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How To Make Miyumi - Part 2

How To Papier Mache The Miyumi Body Form


What You’ll Need

  • 3mm (1/8") thick corrugated plastic sheet about 2ft x 2ft square (60cm x 60cm)

  • PVA glue

  • Water

  • Lots and lots of scrap paper or news paper

  • Plastic sheet

  • Gloves for people with sensitive skin

  • Several hours


This is the easy and fun part to making Miyumi a solid object. We do this by simply cutting her in half at the waistline and applying a rim to each section to hold her in shape ... and then apply the glued paper to the inside. That's the theory ... below you'll find out how to actually do it. Of course I'm not here to patronize anyone that already knows how to do papier mache ... most of us did it as kids at kindergarten ... so this is here for those who maybe missed out on that.


Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Skill level: Average

Step One

Before we can begin to papier mache the inside of Miyumi we need to cut her in half so we can get inside easily. We also don't want her to flop around after we cut her in half so we need something to hold her the correct size and shape while we apply the papier mache. So what we do is create a rim of stiff card or paper the exact shape of her waist. Above you will find a PDF waist template for Miyumi ... print it out onto stiff card so you can trace around it onto your rim material. I choose to use corrugated plastic sheet (see Image 1) because it's light weight, stiff, easy to cut, easy to find, has no issues with water and it's really cheap ... and you can dispose of it in the recycling when you're finished.

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My piece of corrugated plastic was a bit bigger (see Image 2) than I needed but no problem. I drew a line halfway along the plastic and stuck the template with tacking tape up to the line where it's marked "fold" (see Image 3) ... this just holds it in place while you draw around it with a permanent marker. Flip it over and repeat on the other side (see Image 4). You'll need two templates, one for the top and one for the bottom (see Image 5).

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I suggest cutting the plastic on the outside first with a cutting blade as that side isn't critical if you mess up .... this gives you time to practice cutting the plastic (see Image 6). Next cut the inside (see Image 7). So now you have a oval template that you can't get in or out of as yet ... so we cut at one side seam only (see Image 8) ... the plastic is great because you can twist it quite a way before it kinks, enough to slide it on to Miyumis waist line to check it's right (see Image 9). If you need to trim the template a little, then that's OK ... just do both templates exactly the same. If the template fits perfectly level and it doesn't exactly correspond to the line on Miyumi, then remark that line and use the new line for cutting. Mine fit perfectly and in the correct position. Lastly remove the templates and cut the preferred waist line (see Image 10).

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Now you have two halves of Miyumi and two templates ready to go (see Image 11). Carefully place one template around the waist edge of the bottom half ... go slowly and down force anything. It will only go on one way around. Start by lining up the center back angle and tack it into place, gradually working you way around with tacking tape (see Image 12). Once you know its all working OK you can tape up the side split in the template. Now go all the way around with tape to make sure its joined everywhere (see Image 13). Once it's done you'll find it's really strong and stiff. Do the same to position the template on the top half (see Image 14) and then finish all the way around ... you should now have two finished halves (see Images 15 and 16).

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The main problem with using card to make a model for paper mache it that it can collapse if it gets waterlogged. So what I do is use really thick 210gsm card and treat it with a couple of layers of straight PVA glue before I start papering. Using a 1" wide square ended soft paint brush apply PVA glue very gently to the inside of Miyumi, sparingly and without lingering or going over the same spot several times ... you're trying for an even thin coat. You don't want to leave too much glue in one place or it will soak into the paper card and possibly deform ... it's better to go very lightly and if you miss some areas then leave them alone and get them the next time around. If you get a little deformation it's OK as you can push it out with the paper later ... you just don't want to lose the shape! Images 17 and 18 show the first layer of PVA inside my Miyumi. I recommend doing this 2 to 3 times at least, allowing time to completely dry between coats. Doing this slows down the rate at which water can go from your papier mache paste and into your form.

Allow it to dry thoroughly.

Step Two

The most serious question is going to be how do you make the paste used in papier mache? There are so many recipes and suggestions out there that I think I'd better explain the pros and cons.


The most popular paste is without question the flour and water mix. It's always going to work for children's crafts no matter how bad your mixing is ... And it's cheap and easy to source. It does have several draw backs. It takes forever to dry, can crumble and delaminate, can smell bad after, but it's worst drawback is it can go mouldy and attract insects ... It's not going to work for Miyumi. Some people say that adding salt can help prevent mold in dry climates, but mold will eventually come.

The next most popular choice is watered down PVA ... Or white woodworkers glue (not the same as latex glue). It dries a bit faster and won't get moldy. The main drawback of PVA is it doesn't penetrate the paper very well and doesn't create hardness in itself (just by paper thickness). It also clogs up sandpaper too quickly. It is however the only thing I can source up here in the far north mountains of Thailand so that's what I'm using.

Another choice is wallpaper paste. Depending on the manufacturer this is usually PVA based with additives that create a stronger bond, less drying time and less paper penetration (can't damage your new wallpaper print now can you?). It's awesome at holding a single layer of paper but it can dry so fast that it locks moisture inside when you do multiple layers.

The lesser known paste is based on gypsum or plaster of paris. Usually used by plasterers, thus stuff penetrates, bonds and goes rock hard very quickly ... Often too quickly which is its main draw back. Its greatest benefit is it can be sanded really easily without clogging up your sandpaper. I find it very difficult to slow down its hardening rate enough to soak into normal paper and then rub off the excess and apply a few pieces before its no longer usable ... really cold water (with ice) and a little vinegar can help get you a few extra minutes. Plaster of paris will eventually get mould on the outside too.

Lastly there is a thing called plasterers jointing compound ... it's a type of synthetic plaster of Paris that takes longer to harden and doesn't shrink. It penetrates well into kitchen paper towels (but not newsprint), will never go mouldy and sands very easily. It comes as a very thick paste that you need to water down before you can really use it in papers. Its greatest advantage beyond sanding is that it has its own strong internal crystalline structure that can go rock hard with just a few layers ... Only too much so that it can crack under pressure instead of flexing .... adding a little PVA to the mix can help.

You'll need to choose whichever paste suits you!


Step Three

Now comes the fun part. Once you have the paper card sealed with PVA you can start to apply papier mache. I always use kitchen paper towels for my first layer as they require a minimum of glue and are nice and soft the first time around when you're worried about the form distorting. It's up to you, but if you only used thin card then I highly recommend kitchen paper towels as your first layer. About the only draw back with them is that once they're wet they're almost invisible so it's hard to see where you've put them no matter what angle you view them (see Images 20 and 21).


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Once the paper towel layer is dry you'll see that its still flexible but much stiffer. Check that you didn't miss too much and if you did you can always add some more. For the next layers we used the 50-50% PVA Water mix and newsprint, simply because we had the news papers lying around. Tear up your newsprint into medium sized strips about 2.5cm wide and maybe 10cm long ... you don't need to be accurate, but if they're too big they won't go around corners as well as if they were smaller. We're applying the papier mache to the inside of the form first. Staring at the furthest point from the opening so you don't cover yourself in glue (see image 23)! Gradually work your way up, overlapping the paper about 25% each time until you get to the top (see images 24 and 25). You want to stop right at the rim ... don't go over the top of it or you won't be able to put the two halves together after. Leave the two halves to dry in the sun for a day or so.

I found it necessary to repeat the process of adding newsprint and allowing it to dry 3 times before it was hard enough such that it didn't distort when I apply force to it. That should be enough depending on how much overlap you used. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from adding more if you so choose ... it's just time.



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Now you don't really need to put papier mache on the outside too, but I am. I want to make sure everything stays stuck down and I also want to smooth out all the little taped ridges where the pattern pieces join together, so I can sand paper it even smoother afterwards. The images below just show me doing that. Something you might get are a few dimples here and there where the paper got a little damp and distorted. Applying paper to the outside gives you the chance to fill those back in and make everything smooth again .... you can get a piece of news print sticky then fold it up several times to make a thicker piece to fill in holes quickly. 


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Once you've covered the inside and outside of both halves you can put them together. Images 31 and 32 show my Miyumi completely covered with 4 internal layers and 2 external layers. She's really quite hard at this point.

Sit the top over the bottom and line up the template exactly .... tape it together in a few places so it doesn't move. Using scissors or a cutting blade remove 4 sections equally from around the template .... it doesn't matter where, but I've chosen front, back and sides. You can see in images 33 and 34 the edges of my paper mache are quite well lined up. If you removed the whole template all at one you'd have a hard time lining it up and holding it in place .... this is the very easy way to join the two halves!


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Now simply apply papier mache across the four spaces to join the two halves together ... I applied quite a few layers and then left them to dry. Next remove the remaining 4 pieces of template (see image 37) and papier mache across the remaining gaps (see images 38 and 39). Leave the form to completely dry.


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Step Four

Now you have a pretty hard body form that looks pretty good and is proportional ... and maybe has a few lumps and bumps and dimples here and there. This is your chance to do some final shaping and smoothing. If you want to thicken the waist a little, pad up the bust a little or change the butt contour you can do so by thickening up those particular areas. I like to use the paper kitchen towels to pad up areas because they mush up really easy when soaked with glue .... you can literally squish them into a putty like  lump or flatten out an area by pushing sections into the dimples (image 40). Them simply paper over the top again (image 41).


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Once that's done and dry you can sand her smooth all over .... don't worry if the paper gets a little fluffy in the process because you can paint her with a bit of PVA when you're done to smooth it all down again. I'm fairly sure that you'll find a few more bumps and dimples when you sand so repeat the above step if need be until she's perfectly smooth all over.

That's it ... you have a rock hard dress form! You can even paint her if you want!


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