Innovations: Full-body papier mache'

Literally meaning 'chewed paper' in French, papier m che' requires using far more than just hands for Shiraz Peled.

Shiraz Peled 88 298 (photo credit: )
Shiraz Peled 88 298
(photo credit: )
Literally meaning 'chewed paper' in French, papier m che' requires using far more than just hands for Shiraz Peled. She uses her entire body, including her teeth, to create her art. "I tread on the m che' with my feet and I sometimes use my teeth, and of course my hands are always working," says Peled. "I am also using my mind when I work. I sometimes have to talk with the material so I can figure out the character of what I'm making." Most days, Peled works from mid-morning until the middle of the night working on her art. Each hand-constructed object is the only one of its kind. "Sometimes people want the same thing, but each piece of mine is unique, and I've never managed to do the same thing twice," she explains. Peled grew up in a home where responsible work was equated with a retirement pension, and she never had the opportunity to study art, despite her deep affection for it from an early age. "As a child I was always making things, and I did my bagrut [matriculation] in art, but after the army I tried to be responsible to please my parents," says Peled. Being responsible without giving up her dreams entirely meant studying graphic design, but she did not enjoy it. "I found computers very limiting," says Peled. "I wasn't able to work with my hands, my body and my soul when I was working on a machine." Making art out of papier mache, which is actually little pieces of sawdust mixed with glue, does, however, involve much technique and physical contact to perfect the texture. "I use a special plastic glue, but the material is very dynamic and it can be rougher or smoother depending on how you mix it," says Peled. Because it requires many layers, each piece has to dry three times - after the mache' is placed over the inner wiring, after it is wrapped with paper, and after it is painted. "It can take up to three days for one piece to dry, depending on how thick it needs to be," says Peled, who makes everything from tiny papier mache' rings to sculptures that stand half a meter tall. For the last two years, Peled has been selling her work at the Nahalat Binyamin market in Tel Aviv, but she still sometimes finds it hard to part with her art. "For years people wanted to buy the things they saw in my home that I had made, and I never agreed to sell them." After a long trip to New Zealand, she changed her mind, but although she is passionate about her work, it only helps fills her refrigerator half-full some of the time. "The Israeli art market is difficult because people don't appreciate the amount of time and energy each piece requires," says Peled. "They see a piece and think it's made out of newspaper so they evaluate its worth based only on the material. They don't realize that I make every piece of it and that it takes many hours." Peled's prices range from 25 shekels for a small ring or key chain up to 350 shekels for a large sculpture. Depending on her inspiration, she makes everything from stuffed blowfish to wall hangings to lampshades to hamsas. Her only requirement is that the final product be colorful and expressive. "I like to put a sense of humor in my work. The traditional hamsas are so serious, so I try to make a statement with mine, and the colors I use are vibrant and glamorous," she says. Some of her art is sold at "one-of-a-kind" stores in Los Angeles, but she prefers to sell by herself in Israel. "I'm an individualist, and making art is my therapy," she says. "It keeps me healthy, both mentally and physically, so thinking in terms of how to make more money is difficult. I want to continue making one-of-a-kind things without considering the price." In the future, Peled hopes to make more conceptual art that says something about the times in which we live. "I have a lot to say," she says. For more information, contact: Shiraz Peled at 052-367-4677 or