After covering each of my wire fish sides with a layer of dry paper toweling, I then covered each of them with a layer of wet paper maché. Even though I live in a fairly humid climate, our damp, humid late-spring days have been intermingling nicely with dry breezy days, and those are perfect for drying paper maché. When I run into a soggy day, I place my newly covered pieces in the basement on a wire rack right next to the dehumidifier. It's been working perfectly.
As you can see in the pieces above, the large grid wire showed through the first layer of paper somewhat - I remedied this by folding up appropriately sized small squares of paper toweling and placing them neatly into the low spots before I added on my second coat. Next time I'll use my good old friend the chicken wire to cover the rough shape.
Just a note about this, though. I decided to make two molds of the tail so I can attach them together to give the tail some depth so it's not completely flat. The first layer came off easily, even though I didn't coat the plastic with anything prior to starting, however, the second layer not only stuck, but it didn't seem to dry as nicely. In light of that, don't cheap out - use a fresh container every time.
In anticipation of attaching the two sides together, when I put on the second layer, I added a edging of thin, craft wire in a spiral to one of the sides. I am hoping this will give some strength to the seam. Now that the second layer is dry it seems to be pretty secure, but initially I wasn't sure it would work.
After it was completely dry, detaching the paper maché from the armature was easy. I just pulled off the tape that was holding the piece of dry toweling over the edges, and then pulled gently...
The next step will be putting these two sides of the fish together, along with the two sides of the tail... I'm not sure if I'm doing that in two separate steps or one, great big step where I enlist the help of one of the kids (as I did in this picture) to hold it together while I apply the paper maché strips.
Oh, and my girl wants the two of us to make her teacher a paper maché mermaid as an end of the year gift.
We dream big!