make papier-mâché bowls

little bowl no. 2
i’m obsessed with bowls right now. since the functional felt swap ended, i’ve knitted 3 bowls, and have more in the works. last week i posted the little bowl, made with paper and pva, and promised a tutorial if there was interest. and yay! you liked the bowl, so after the jump, how to make your own!

first, i must say i love that papier-mâché is french for chewed up paper (according to wikipedia). isn’t that awesome? second, i just wanted to note that i’m using a pva/water mix, rather than flour/water. i think the pva makes for a stronger hold, but feel free to modify the mix.

let’s get started! base supplies include plastic wrap & tape, pva, bowl for mixing pva & water, gel matte medium (optional):


then, gather your paper materials and bowl(s):


i found the above bowls at ikea. the bowl material shouldn’t matter (wood, plastic, metal), as long as the bowl that does not have a “foot”.

for paper, i use text pages from old books: a german art history book, and a book of english essays are my favorite. thanks to design*sponge, i’ve been saving the security envelopes from my bills, which make for great decorative pieces. i also pulled some sheets of painted paper, and an anthropologie catalog. other options: paper bags, wrapping paper, tissue paper, receipts, take-out menus… the list goes on and on.

step 1: wrap your bowl & prep your paper:

wrap bowl

when wrapping your bowl, i recommend starting with plastic wrap, which you will need to tape down in the inside of the bowl. press out the extra air as much as possible. for my first bowl, i thought that using press & seal wrap was a great idea: it adhered to the bowl, with less work. but then removing the bowl at the end was difficult — i had forgotten how much the sticky stuff would adhere to the bowl. after sticking it in the freezer for a few hours, i was able to gently pry the piece off the bowl, but it wasn’t easy. another option is wax paper, but it’d be pretty tough to wrap the entire bowl without major creases. so start with plastic wrap.

prepare your paper. rip or cut the paper into small pieces, no bigger than 2 x 2 inches. if your pieces are bigger, you may have to fold or crease them to fit the bowl form, which may not give the bowl a smooth surface. smaller is better.

step 2: mix the pva with water, add paper:

add paper to pva/water mixture

i used a 1:1 ratio of pva to water. you really won’t need much, start with about 1/4 cup of each.

place some plastic down on your work area, then put your paper into the pva/water mix.

step 3: apply the paper to the bowl:

apply paper to bowl

it helps to “prop” your bowl upside down using a can, glass, or container. again, place some plastic wrap over your working surface, as you will drip.

remove a piece of paper from your pva/water mix. using your fingers, squee-gee the paper a bit, as it doesn’t need to be sopping wet. then place the piece on your upside down bowl.

i’ve worked from the bowl bottom to the edge, and vice-versa. either place you start is fine.

step 4: continue to add paper:

apply paper to bowl

keep adding paper, working around the bowl, overlapping edges to making sure that you do not leave gaps. if your paper is thin, you may want to overlay the paper so there are 2 layers.

step 5: add decorative elements:


once i covered the entire bowl, i added 3 small circles, cut from security envelopes.

step 6: let dry:

let dry overnight

let the bowl dry at least 18 hours at a minimum, in a cool, dry environment. make sure the surface you’ve set the bowl on is covered, as you may get a few drips. resist the urge to pry the bowl off its form! if you need to, place it out of sight. (i get antsy sometimes!)

step 7: coat with gel matte medium (optional):

apply gel matte medium

once the bowl is dry, i like to add a layer of gel matte medium. one, i like the matte effect, and two, it helps to re-enforce the structure. let dry for a few hours.

step 8: remove the bowl! sorry, i only have 2 hands, so no pictures… first, un-do the tape, then gently pull the plastic wrap from the bowl form. you can use a butter knife to encourage movement, but be very gentle, as it’s easy to rip the paper. keep working away, and eventually your bowl will pull away.

remove the plastic wrap, and you’re done! you may see some clear, dried pva along the top edge of your bowl. you can either leave it there, or use a razor blade, scissors, or exact-o knife to remove it. peeling it could do damage, be gentle…

note that your bowl is fragile, and should not be used for storing or eating food. (it’s not that pva is dangerous, but your bowl probably won’t hold a peck of apples.)

the bowls i made last weekend:


the bowl on the left was made with 1×1 inch squares from an anthropologie catalog. the bowl on the right was made with the shiny pages containing paintings from the german art history book.

if you have any questions, please leave a comment. have fun!

31 responses to “make papier-mâché bowls”

  1. Katy says:

    so very cool!!! Thank you!!!

  2. Anna Y says:

    Thank you thank you thank you…. Love those bowls. :D Was definately worth a drink break (Earl Grey not the good stuff… Don’t want to sew over the teeth of any more zippers….)

  3. Anna says:

    Lovely, lovely, lovely. And now Anna’s comment has me wondering about using tea bags to make one of these bowls to hold………………. my tea bags!! Or maybe just to look lovely on my shelf.

  4. apple cyder says:

    This are excellent. Bravo and thank you.

  5. apple cyder says:

    This IS excellent. (Argh. Hate typos.)

  6. The Lil Bee says:

    Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you posted this!! I LOVED that little bowl, and these other two are great, too. I’ve been looking for a new project to take on, and I’m adding this to my to-do list now. Thank you!

    PS: Great mani.

  7. iHanna says:

    Thanks for making a tutorial, your bowls are really cool! Great work!

  8. Jaime says:

    Love the bowls.

    I am curious what is PVA… and where can you buy it from???


  9. Design for Mankind says:


  10. fish says:

    great pva:

  11. Avenue says:

    What a fun project! Thanks for a great tutorial–and for the link to PVA; I was going to ask about that.

  12. Kristina says:

    This is great! I’ve made bowls before using tissue paper over a balloon form. Very fragile, but so pretty when light shines on it!

  13. shannon says:

    Thanks for the post and encouragement!! :)

  14. julie king says:

    thanks for the how-to. i really want to try one of these little bowls. too cute!!

  15. Jen C. says:

    Super bowls, fab tute! Reminds me of making pinatas, but only half. Can’t wait to try this with the kids on a lazy summer afternoon.

  16. Shellyfish says:

    I cannot wait to try this!

  17. Kaija says:

    Oh how beautiful! (Of course that Beuys book caught my eye too! I love his drawings/paintings!)

  18. alice says:

    Those bowls are wonderful! I can’t wait to have a go at this.

  19. joanie says:

    Really lovely and whimsical. I may have to try and adapt this project for my class of 6 year olds, they would love it as much as me.

  20. Stefani says:

    Those bowls are really cool! I would have never thought of making those.

  21. Elle L says:

    I’ve had a lot of fun making papier-mâché bowls over half of a balloon (same concept as a pinata). My favorite bowl is one where the balloon stayed perfectly lining the inside of the bowl after popping it.

  22. Amy J. says:

    Super-cool idea! I will use your expertise and easy-to-follow in our next ‘Craft Club’ gathering with my gal pals :)

  23. SQUINCY says:


  24. careysquirksandwhimseys says:

    I love the idea of using found and favorite paper sources to create paper mache bowls. And to think I was going to get rid of the old college books!!!

  25. NZ Mum says:

    Just discovered this tutorial and have completed it with my six year old daughter. We have loved it and now have to wait patiently for 18hrs!!
    Thanks very much.

  26. tali says:

    your bowls are beautiful. i want to make some too.
    a quick silly question before i start…what is pva? (in the material section…


  27. Padi says:

    Been making these bowls since I saw this…my favorites are out of tissue paper, so fragile though. Also used sheet music, the tiny bowl is just perfect to hold my rings on the piano when I practice. Using flat bottomed glasses as a base, wine bottles too…scouring the kitchen cabinets for more ideas.

  28. Mod Podge Amy says:

    I absolutely love this project! Awesome.

  29. kate stevens says:

    First I wanted to tell you I saw your bowl project about a year ago and filed it in my mental “things i love” section of my brain. Now i am in the midst of student teaching and am going to do this project with 2nd graders using magazine pages etc. I had to make some for myself too, of course.. so have started using old drawings and paintings that i did in my sketchbks. years ago, and ripping, rearranging them for the bowl covering. It feels great to have a new way to use old art in a new way.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  30. Louella says:

    Your bowls are so creative and attractive! Would love to teach this to kids some day! Thanks for sharing!

  31. Leah Virsik says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! Like Kate Stevens post I too saw your post and your gorgeous bowls and wanted to do this. It took me at least a year. A student of mine suggested doing papier-mâché and I remembered your work and created a couple couple this morning. Thanks so much!