Translated literally, the French term paper maché means “chewed paper”. Despite the French moniker, paper maché wasn’t even made in France until the 17th century. In fact paper maché originated in China, the birthplace of paper itself.
When most people think of paper maché they recall early art classes in grades K-8; taking long strips of newspaper, dipping it into a cold, pasty mix of water and flour and spreading it over a balloon or some other object to give it shape. Once it was dry it transformed from a balloon covered in newspaper to a face, animal or some sort of fabulous inanimate object. The possibilities were endless as to what the papery creations could become with a little paint and decoration. I’ve never really outgrown my love for the gooey goodness of paper maché paste and enjoy the art with my children to this day.
Old East Village resident, Phylis U’Ren; a self-taught sculptor in refined paper maché and mixed media; says has never outgrown playing with the medium herself. Using a thinned white glue and tissue paper over plasticine molds to create her magnificent creations, Phylis has been sculpting for more than 40 years. Previously a computer graphics and planning technician as well as an instructor at Fanshawe College, art was an outlet and therapy for Phylis as she raised a son as a sole parent.
“Through the refinement of the paper maché process” Phylis writes, “I have developed two different creative products: mobiles and shakers. The mobiles are constructed of three dimensional elements which are hollow and very lightweight, responding to the slightest air current. The addition of loose weights adds heft and musicality to my work in the form of percussion instruments. The loose weights also create multiple balance positions for larger sculptures.”
Her love for children can be seen in the playful and whimsical nature of the art pieces she creates. They are also very child friendly and can be dropped without fear of breaking. Babies and parents alike love her mobiles which are sturdy and not too juvenile making them more of a keepsake that can stay with the child forever.
If you would like to learn more about Phylis and her beautiful works of art, click on the following links to check out her Facebook page and Etsy shop. Make sure you check out the album called “Keira’s K” on her Facebook page to see a pictorial about the creative process that goes into her paper maché designs.
And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, why not set up a time to visit her and browse the gorgeous selection of unique creations including hearts, love notes and heart shaped ladies torsos that are ready to be given to that special person in your life. Nothing comes from the heart more than a gift of art.
Support local, buy local!
Thanks to Phylis for being our first featured artist on the OEV Hub blog. You can also find Phylis this coming June 14th at the “For the Love of Art” street festival in downtown London.