For Easter I made papier-mache polka dotted eggs. I created them using small water balloons and tissue paper then I filled them with candy and toys and sealed them shut. The egg can hold a surprising amount of candy and the tissue paper seems delicate making for a delightfully heavy and yet fragile object, much like real egg. Also like a real egg you have to break the shell to get at what’s inside. I like things you have to destroy to open.
- water balloons (they make the egg-iest shape)
- white tissue paper (one sheet will make about three eggs)
- colorful tissue paper (one sheet will make many eggs, so you don’t need much)
- a 3/4 inch hole punch
- a paint brush you don’t care much about
- liquid laundry starch
- a sturdy shot glass to hold your egg while you’re working with it
- a way to hang the balloons to dry
- enough time to let these dry overnight, and a few hours to let them dry after filling and sealing them (you’ve been warned)
A cutting mat, wheel cutter and straight edge will come in very handy but aren’t completely necessary.
Note: I tried a few variations on the starch. I used watered down wheat paste (the fancy stuff bought at an art supply store), watered down Nori paste and watered down Mod Podge. In the end I found that liquid landry starch right from the bottle was the least sticky and the easiest to work with considering the delicate tissue paper, so I stuck with that.
First cut white tissue paper into the following sizes for each egg you’ll be making: one at 10″ x 5.5″, one at 10″ x 4.5″, two at 3.5″. These four sheets will be the base of the egg.
To create the polka dots I made squares of paper with holes in them which we’ll apply over the white base like scales. I cut a 1.5 inch strip of colored tissue, fold it in half, fold it in half again, then fold it in thirds. This made a square which could be punched all the way through with the paper punch. Then I cut each square off the strip. Two strips of tissue will be enough for one egg, three strips will cover two eggs.
Also cut a 1″ strip of your colored tissue paper and cut it into various sizes of triangles, these will fill in any bare spots of color later, I have more detail on this below.
Note: It will be helpful to have all your tissue paper cut and ready in advance. It’s frustrating to need to wash and dry your hands each time you need to cut more tissue.
Inflate your water balloons just a bit until they have an egg-like shape.
First we’ll apply the white tissue. Brush wet starch onto your balloon. Take the 5.5″ tall sheet and wrap it around the widest part of the balloon, lining up the top so that it will reach the knot in the balloon. Dip your brush in the starch and brush the tissue from the middle up to the top, letting the tissue crinkle and gather. Any spots that seem to stick up can be smoothed down with the brush and more starch. Now do the same brushing from the middle of the balloon down to the bottom. The bottom of this first layer will overlap itself, creating some strength there.
Apply the 4.5″ tall sheet next and do the same, the 3.5″ tall sheets go last. I went with shorter and shorter sizes so that we didn’t end up with too much overlap at the top and bottom ends.
Note: I tried a few different ways of creating the white base layer. First I tried using lots of strips of overlapping white tissue and working my way around the balloon but I found the tissue was too delicate for this application. I also tried cutting white tissue into a bunch of squares and applying it one layer at a time but found it was difficult to tell which part of the balloon I had already covered and it left a few areas of tissue that was too thin. Ultimately applying the white tissue paper in whole sheets wrapped around the balloon easier and more straightforward.
You can apply the color squares while the balloon is still wet, or you can let it hang to dry while you put the white layer on more eggs. You don’t need to allow them to dry the whole way before applying the color, but it won’t hurt anything if you do. Letting them dry until tacky, about 20 minutes, can make it easier to work with. I hung mine from the pot rack over my sink using clothespins and some string.
To apply the color start at the top with the knot and overlap the squares covering as much white as you can as you go along. Since the surface of the balloon is still we you can place a dry polka dot square where you’d like it, then smooth it down using the wet brush. You can also use the tip of your wet brush to pick up and place the tissue paper so you don’t have to constantly pick up and put down the brush.
If you have some spots that the squares don’t reach simply cover it with one or two of the smaller triangles you cut.
The bottom of the balloon can be a bit tricky, get one last polka dot on there if you can.
Note: Don’t toss your cut bits of colored tissue paper just yet. We’ll be using it to seal the eggs after they are dry and have been filled.
I found that darker tissue paper make for a more consistent color on the final eggs. Lighter pastels showed the areas of overlap more. Not a big deal, but good to keep in mind when choosing which colors to use.
Hang up your balloons overnight, wait until they are completely dry before moving on.
To remove the balloon hold the knot and use a pin to make a small hole. Now wait until the balloon slowly deflates, it makes a most impressive noise while this is happening. (I didn’t have any trouble with the laundry starch sticking to the balloons, and even made an 11″ tissue paper balloon without trouble.) If you forget to hold onto the knot of the balloon and it falls inside it’s not big deal, you can pull it out later before you fill it with candy.
Gather your candy (this is my favorite part). I found that candy over 1″ wide was a little too difficult to get inside, those yellow/orange/pink malt balls didn’t make it.
To fill cut two places down from the hole in the top, making sure to avoid cutting over a polka dot as we’ll be covering the opening with more colored tissue to seal it later. The papier-mache is flexible and this slit will give us enough room to get those small foil wrapped chocolate eggs inside.
When you’re filled the egg make a loop of string, I attached “Pull Me” or “For Scott” messages to mine, and stuff half of it in the egg. Now get your starch and colored tissue paper back out. Using a bit more tissue put two or three more layers over the opening and let it dry.
Why the loop? Simply because it can be difficult open the finished egg without cutting a hole in it, it turns into an awkward crushing/ripping thing. Pulling on the loop rips enough of the egg to get it started.
For our niece and nephews Scott drew this awesome picture on a puzzle card which we broke up and distributed between the eggs. This was our sneaky way of getting them to work together and share.
Last note: These are based on a Halloween project I first saw in Martha Stewart Living magazine in October of 2001, thePapier-Mache Treat Balls can also be found on the Martha Stewart website. I previously made these as Tiny Pinata gift containers.