The technique of papier mâché (mashed or chewed paper layered with glue and varnish) originated in China during the Han dynasty (202 BC–220 AD) and was introduced into Japan as a strong but light material that could be used for helmets and mask making.

Papier mâché objects were brought to Europe from Japan and China by Portuguese and Dutch traders in the 16th century. After some experimentation, techniques for making it were developed in France and England in the 17th century.

By the late 18th century the Chinoiserie boom had revived interest in papier mâché objects and “japanning” (lacquering the surface). In the mid-late 19th century, the fashion for Japonaiserie gave a further boost to British papier mâché manufacturers who made trays, letter holders and boxes, and then moved onto furniture such as chairs, beds and wardrobes, all decorated in a Japanese style.

Crumb tray and brush

Lacquer red scallop shaped crumb tray and brush, made from papier mâché, with a printed on design of samurai fighting.