, along with Francisco's skulls, coffin boxes and an amazing Alebrije creature.

Products

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BURRO MASK, Child's Size, paper mache art
Burro face mask made of paper mache. Hand-painted in red and turquoise, then given a durable, glossy coating.

Burro mask measures 9 inches tall by 7" wide, by 4" deep. Wear it on face, or hang it on a wall.
SKU: PA_33
$18.50
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Catrina with Shawl, paper mache art by Betsabe Orozco
Catrina statue with shawl and butterflies, is handmade by Betzabe Orozco Segoviano in Leon, Mexico
Catrina doll measures 13 inches tall.
SKU: PA_05
$95.00
Original price: $129.00
Save 26%
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CHICKEN MASK, child's size, paper mache art
Chicken, face mask made of paper mache. Hand-painted then given a durable, glossy coating.

Chicken mask measures 10.5 inches tall by 6.5" wide, by 6" deep. Hangs from loop on a wall, or wear on your face!
SKU: PA_35
$18.50
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Coffin Pull Toy w/couple illustration
Paper mache coffin with a skull that pops up when you pull the string. Traditional Mexican Day of Dead toy.

Coffin measures 6 3/4 inches long by 3" wide. Signed by artist Francisco Juarez. Each one unique; you may choose a specific coffin from photos shown.
SKU: PA_14
$24.00
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Coffin Pull Toy w/guitarist illustration
Cardboard coffin with a skull that pops up when you pull the string. Traditional Mexican Day of Dead toy.

Coffin measures 6 3/4 inches long by 3" wide. Hand-painted and signed by Francisco de Jesus Juarez. Each one unique; you may choose a specific coffin from photos shown.
SKU: PA_15
$24.00
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Coffin Pull Toy, with Catrina illustration
Pull the string and a skull pops up in the coffin. Traditional Mexican folk art toy by Francisco de Jesus Juarez. Signed by artist on back

Cardboard coffin measures 6 3/4 inches long by 3 inches wide. Each hand-painted illustration is unique. Each one unique; you may choose a specific coffin from photos shown.
SKU: PA_16
$24.00
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COW MASK, Child's Size, paper maché art
Cow face mask made of paper mache. Hand-painted in red, turquoise and yellow, then given a durable, glossy coating.

Cow mask measures 8 inches tall by 12.5" wide, by 4" deep. Wear it on face, or hang it on a wall.
SKU: PA_31
$18.50
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DEVIL FACE, Child's Size Mask, paper mache art
Human-size Devil face mask made of paper mache. Hand-painted in black and blue, then given a durable, glossy coating. Wear the mask, or hang it on a wall.

Devil mask measures 9 inches tall by 9" wide, by 5" deep.
SKU: PA_27
$18.50
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DOG MASK, child's size, papel maché art
Human-size dog face mask made of paper mache. Hand-painted in orange and blue, then given a durable, glossy coating.

Dog mask measures 9 1/2inches tall, by 7" wide by 4" deep.
SKU: PA_26
$18.50
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Grandmother Skeleton in Chair, paper mache art
Skeleton Grandmother papier mache figure is made by Betzabe Orozco Segoviano in Leon, Mexico
Seated figure measures 10 inches tall by 6 inches long
SKU: PA_06
$129.00
Sold Out
Horse, paper mache figurine, orange head, 12-inch
Paper mache horse sculpture by Pedro Hernandez Cruz in San Miguel de Allende.
Horse measures 12 inches long by 10 inches tall.
SKU: PA_12
$109.00
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La Catrina Paper Maché Figurine, 10-inch, #5
Catrina figurine made with brilliant color by paper maché artist Francisco Juarez

Catrina figurine measures 10 inches tall. Head/hat and hands detach for safe shipping. Signed on base by the artist.
SKU: PA_24
$89.00
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La Catrina Paper Maché Figurine, 10-inch, #7
Catrina figurine made with brilliant color and fine details by paper maché artist Francisco Juarez.

Catrina figurine measures 10 inches tall. Head/hat and hands detach for safe shipping. Signed on base by the artist.
SKU: PA_23
$89.00
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La Catrina, Paper Maché Figurine, 12-inch, #3
Catrina figurine handcrafted in Guanajuato, Mexico by Francisco Juarez

Figurine measures 12 inches tall. Head/hat and hands detach for shipping. Signed on base by artist.
SKU: PA_19
$145.00
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Mexican Alebrije, paper maché sculpture, 48 cm.
Stunning paper mache Alebrije creature, handmade in Guanajuato by Francisco Juarez
Alebrije statue measures 48 cm, or 20 inches tall
SKU: PA_01
$335.00
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Muńeca Doll, paper mache art, pink
Paper mache muñeca doll is made in Guanajuato, Mexico
Doll in standing position measures 12 inches tall. It is flexible in all 4 joints.
SKU: PA_21
$29.00
Sold Out
Muñeca Doll, paper mache art, purple
Paper mache muñeca doll is made in Guanajuato, Mexico
Doll in standing position measures 12 inches tall. It is flexible in all 4 joints.
SKU: PA_20
$29.00
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Skeleton Catrina #1, Paper Maché Figurine, 17.5-inch
Catrina figurine made with brilliant color and fine details by paper maché artist Francisco Juarez.

Catrina figurine measures 17.5 inches (45 cm.) tall. Head/hat and hands detach for safe shipping. Signed on base by the artist.
SKU: PA_18
$239.00
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Skeleton Catrina #2, Paper Maché figurine, 17-inch
Paper mache Catrina statute handmade by Francisco Juarez. Signed by artist.

Catrina measures 17 inches, or 43 cm. tall. Head and hands detach for safe shipping.
SKU: PA_03
$239.00
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SKELETON CATRINA #4, Paper Maché Figurine, 18-inch
Paper mache Catrina statue handmade by Francisco Juarez. Signed by the artist.

Catrina dancer figurine measures 18 inches tall by 17" wide. Head detaches from body for safe shipping.
SKU: PA_02
$325.00
Sold Out
 
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