Milner’s mannequins made of paper mache were once used in hat making shops. Hand painted faces added a chic character to the display, but when you make your own, anything goes.
Original design ladies hats were once displayed on paper mache head forms. The head forms later became collector items used in French country decorating. Making a replica mannequin is easy.
When you make a Milner’s Mannequin, you may want to work outdoors so the clean up can be done using a garden hose. You can either purchase the paste from an art and crafts supply store, or you can make your own. *
Materials needed to make a Milner’s mannequin:
Lots of old newspapers torn into strips
A full color selection of acrylic paints
Balloons (round shaped)
Four inch plastic planter
Fine sandpaper (optional)
* To make the paste, use about three parts white flour to one cup water and mix well.
Blow up the balloon and tie it off. Pull the knotted end of the balloon through the center hole of the bottom of the four-inch plastic planter. Use masking tape to secure the end of the balloon on the inside of the planter. The plastic planter will be setting upside down, and the balloon will be mounted on top.
At this point, you can imagine the head and neck of your Milner’s mannequin. The planter represents the mannequin’s neck, and is a place for some unique decorations like baubles, collars, or lace.
Start creating your form by dipping the newspaper strips into the wheat paste solution. When lifting the strips, let some of the paste drip off. If you have a thick mixture, run the strip between two fingers and squeeze off some of the paste. (If the project is too wet, it will take too long to dry.)
Lay the pasted strips at diagonal angles on to the balloon and plastic planter. Start at the bottom working your way up to cover the balloon. Be sure to lay plenty of strips connecting the balloon and the planter to insure stability. Also, make sure that the planter has at least a half-inch layer, which will give the base weight and stability. Use less when going over the balloon with the application. Cover the entire piece completely, and check for thin spots before considering this to be a finished project.
Keep on going with the layering process, until the balloon, and the planter are entirely covered. Let dry for about a week, preferably in a sunny, breezy place. For a smoother surface, you may want to do a little sanding off of rough edges once they piece is dried.
Hose off your worktable before any messy spills begin to dry.
After the week has gone by, start painting a character face on the Milner’s mannequin. For modern day purposes, the face can be either a man or a woman – a girl or a boy. The hair will be painted on, so decide if the persona will have bangs, or sideburns, or a mustache. Will the skin be pale, ruddy, or dark? What color will the eyes be?
The Milner’s mannequin will be ready to use after leaving it overnight to dry. These can be fun characters to have around the house, or they can be a useful place to store a ball cap or a garden hat, or a wig. Once you know how to make a paper mache Milner’s Mannequin, you might want to start an entire character community.