Javea Grapevine Issue No. 170 - 2014 - Page 105

The process of making Papier Mâché was invented in France, and first came to England during the 1670s, but little use was made of it until the middle of the 18th century. Paper was pulped, mixed with glue or gum mastic and chalk, and varnished when dry. By another process sheets of paper were caused to adhere to each other by a paste formed of flour and water and size. In either case formation was by pressing into wooden moulds, after which the completed object was finished by sizing. Papier Mâché was, at this time, principally employed for making imitations of stucco and plaster ornaments to be applied to ceilings and walls, a fashion which seems to have started in France. Chamber’s Cyclopedia (first published in 1753) refers to its use for ‘frames for pictures, fine embossed work, and other parts of furniture’. In 1772 Henry Clay of Birmingham, a japanner, patented a type of papier mâché subsequently japanned which became extremely popular, leading to his appointment as Japanner-in-Ordinary to the King and Prince of Wales. His wares were built up of successively laid sheets of paper pressed on to a wooden mould until the desired thickness had been obtained, after which the object was stoved, carefully smoothed and coated with japan and varnished. The colours employed were black, crimson, and green – the most sought lacquer colours from the Orient. He largely produced panels for screens, furniture, and so forth. Tea-trays sometimes being painted to special order. Decoration with bronze powders of several colours dates from about 1802, green bronze being employed for foliage and graphite as shadowing. After 1843 stencils were sometimes employed for parts of bronze pictorial decoration, such as landscapes. Mother-of-pearl was introduced into the industry by Jennens & Betteridge of Birmingham about 1825, being at its best before 1840. Papier-mâché furniture was made in England and France, but English production was on a very large scale, the industry being located at Birmingham and Wolverhampton. In the former city the principal makers were Jennens & Betteridge. The best furniture was made in the 1840s, and there is a noticeable deteriation in taste in the specimens exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Grapevine Issue 170 2014| 105 | PAPIER MÂCHÉ Almost everything was made in this material, from small boxes and teapoys to firescreens, chairs, settees, footstools, tables, beds and even cabinets and secretaires. Much was exported to America, and Jennens & Betteridge even maintained a New York office for a time. Decoration was elaborate and often of good quality. Edward Haselar and George Neville were well known for their flower-painting, and David Sargent for ferns. The Oriental style was developed in the 1830s in Birmingham by Edwin Booth, and this work is usually of high quality. Fine painting on trays of this date, often took its subjects from such popular artists of the day as Landseer. In America the Litchfield Manufacturing Company started, in 1850, to make papier-mâché screens, boxes, small tables, and especially clock-cases,the latter being their speciality. They employed artists from England, and used a process similar to that of Henry Clay, but their products were not so well finished. In modern times the same methods are used to create contemporary pieces and papier-mâché is an excellent substitute for producing sculptures without clay. Lorely.A.Griffiths