( Originally Published 1932 )
It's interesting to trace the beginning of any craft, but who can say where paper pottery originated? To the writer, it came by way of Hollywood. They were filming a gala night. We can picture the scene. Paper streamers by the ton hanging from great chandeliers, and thick under the feet of the dancers. Cam-eras grinding, music playing, and high overhead, great Kleig lamps lighting the scene. Then the di-rector's sharp order, "Cut!" A rest for the weary actors. They gather in groups and lounge around the "set."
Some one abstractedly picks up one end of a streamer, and starts rolling it into a tight coil. Clever fingers and an active brain add colors of contrasting hues. An experiment and it is found that the flat circle can be pushed into various forms. Soon the paper streamers, destined for the dust heap, take shape, and become things of beauty. Some one suggests shellac, and a few coats are found to produce a bright surface, as well as a strong binding for the paper. Hollywood had something new, and we have it from one who was present that soon every one was doing it.
It may be hard to believe, but beautiful flower bowls, candlesticks, ash trays, vases, pads for hot plates, coasters, finger bowls, and pin trays can be made from such paper streamers. When completed, they look like glazed pottery, and their bright colors speak of old Mexico. The process is so simple, the expense so trivial, and the results so satisfying, that all girls who have once seen it immediately try their hand at paper pottery.
Paper streamers can be bought in packages of red, orange, yellow, and blue colors. A package contains five rolls of each color, which is more than enough to complete any of the articles shown in the illustration. Glue and shellac complete the necessary materials for the work. When the pieces are to hold water or heated objects, they are given two coats of Valspar varnish. Soft wax rubbed into the surface also serves to make them waterproof. All the materials may be bought in any five-and-ten-cent store.
Let us see what we can do ! As hot plates are the easiest articles to complete, we will try one of them as a starter. It is perfectly flat, and requires nothing but winding. But even so simple a process as winding presents difficulties if done in the wrong way, so it is important that we start right. Experience has taught that it is best to unwind the roll completely before starting to work with it. Spread it out on the floor and bring one end up to the table on which you work. This is done to keep the paper from twisting and breaking while it is being wound.
One hand rolls the disk *hile the other straightens the paper as it travels towards it. By this method the paper is rolled into a tight, flat mat. As each roll is approximately the same length, colors should be added by the roll. In this way, each will have the same general width on the finished piece, although the center colors will naturally be somewhat wider than those on the outside.
As each roll has been finished, its end should be glued to the disk to prevent unraveling. When the next roll is started, it should be glued at its end to the end of the preceding roll. As will be seen in the illustration, the hot pad has nine rolls of paper in its construction, contrasting colors placed next to each other.
The rolling process is continued until the entire nine rolls are in place. Set aside for ten minutes to allow the glue holding the ends of the paper to dry. As the piece is to hold heated objects, it should be finished with varnish.
Two methods can be used to apply this finish. The varnish can be applied with a soft camel's hair brush, or the pad may be dipped into it. If the former is used, three or four coats should be given the object, allowing twenty-four hours between coats for drying, unless four-hour drying varnish is used. After the second coat, the piece should be lightly sandpapered to remove all irregularities of the surface. As both sides must be finished, each must be given the same number of coats, and finished in the same way. A pin stuck through the outer edge of the pad will be of great help, as the piece can then be finished on both sides at the same time, and hung up to dry. It will be found that the. first and second coats soak into the paper considerably, and the number of coats necessary must be decided by the reaction of the paper to the varnish.
If the dip method is used, enough varnish must be used to fill a pan or container large enough to submerge the whole pad. Allow it to soak twenty minutes, and then hang it up to dry as in the former method. More time should be allowed for drying. When hanging up any pieces to dry, place them over the varnish container, so that it will catch all the drippings. This will also eliminate all waste. After the piece is thoroughly dry, it should be given a light sandpapering followed by a second dipping. Submerge the piece for only five minutes this time, and again hang it up to dry.
When the varnish is hard, the last drop will form in a small ball at the lowest point. This can be cut off with a knife, and the spot lightly brushed with varnish, which completes the piece.
All the articles shown in the illustration, with the exception of the tall candlesticks, are made from one disk. It is first rolled, and then worked into the desired shape. The small coasters shown on each side of the candlestick can also be used for ash trays. They are made in the same manner as the pad for hot plates, except that their edges are turned up to give them depth.
This is done by holding the piece in the two hands, with the fingers on the bottom edge of the disk and the thumbs on the top edge. Carefully press the thumbs down, while the fingers massage the bottom edge, bringing the rolls up until the piece has the de-sired depth. Care must be taken to see that each coil of paper overlaps the one next to it, or the disk will fall apart. The coils must not only overlap, but the width of this overlap must be uniform on all coils. If this is not done, the sides of the piece will not be equal, and the finished article will be unevenly balanced. When the proper form is obtained, the piece is finished with varnish or shellac.
The tall candlesticks are made in two parts. The base is formed in the same manner as the coasters, except that its center is brought up to a point. The stem of the candlestick is given the form of a cone, as shown, which fits over the raised point of the base. This is done by pressing the finger on the center of the coil. Push the paper in until the cone is formed.
Glue is applied to both contacting parts, and the stem and base are joined together. Place the base on a flat, level surface, and true up the stem on it before the glue is allowed to set. Give an hour for drying. A small dowel stick may be used for added strength. Thrust it through the center of the cone into the base, and cement with glue. As the candlesticks need not be waterproof, they are finished with shellac. Care must be taken in handling them while applying the finish, as the base and stem form a weak link which might be broken by rough usage.
The large bowl is perhaps the most difficult to complete. It requires so large a disk that its handling is cumbersome. However, if care is taken, and the original disk tightly wound, no serious trouble should be had. To give the disk the shape of the bowl, start with the outer edge of the disk and work in toward the center, pushing down with the thumbs to form the inside of the bowl. The center is left flat for a base. This should be about two inches in diameter.
Some prefer to form the large bowl around a master model. To do this, obtain a bowl of the desired size, place it in the exact center of the disk, and shape your paper bowl around it. In this way, greater perfection of line can be gained.
Clear glass ash trays and finger bowls are often used as master models for these objects. Many prefer to make their paper pottery as a base for the glass one, using it as a part of the finished thing. In this way, the glass inserts can be easily removed and cleaned.
Paper pottery is in its infancy, and should open many new fields of endeavor for the girl with nimble fingers and a creative mind. Experiments will quickly show how fertile this field can be to inventive girls. The writer suggests attempting to obtain other forms than the disk treated here. By cutting small wood centers in the form of squares, diamonds, and other shapes, and then winding the paper around these, new and varied shapes can be easily obtained.