At Least I Look Good On Paper

by Tommy Chevrolet

Like lacquer art, decoupage, Japanning, or any of the Asian paper folding arts, papier-mâché has a long and rich history, which starts with the Ancient Egyptians and goes right through to kindergarten classrooms worldwide. However, unlike those other—some would say lesser—paper arts, papier-mâché is the craft that has seen frontline battle action. Papier-mâché has been deployed, returned home. It has dealt with its PTSD and come out the other side. In short, papier-mâché is a goddamn hero.

A short history: Ancient Egyptian death masks, Persian trays and étagères, English Georgian era architectural detailing and coach door panels, 19th Century American paper canoes, and early 20th Century domes for observatories.

Right after that, during WWII, papier-mâché was used to make fuel tanks for short range aircraft that were super-light and disposable so the planes could fly longer. On another frontline, the British constructed facsimiles of soldiers out of papier-mâché to draw sniper fire, and on American soil, the US Government put out ads such as this:

ILLUSIONS ARE VALUABLE IN WAR

UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT SEEKS INVENTIVE MYSTIFIERS! MAGICIANS TO THE FRONT

Call for “Fakers” to Fool Germans—American Camouflage Corps Wants More Artists and Skilled Mechanics. A Chance for Adventure—Ingenious Men Make Dummy Cannon, Papier-Mache Horses, and 

Other Means of Deceiving Enemy.*

The American Camouflage Corps. was a huge success, and papier-mâché saved a ton of lives. Take that to your next craft fair cocktail hour. Or apply it to this season’s duds.

Photographer: Ian Morrison for opusreps.com

Stylist: Dani Michelle for no-namemanagement.com

Model: Andrew for nextmodels.com, Los Angeles

Groomer: Patrick Chai for eamgmt.com using Bumble & Bumble

Styling Assistant: Brooke Feder

* Society of American Magicians Monthly, 1918.