Papier Mache Dioramas

In studying Mexican Papier Mache Sculpture and the works of Frida Kahlo I have been awestruck by the little scenes depicted in dioramas. These quaint boxes also take me back to visits to the Science and the Natural History Museum as a child where I gazed at scenes from long ago and pushed buttons to light up features.

I have incorporated the diorama in my work to produce a new and interesting variation. This adds a new dimension to my existing portfolio and adds a fun and wacky element to the traditional border. I have recently finished  a religious version depicting a Madonna with child. (See below).

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papier mache dioramaThese diorama boxes could depict a scene from your life accompanied with relevant provided memorabilia  (tickets, postcards, photos, buttons etc.) surrounding the outer edge. The diorama below was commissioned to celebrate a 50th birthday.

papier mache diorama

On the left is diorama is a religious version shown with a Madonna and child.


Prices for diorama commissions  start at £55.00 up to £150.00 plus delivery  depending on the complexity of the commission.

A recent anniversary mixed media mosaic commission involved a free hanging mosaic heart utilising pieces of beautiful pottery, many pieces with real 1930's designs. This was hung in the front of a metal edged  3 dimensional box frame lined with poetry quotes and dates, names and details embellished with jewels and glitter.

The message on the back was edged with red and the piece was hung with red cord. This was my first attempt at mosaic and shows I am always willing to try out new designs to answer your brief.

Or maybe, you would just like a pottery mosaic heart. Just email me at to discuss your very own commission. I am happy to come up with an original concept before you commit to a final commission.

Prices for this sort of design are approx £65.00 and the size is about 8" square although frames vary as to what I have in stock.

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What are Dioramas?

A diorama is a perspective representation that creates a perfect impression of space. A diorama is not just a model. The scale used for figures and bodies is variable, and has to be adjusted to the perspective. The background image is often painted and blends in with the model constructions seamlessly.  Traditional dioramas require outstanding skills on the part of the model-maker and painter.  

In Mexico, colourful didactic dioramas made of stone and plaster have adorned churches since Aztec times. These 3D graphic illustrations were produced to augment simple sermons that overworked friars gave their converts in barely mastered native tongues. These parabolas were situated as shrines on the side of churches and mesmerised the peoples of the Aztec Empire with new messages from the victorious gods of Catholic Spain.

In Mexico dioramas depict cultural events such as The Day of the Dead. Each Autumn the shops are filled with artists’ colourful dioramas depicting miniature skeleton scenes ranging from weddings to funerals, to feasts & fiestas.  These are mostly fun and festive scenes made of papier mache or created with clay and hand painted. Often, these are enclosed in a wooden painted box with a glass cover. All year round dioramas and shrines are created portraying  depictions of cult figures such as Frida Kahlo or religious icons such as The Virgin of Guadeloupe. Decorated with glitter, tinsel and ephemera these dioramas have become sought after gifts and treasures for many collectors. Wooden dioramas often have highly decorated opening doors.

Around the world, museums have used dioramas over the centuries to teach us about historical scenes, habitats and vistas of moments captured in time. The American Museum of Natural History displays many habitat group dioramas., These show precise depictions of geographical locations and careful, anatomically correct mounting of specimens.  These amazing dioramas are realistic depictions of a past world of animals, their behaviour, and their habitats. To view these dioramas is to travel across continents, and through time.

Dioramas in Europe were made famous by the Frenchman Jacques Louis Mande Daguerre who was a professional scene painter. During the years of 1822 to 1839 he helped to run The Diorama in Paris.  This was an auditorium displaying very large paintings up to 22 metres in size. These paintings depicted famous places and historical events. He and his partner Charles-Marie Bouton painted realistic scenes on translucent paper or muslin and used clever lighting effects to present vividly realistic tableaux. These depictions of  views provided an illusionist style of entertainment and utilised trompe l'oeil effects and appropriate music as well as real objects, animals, or people in front of the painted scenery.

A diorama strives to form in miniature a representation of people, places and things that have shaped our lives.  Captured in 3D and frozen in time, dioramas have the awesome effect of “being there”. From ancient times to the distant future if it can be imagined, it can be recreated. Dioramas have been used to recreate such diverse themes as scenes through history,   battle  scenes, "Star Wars" and popular children's stories.

Please also visit top Life in a box

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