At Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum Arts and Crafts Museum

Plaster Paradise

Age range 3 yrs (with some supervision) - adult

Piece of fairly thick white/cream card, an assortment of different thickness of white string (not the plastic sort), PVA glue, glue pot and brush, pencil, scissors, white tissue paper, paint (poster or watercolour)

Have you had a look at the plaster ceiling designed and made by Ernest Gimson, it's in the primary pattern archive? Lots of his ideas came from nature, flowers or animals, so have a think about a shape you would like to create.

Using Plaster of Paris, just like Gimson, can get pretty messy so here is a way of making a raised design that looks like a plaster moulding.

Plaster Paradise 1

First draw your design out onto the card, think about the interesting ways you can make the lines go. You should be looking for smooth curving shapes rather than sharp corners.

Start to glue the string down following the lines, cutting it to make it fit.

Whilst you wait for the glued down string to dry you could start cutting the tissue paper into squares, about 40 x 40 cm but you don't have to be too precise. Mix some of the PVA glue with a little water so that it looks like milk.

Plaster Paradise 2

Brush the glue over small areas of the card and string, place a tissue square over it and keep on doing this until the whole of the card is covered in one layer of tissue. It is easier to put the glue on the card rather than on the tissue because it tears very easily.

Repeat the layers three or four times more, making sure that you push the tissue paper down around the sides of the string. The idea is to have a raised pattern. You will need to leave the tissue to dry.

Once the tissue is dry you can now use the paints to colour your design. Gimson used soft pastel colours that were very natural, no purple hedgehogs there! When your design is dry you can seal the surface by brushing a thin coat of PVA glue over it or you can leave it as it is.

Plaster Paradise 3

Ideas for older children and adults

You have just tried the basic technique, now you can take it further. Here are some ideas, but try experimenting, you never know what you may come up with!

Plaster Paradise 4

  • Make larger panels or join several together
  • Use brightly coloured tissue paper. As a finishing touch try sprinkling glitter over the wet tissue or use gold paint or gilding foil to highlight the raised pattern. It looks spectacular!
  • Rather than a two dimensional pattern try using a three dimensional object, a jam jar or bowl, as a form or base. You will need to put clingfilm over the shape to stop anything sticking to it! Use newspaper squares as papier mache to create a firm base, then the string design and finally the tissue paper
Emery Walker AD 1