Dancing Cardboard Skeleton by Amber
materials: cardboard, tempera, watercolors, paper cord, nuts and bolts, white glue
Ren, Stimpy and Log costumes by Matt Lentini and Matador and Bull costumes by Matt and Nicole Lentini
“Wild Things and Max” bicycle-friendly costumes sent by Sarah
Frank-Ein-Stein and Fox Head by Betsy A. Riley
Mosquito costume by Rebecca at Lepetitearbre
Robot costume by Manon Doran see more pictures at her blog Une Dahlia en Westfalia
Do you have photos to send? I’ll keep updating this post. I would love to see your photos and the one-of-a-kind costume you made this year!
These costumes are pure cardboard magic. Thanks to everyone that sent photos and Happy Halloween 2015!
MerMag’s Playful Cardboard Costume Contest: post it on Instagram using the hashtag #playfulcardboardcostumes and you’ll be entered to win prizes worth $500 including 2 signed copies of her book PLAYFUL!
Inhabitat’s Green Halloween Costume Contest: prizes include an electric bike, and inhabitat T-shirts.
My friend LiEr from Ikatbag invited me to participate in an international blog hop this week. I really admire LiEr. She is a kindred cardboard spirit; someone who works physics into cardboard, and always affirms my frustrations about the need for more gender neutral toys. And while sometimes I have hidden and gotten quiet on my blog, LiEr has always been a do-er.
The blog hop is a chain of interview blog posts. The end result is everyone getting to know many, many more creative people as they jump from link to link. I was invited by LiEr/ ikat bag, but after I interview myself at the end of this post, I’ll also invite you to visit a couple of my favorite blogs, if you haven’t already.
What am I working on right now?
Some clothes boxes for my daughters and also a project for a little publication I’m putting together.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
One notable thing is my environment. Japan is a beautiful place and it’s had a profound influence on me. I grew up on a farm with lots of space and things and materials around. Japan has made me appreciate a more paired down kind of beauty and way of living.
Another, I think, is the way I see cardboard. I think cardboard is kind of like exoskeleton. You can see it looking very tough like the horn of a stag beetle, or very weak and flexible, like a pill bug’s molted skin. I think it’s somewhere on a continuum between leather and wood depending on how you treat it, but it also has it’s own unique properties, like being extremely lightweight, having directional strength and a hollow core. I like the raw edges when you tear it. I like how it looks when it’s slightly crumpled, I love the many many shades of brown.
I’m also attracted to cardboard as a way of subverting consumerism.
To me it’s a symbol of resilience; to take something that others have discarded, and make something beautiful. for free. YEs! I love that.
Why do I create?
When I get lulled into a routine that doesn’t include making, I don’t feel like myself. Making is something that feels to be a part of my DNA. It just makes me happy.
How does my creating process work?
I always carry a sketch book and pencil and draw my ideas there. I also keep a photo file of things I see when I’m walking around Tokyo. Lastly, I have a “top secret” Pinterest pin board that has replaced the torn page magazine scrap book I used to keep.
For designs I want to build, I usually work up a miniature prototype and then make and remake. Some of the things I have made have been fun projects and we haven’t used them for very long, and a few precious others we still use.
When I started making things out of cardboard, it was really hard to recycle anything that I had made. Now I sing “Let it go” every time recycle day comes around. I have to. There’s always something I need to part with if I want to have enough space for new projects.
Your Art here.
Lastly I get to introduce you to my absolute favorite blog!
I didn’t invite Sergio to the blog hop because he doesn’t use any text on his site, but if you’ve never seen Kedublock, plEAse check it out. I think it’s genius. The clever use of simple materials and beautiful photography…… the joy of little handmade toys, you’re going to love it.
A few other blogs I really love:
My husband’s favorite: Old Parked Cars
Cardboard Monarch Caterpillar Costume by Amber
Made from recycled materials and recyclable
cardboard, Japanese paper rice bags, white glue, staples, thread, steel-toothed zipper, caster wheels, acrylic paint
Milkweed Costume by Amber
Made from recycled materials and recyclable
Melon cartons, egg cartons, paper twine, cardboard, Japanese paper rice bags, newspaper, tempera, chalk, white glue, staples
L. Towill’s “Snowy Owl”
M. Doran’s cardboard peg horse http://unedaliaenwestfalia.
J. deGroot’s cardboard stag
Wow! These are some of the incredible costumes that blog readers sent. Cardboard used in a variety of ways, and utilizing the natural tones and textures of the material. Outstanding!
Mac Huynh, Writer: Unicorn, Photo by Patricia Chang for Racked
Malorie Lucich McGee, Tech Communications: Cereal Killer, Photo by Patricia Chang for Racked
Ben Chiaramonte, Brand Designer: Wolf of Wall Street, Photo by Patricia Chang for Racked
Our Cardboard Costumes Pinterest board was recently featured on The Pinterest Handmade Halloween Hub. Some Pinterest staffers even made their own costumes inspired by some on the board, including our own Cardboard and Newsprint Unicorn Costume, (top) which looks even better in purple, I think.
I had a great time with all the kids and parents that came to the mask-making workshop. Their creativity transformed a pile of cardboard and paper recyclables into a fun menagerie of hats, masks, wigs and mythical creatures. I also loved sharing my family’s long time tradition of making pinatas (this time in cardboard) with so many families who had no idea what pinatas were.
Thanks to everyone who helped with clean-up, spreading the word through email, my very kind friends who translated for me, and to everyone who came out on such a beautiful day to enjoy the fun of making and celebrating together.
In cooperation with Play Park Kujira Yama ( a weekly pop-up adventure playground in Tokyo) I’ll be leading a Halloween mask-making workshop culminating with a cardboard pinata we’ll decorate the day of the event. Oide!
Who: preschool and elementary aged children and their parents
What: recyclable Halloween hat and mask making
Where: Koganei Musashino Park next to Kujira Yama
When: Friday, October 24th, 2014 from 2pm – 4:30pm
Please bring some light weight cardboard, a stapler and scissors (with your name on them) and okashi/snacks to fill our pinata!
Newspaper wig HERE
As we kick off another march towards Halloween, it’s time to think in cardboard. What shapes do you see? What faces are peering out at you?
How can you use cardboard in a way it’s never been used before?
The Cardboard Costume Challenge begins….
Another cardboard adventure out in the park!
This time I learned something important.
I love DEconstruction,
The kids that came out to play built a fun labyrinth of houses/caves and then slowly took the whole thing apart. It was really great just watching them. I saw a two year old saw cardboard for about an hour straight. In the same groove. I loved it.
Later in the week I took just the Windballs to another park to play, and a few teenage boys kicked them around a bit. It was good, I was glad to see them enjoying them, but then they just stomped on them, shattering the MakeDos to bits before running off. I didn’t love it. My teacher voice came out.
Did you see the adorable pink cardboard kitchen that I found at the grocery store where I sourced all the cardboard?
…some experiments in repairing books in a way that adds something.
Wouldn’t it be nice to add a little poem to a torn page, or a note saying something like…
I used Japanese rice paste, (called Nori) and some pretty paper scraps. It was a hard choice sometimes between colors that follow the mood of a book and others that contrast it.
I also tried to fix a glass apothecary jar I use for things like buttons. It broke in a way that created a large hole, but no cracks, so washi tape was enough….
And lastly, my basket for thread. The edges of the basket were cracked and the whole thing was falling apart. The colors of the paper always brighten my mood, and I can still see my thread peeking through patches of the basketry.
Steam-y, sweet taiyaki, is a well-loved treat here in Japan. It’s a food that gives everybody a warm, happy thought just dreaming about it. If you’ve never tried it, or even heard of it, I would describe it as something like a stuffed waffle. Typical fillings are cream, custard or sweet bean, but I’ve also seen an ice cream version.
You can use this bank to collect the coins you need to buy taiyaki with 10 and five yen coins, but even if you never do try taiyaki, I hope you use the idea to make a new kind of bank of your own. Think of the possibilities!
This is also the last project for my collaboration with Eco + waza for their Tomorrow Box subscription. It has been an exciting challenge to come up with projects that can be made from product packaging, and I hope to do more of this type of work in the future!
To make taiyaki you will need the template, scissors, utility knife, glue, clips and cardboard.
1. Use the template to trace and cut two fish and one set of fins from the cardboard.
2. Use a utility knife to cut the slits and hole for the eye on one of the fish.
3. Glue the two halves of the fish together, using clips to secure until dry.
4. Attach fin and insert coins.
Our favorite place to get taiyaki in Tokyo is at Takane’s in Mitaka (after we dig seashells, by the seashore, Whew!) They’ve been making taiyaki and traditional Japanese sweets since the 50’s, and they are really really delicious!
I’ve been playing around with making templates and shapes from things you find in the kitchen, so here’s a funny little animal that was born out of that process, and was inspired by some similar wood and ceramic pieces I’ve seen on the internet as of late.
You’ll need a cardboard tube, corrugated cardboard, scissors, white glue, a drinking glass and a spoon.
1. Flatten the toilet paper tube and cut along both creases to cut the tube in half.
2. Layer the two halves of the tube together to make the cradle for the organizer.
3. Use the mouth of the drinking glass as a form to trace the curves for the front and back of the bear’s hips and shoulders. Cut.
4. Trim the tube to the desired length and assemble the organizer by gluing the tube to the hip and shoulder pieces. Secure with a rubber band while drying.
6. To make the nose, trace the curve of a teaspoon, cut in half and glue to the cardboard face.
Spoon, glass, plate, spatula…… hmmm. What else can we make?
During my New Year’s cleaning I unearthed a stack of album covers that I’ve used on many projects over the course of the last two years. As I contemplated finally recycling what was left, the photograph on the cover of this Linda Ronstadt album piqued my interest. I sat and stared at it.
…….prettiness, that’s what I’m seeking right here and now in the middle of winter, that feeling.
So I brushed and cut my hair, pulled on my brightest striped sweater, and got busy making something pretty.
because of you Linda.
Start with a double pocket style album cover. Cut the album cover to the dimensions of 19″ (48cm) x 12.5″ (32cm). The height of the pocket is 4.5″ (12 cm)
This is where you can add some pretty paper if the inside of your cover is aged.
The last and most interesting part of this project is the trim. I used strips of interesting paper and gold cardboard folded over the edges (about 0.75″/2cm wide). You can glue the trim down, but I sewed it onto the folder using a standard needle and my sewing machine. I used the hand treadle to get started and then back-stitched at the beginning and end.
Cup of cocoa anyone?
After a wonderful holiday in Vietnam with my family and friends, we suffered a flu outbreak and a broken camera. Many regrets for my delayed absence! There are some new projects on the horizon, and I wanted to start by showing you a few treasures from our trip.
The wooden stamp above is from Hoi An. There are a few sellers in the old town set up street-side who have a turn-around of 1 day. I’m not sure how they are able to carve wood so quickly and with such precision, but the stamp takes me back to that beautiful city draped with silk lanterns and flowering vines, as well as memories of so many amazing meals!
The patterned paper which was being sold en mass at the market in Hue is used for making effigies that are burned for the New Year’s celebrations. They had a million different colors and patterns, but since I was traveling by bike that day I could only bring back what I was able to slog along on a full day of sightseeing.
I hope to be plastering many future projects happily……….. with double happiness paper.
This has been my first experience decorating a Christmas tree as an adult. After university, I always lived overseas and traveled on my holiday break. Once we moved to Japan and started our family, the girls were always so little and then there was the question of space, storage and living or artificial tree.
I ended up finding a little artificial tree at the recycling center and the girls have fallen in love with it. They made pomanders, threaded glass beads and popcorn, and covered it with the 100 tiny paper cranes that one of my husband’s students gave to him several years ago.
We were missing a star though, and although the one I made for the top is a little serious for our kid- decorated tree, I hope we will grow into it over time.
I used recycled gold cardboard that I’ve collected, but you can use thin cardboard and gold paint to get a similar effect.
I made this little table top Christmas tree for the girls. They are really into stringing beads and buttons these days. They love the act of decorating (and redecorating) a tiny tree.
This is also the perfect little something to send to someone who doesn’t decorate much for the holidays …… you can stuff it in an envelope.
We collected some of our orphan buttons from the ground around train stations and parks we frequent here in Tokyo and some are from our old clothes.
To make the tree:
You will need a chopstick, scissors, cardboard and a rubber band.
This cardboard die was made in an attempt to settle disputes in our house. My youngest had just turned two, and well, no dice, it didn’t work at all. The two of them actually fought over who got to play with the cube, so I just put it on my shelf, and chalked it up to a failed experiment.
At two and a half though, things have changed for the better, and the “turn cube” is doing me some justice.
Just a cardboard cube, six photos and assorted washi tape is all that you need. If you have an odd number of children in your family, you’ll need to put a “roll again” message on one face of the cube, and if you have more than 6 kids, well, I’m sure you’ve figured out a better system than this for maintaining your sanity!
For instructions on how to make the cube, you can find them here, in the book I sell in my Etsy shop. The pattern also explains how to make large cardboard blocks that you can take apart and store flat, a really cool design.
Otherwise, try a plain cube-shaped cardboard box, often the ones that ornaments come in at this time of year are perfect!
Although it’s already Mid November, I just wanted to say thanks again to all of you who took the Cardboard Costume Challenge this year.
Whether you sent in pictures or just got thinking about the idea for the future, thanks for following us on this year’s Halloween adventure. I had so much fun working on our insect family costumes as well as the other costume tutorials.
I hope to see you again next year, and please visit the Pinterest Board now and then as you start scheming and dreaming for 2014. (I already have a request for a Humback Whale costume from the littlest one and a year might be just enough time to figure it out!)
A few spectacular cardboard costumes sent in, and don’t forget to check out the Flickr pool if you haven’t already!
Cardboard Costume Challenge, a group on Flickr.
Check out these amazing costumes!
Did you make your costume out of cardboard this Halloween? Were you excited and proud?
I’d love to publish your photos here on the blog or link to them, etc. so we can broadcast your cardboard creativity to the entire world!
Please email your photos to email@example.com with permission to post or upload to the Cardboard Costume Flickr board HERE.
Cardboard robots always welcome…….
In case you are just starting your costume, (like me) I wanted to show you that you can still get started with a cool cardboard costume and finish before Halloween (you will have to hustle). Although I’m going as a grasshopper, most elements are the same, I’ll just be dealing with extra legs and antennae…
Just start with long cardboard strips, (mine are a rulers width), and drape them over the shoulders attaching horizontal strips as needed.
You can build a structure pretty quickly on which to start gluing cardboard skirt pieces and armor layers.
The rounded layers on the shoulders above are made by tracing a variety of bowls and plates, cutting them in half, then folding them and gluing them into place.
Really, it’s not about the cardboard though, is it? It’s about trying something new that you have never done before….it can make you sheepish. Well, I’m here to say: You can do this!
My inspiration: these incredible costumes from last year’s challenge:
This morning I got an email that made my heart leap into my green tea……The above pictures attached to an email from newly hatched author illustrator Thyra Heder.
Thyra’s written a new book called, “Fraidy Zoo.” It’s about a family that makes a series of animal costumes (one for each letter of the alphabet) out of cardboard and other household objects in the attempt to find out which animal is scaring the littlest member of the family from going on a trip to the zoo. I was totally inspired by the illustrations and instantly charmed by the creative spirit of the family in the book and had to share it with you!
Just as excitingly, Thyra’s in the process of building the cardboard rhinoceros from the book right now, but you really should visit her blog to see some of the photos she’s posted showcasing some of the other cardboard creations she and her friends have made in celebration of the upcoming launch of the book.
These are the beginnings of the head pieces the girls will wear for their butterfly and moth costumes. We will be attaching antennas and textured cardboard to complete them.
When my daughter decided that she was going to be a butterfly this year, we thought, hey why not be a whole family of insects?
Then the real thinking began and we each had to commit to our insect of choice… My husband chose early and is following an entirely logical, and proper plan for attacking his costume, bit by bit. Although it’s not typically my style ( I wish it was), I’m going to try following his approach this year too.
Here’s what we’ve done so far:
1. Create an inspiration board. I like to use Pinterest. Here’s a link to the board I’m using for my Grasshopper costume. I usually try to gather examples from the following categories to get a well rounded amount of inspiration and produce a unique and creative costume.
2. Create a detailed sketch of your costume. I like my husband’s approach of folding a regular piece of white paper in half vertically and drawing the costume from the front and back. It keeps it simple. After drawing, he began to add measurements.
3. Collect materials and prototype. I like to try smaller versions of some costume parts first to see if my ideas will work, then I know if I have to keep trouble shooting any parts of the costume.
How about you? Are you well on your way, or just getting started?
To make the costume you’ll need:
We had light rain just after our event was set up for The Global Cardboard Challenge on Friday. Sadly, most of the kids we anticipated didn’t show up. We didn’t lose heart though, and a few brave souls trickled in after the weather cleared to inhabit the cardboard dwellings that were created. As always, it was great fun and I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s help, or the wonderful folks that run the play park adventure playground.
I had such a great time this year getting to know the folks at The Imagination Foundation, as well as other Cardboard Challenge organizers from around the world. This year there were more than 43 countries represented and 100,000 kids at the Global Cardboard Play Day. If you’ve ever thought about planning an event for your community next year, be sure to visit Caine’s Arcade to find out more. You can be part of this amazing and inspiring cardboard movement!
We’ve already gotten our first photos for the Cardboard Costume Challenge!
Christine Scheer made this incredible Pavlov’s Dog head entirely from cardboard for a cardboard costume charity event she attended in late September.
You can see how Christine started her head by making the upper and lower cardboard jawbone pieces and then used strips to connect the pieces.
This a truly original costume idea! Thanks for sending your awesome pictures Christine!
If you’re thinking about making a cardboard headpiece for your Halloween costume, this weekend is the time to get started!
Last Year we created 2 different kinds of cardboard heads, using two different methods.
The second head was built by making a cardboard skeleton and then gluing down layers of ripped cardboard. You can see more pictures of the development HERE.
Because every cardboard head is a little different, I’ll lay out the most basic steps so you can get started. Have fun and experiment, the point is to develop you’re own style…
Here’s a great video by John Gleeson Connolly (via Apartment Therapy) talking about how he made a simple cardboard dragon head for his son’s Halloween costume using a similar method.
YYYYEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!! Today is the Kick-off for The 2nd Annual Cardboard Costume Challenge!
The Mission? to inspire the making of awesome handmade cardboard costumes.
My secret agenda? Help parents reconnect with their kids (and themselves) through making…. and my even more secret agenda, rid the earth of flimsy, flame-retardant Halloween costumes destined for the landfill.
I decided that this year I wanted to adopt a non-commercial, non-competitive approach (less contest, more spirit tunnel) AND I wanted to make the event more kid-centered (it’s such a valuable design opportunity for kids.) I also wanted to encourage adults, who maybe don’t own a sewing machine, or don’t think of themselves as “creative” to branch out and try dabbling in cardboard.
My own creative mother found the costumes entered last year so amazing she said she was too intimidated to attempt a cardboard costume! This year there won’t be any categories, sponsors, or prizes…..just an event for sharing cardboard enthusiasm and the love of making!
So what do you think? Sound interesting? You can follow posts and tutorials throughout the month of October centered around topics like cardboard hats, masks, accessories, and other costume extras plus info about tools, tips for working with cardboard, and moving from idea to finished costume.
There are a few prize related contests and opportunities out there that you should know about if you would like to enter a competition (with some pretty substantial loot.) We’ll definitely be rooting for you!
See you soon!
This Friday the adventure playground Play Park will be hosting us for a “Cardboard Play Day” to celebrate the Global Cardboard Challenge. We’re praying for sun, since a rain day will mean re-scheduling, but either way preparations are in the works for an amazing day.
Play Park is part of an incredible, volunteer supported NGO (NPO) called Asobiba that operates a variety of permanent and temporary adventure playgrounds throughout Tokyo. I’m so excited to work with them and hope to bring cardboard play into their adventure play repertoire in the future!
If you’re free, and you’re in Tokyo, please join us!
Location: Musashino Park’s Whale Mountain
October 4, 2013
2013年 10月 4日
12pm-5pm 午前12時 – 午後5時
Rainy Day = canceled
雨降りの日 = 取消
The Global Cardboard Challenge is here again! Will you be joining THE WORLD on October 5th, 2014 to either play or host an event?
For everything Caine’s Arcade and The Global Day of Play, please be sure to check out The Imagination Foundation’s excellent website and resources.
I’m also excited to be planning my own event in collaboration with a local adventure playground here in Tokyo! More information to come, but until then I want to share some of my insights from hosting 5+ events last year…….
*10 Tips for Cardboard Play Day*
1. It’s all about the cardboard!
2. Don’t let cardboard get unruly.
3. Give them tool boxes.
4. Provide a secure area for kids to keep their stuff (i.e. coat check).
5. Keep the organizer free.
6. Provide a theme/give permission
7. Give kids real tools.
8. Use reusable fasteners.
9. Have an exit strategy.
10. Get feedback.
The girls have been building a fishing shanty, so we implemented this method for joining cardboard. I demo-ed it at a cardboard play day last fall. Here’s the lowdown:
PROS: rEAlly cute, fairly strong, reusable, made from reclaimed materials, virtually free
CONS: takes a fair amount of dexterity to thread buttons and twist, and sometimes hard to thread through the cardboard without a helper. Only suitable for non weight-bearing construction.
What you need: twist ties (the longer and thinner the better) buttons, a screw driver
What your kids will call you: AWESOME.
One of my heroes, Shigeru Ban and his beautiful and funny talk about cardboard architecture for the people
and for the future.
It was a pleasant discovery to find out that old album covers can be opened up to create a large, 4 paneled piece of cardboard for the Totem Box table and stool tops.
You may or may not have noticed from my previous pictures that Stevie Wonder is gracing the surface of our Totem Box table. If my daughter does in deed learn to read from constant exposure to “Master Blaster” lyrics, I’ll be the first to let you know.
The album cover cardboard is pretty durable. It can recover from a spill as long as it isn’t left standing too long, but if you’re after something that you can truly pass a rag over, I suggest re-purposing shiny, plasticized paper shopping bags.
The plastic is not recyclable, but I’m pretty sure that these bags are processed without a problem at most paper recyclers. We are able to put them out here in Japan, and I pick them up from other people’s recycling piles for the odd project here and there.
While cardboard still rules, it’s nice to have options…
There are so many adorable ideas for cardboard cameras on the internet, but this one comes from the first post I ever published on The Cardboard Collective about cardboard beads. When I got my new camera, I had the paper camera brochure left over, and glued it to some cardboard. We strung it with some cardboard beads on paper twine to make one of the more popular items in the girl’s jewelery box.
Recently I joined up with about 15 other mothers from my daughter’s yochien (Japanese preschool) and we made cardboard camera necklaces for all the kids at her school. The cameras were a prize from our fishing booth at the summer festival.
It was SO fun to see the kids snapping photos of each other. Since most of the parents were also walking around with their cameras slung around their necks, there was the slight excited air of a press conference announcing the magic of summer; more kiddie pools and popsicles to come….
Some of the kids know I helped make the cardboard cameras, so it was cute when they pretended to take my picture. A sweet way of trying to communicate and be playful with me. Of course I love kids AND cardboard, so I was pretty smitten the entire day.
An easy beautiful birthday crown that my daughter put together on her big day. She wants to wear it again next year, and I agree it turned out beautifully. There is definitely a Glinda, Good Witch of the North quality there.
If you can’t find gold cardboard, try jarred gold paint and pizza box lids……..
I’m literally AND figuratively wearing a new hat these days.
Two actually. The first one is a partnership with the Japanese company eco+waza, which puts out a magazine and sells eco-friendly products from Japan. I’m designing cardboard projects for their packaging, (a cardboard box) and I’ll be posting a few of the projects here on The Cardboard Collective in the coming months.
The second is a project working as the Japan correspondent for Playscapes, a blog about the world’s best playgrounds. As you know I’m raising two eager young playground testers, and love play and design, so what better job is there? Find the most beautiful, inspiring and creative playgrounds near you HERE.
As for the paper bag hat that I’m wearing, I created it from a brown Kraft paper bag with this pattern by Angellea Designs. As a fledgling pattern designer myself, I have to say this pattern is just excellent. I made paper hats for the girls too, and they are going to provide perfect full sun coverage when we’re out foraging for summer berries this year. Although this hat isn’t water resistant, a sun hat is meant to be worn in the sun, and what hat could be lighter and easier to fold up?
I didn’t do anything special to sew the paper hat other than use the longest stitch length on my machine and add a bias paper trim to the edge. They sew up really fast, since there’s no lining, and hey they’re just fun.
At the risk of loosing part of my readership, I have a few confessions to make…..the first is that this is not my first blog.
My first blog, swallowed somewhere in the darkness of internet cloud storage, was a digital archive called, “Tiny Architects.” I didn’t work on it for very long. I’m sure you’re envisioning a sweet little blog about kids building and playing, making their own stuff, designing…….actually “Tiny Architects,” was a reference to another breed of little builders…..insects. Which is where my second confession comes in: I love, and am deeply fascinated by insects…….
As a kid, I was an avid collector. I reared monster silk worm caterpillars, and staged sleep overs in our camper trailer with a white sheet and black light to attract night flyers at the back of our family’s sheep farm.
A good portion of every summer was spent in pursuit of the elusive and luminescent Green Tiger beetle; not to mention the lightening fast, Green Darner dragonfly. Once I was thrown into a tree (butterfly net in hand) by our ill-tempered pony during an attempt to ride him bare-back to one of my favorite collecting spots.
In the back of my mind, I always thought that I would someday become an entomologist, and truth be told, maybe someday I still will. Until then, I feel it’s time to begin to share my bug collecting passion with my young daughters, and hopefully you too, as insect collecting relates to cardboard… and hey! you will be surprised…..
First of all a few notes on the evolution of entomology. While insects are some of the most populous creatures on earth, I no longer believe that it’s a good idea to continue the old catch and kill practices that I learned as a kid. Save that job for real entomologists.
For one, we now have the ability to capture beautiful images of insects with smart phones and digital cameras. Photos last longer and I would argue are even more informative because they can capture the insect in it’s natural habitat, practicing it’s natural behavior.
If your child is an insect lover, I highly recommend the gift of a child-friendly digital camera with a good macro feature. It could also become a springboard for them to document their collection online in a blog, or through some other kind of digital format.
That being said, I do think it’s still valuable for children to handle and examine both living and deceased insects and I think it’s still entirely possible to do both of those things with a conservationist mindset. When it comes to live insects, we practice catch and release, and the girls use small nets I made them from re-purposed Badminton rackets. If we find something really interesting we observe it for no more than a day, and then release it again.
In terms of collecting, we have amassed a great little collection of insects that were found dead during various walks and bike rides. Those finds have been more than adequate for building a specimen collection.
Our prized creatures have been sitting in a small jar at the back of our freezer for quite a while now though, so if you’re ready to learn how to pin an insect, right here, right now, we’re primed to get started……..of course, we’ll need to build a little something out of cardboard first.
A spreading board is used to get the body of the insect into the correct position. The wings should rest at their natural level so that they can be arranged and left to harden. First put a pin through the body of the insect. (Pinning position diagrams here) Next, use insect pins and strips of paper to gently leverage the wings into the desired arrangement. Never puncture a wing with a needle as it will damage your specimen. Extra information about pinning different types of insects HERE
To make the spreading board:
If your insect’s body has hardened, it’s a good idea to sandwich it between 2 pieces of a dampened cloth and wait (usually overnight) for the body to soften and become easier to work with.
This is a collection for my daughters who are 2 and 4, so we’ve tried to keep it simple. I haven’t added labels, (but you can) And we did not arrange our insects by scientific order. The girls chose the groupings of “Black Beetles,” “Shiny Green Beetles,” and ” Bees.”
To mount the collection, we found an old container that held craft supplies, and glued cardboard to the base so we could stick our pins in it. To preserve the insects and protect them from an infestation, make sure you have a tight fitting lid for your case. Add cedar oil either on a cotton ball nestled in a plastic cap or by wiping the insides of your wooden display case with it.
This is just our little starter collection, but it’s fun to remember when we found these insects and have funny conversations about what ants eat, and where caterpillars sleep at night.
I hope I can nurture in the girls the same love for nature that my parents gave me, even if they don’t go as far as someday staging a bug collecting sleep-over. I’ve already got the perfect one planned.
Wow, check out this 1967 LIFE magazine article entitled, “The Big Play in Paper”, that was lovingly rescued and scanned by my friend Miss Meryl Ann Butler during a recent Spring cleaning.
Meryl Ann and I met while taking online classes from Diane Gilleland at Crafty Pod, (I learned almost everything I know about blogging from those classes) and I got to know Meryl Ann by her spit-your-tea-out-hilarious sense of humor and from the really helpful stuff she posted in the forums (she has a long and distinguished career in the craft industry.) She is the author of the book 90 Minute Quilts among, many others and she has an intensely joyful, vibrant style with a personality to match.
How very thoughtful, and how entirely awesome. Enjoy a trip back to the glory days of cardboard………………….we’ll relive them again soon?
When I released the Totem Box pattern a few weeks ago, I alluded to the fact that this was a design that I used to manage the “little” toys in our house, but the thought behind the design goes a little deeper.
Quite a few months ago, I made an online friend named Allie who writes the blog, Bakers and Astronauts (as well as Play Lab). Allie’s blog is hands down my favorite website about early childhood and inspired play, and it was Allie who first introduced me to the Theory of Loose Parts, which got me exploring with my own children.
“The Theory of Loose Parts Play” was proposed by Simon Nicholson back in the 1970’s. His theory is this: “In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.”
When I started thinking about adapting Loose Parts Play inside my home, there were a few things to rethink. First of all when Nicholson speaks about number and kind of variables, I think he ultimately takes his inspiration from one place, and one place only; the truly wild outdoors. Outside loose parts can fall from the sky, be dug from the ground, plucked from a branch, or drop from a bird’s wing. The sounds, textures, and smells are all ever-changing and we could never, ever recreate such an amazing sensory experience inside a house, even with dump trucks of glitter.
I had to watch my daughters play a lot to better understand how I could compete with mother nature and increase the number of “variables” (not necessarily the amount of stuff) within our home play environment. Over time, I noticed three categories of objects emerge that they “needed” to make their play more cohesive:
Loose Parts: hand-held objects that assume imagined identities through play.
Containers: objects used by my daughters for collecting, sorting and transporting loose parts as well as defining small spaces.
Expandable Parts: objects used by my daughters to construct and define large spaces
Now, whenever my daughters engage in loose-parts-style play, I try to make sure that all of these elements are available to them. When they are absent, tragic things have happened. Entire shelves of puzzles have been mined for loose parts, fabric and sewing notions have gone missing and Loose Parts Play has ravaged my home like a wildfire, consuming hours of my time in little loose parts cleanup. Although these ideas are only my own expansion on someone else’s theory, so far they have proven true for our sample size of two. I’m curious to hear about your observations. What drives the loose parts engine in your home or classroom?
Enjoy our family recipe for Loose Parts Play (indoors):
(Substitute as necessary)
plastic construction blocks
plastic bottle caps
cardboard fruit trays
small paper bags
child sized buckets
nesting eggs (wooden or plastic)
small recycled plastic jars
small tins with lids
Expandable Parts Textiles
large fabric pieces
softened Kraft paper
child-sized carpets or rugs
interlocking cardboard pieces
over-sized, lightweight blocks,
long, lightweight cardboard tubes
fold-up cardboard screens
(mug by my college buddy Jeremy http://www.oguskyceramics.com/shop)
We’re planning a little adventure for Father’s Day….something involving a bike ride and a picnic I think? I saw this idea in a book called, “Japanese-style Interior of Living” that I checked out from the library. I thought it was a sweet alternative to a card.
What’s your plan for Father’s Day? Are you going on an adventure?
All I can say, is it’s a great feeling to start with an idea, work with it for more than 6 months, and get to this place.
A set of sculptural stacking boxes (the base of one box fits the top of another) that double as a nightstand, stool, ottoman or table and stool set for children. You can leave them plain, or decoupage them with decorative paper.
What do you do with them?
Put your favorite stuff inside. Yarn, yo-yos, matchbox cars and trucks, Legos, rubber stamps, fancy hats, scarves, alphabet magnets, musical instruments, play-dough, cookie cutters, wooden blocks…
I don’t exactly understand the magic, but my kids love cleaning up with the Totem Boxes. They make sorting the toys like another way to play. You can easily move the boxes to where the mess is because they are modular, and then stack them up as you go. They look good sitting in the corner of your room, if you do nothing else. To me, they are functional sculpture.
And they’re not just for kids. Someday when I’m a knitter, I’m going to make a set with a hole on the side for the yarn to feed out while I knit. I’ll prop up my heels on the boxes as I relax and make gorgeous socks….
But are they durable enough for kids to use?
Months of testing and strength to support the sitting weight of a 150lb. adult makes me say YES.
What do I need to make them?
You will need lots of strong cardboard (like the kind that banana boxes or diaper boxes are made out of) and basic supplies like a pencil, white glue, a metal ruler, binder clips or clothespins and a utility knife. You will also need access to the internet, a computer and a printer to print out your pattern pieces and directions.
How long does it take?
Anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for the first box, but after making about 20 of them, I’ve got it down to about 30 minutes a box (without decoupage). Best thought of as a weekend project. Say, if you wanted to make an amazing gift for your 2-5 year old niece or nephew’s birthday.
Where can I buy the pattern?
The pattern costs $12 and is currently available in my Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/cardboardcollect
It includes instructional PDFs in US Standard and Metric with written directions and a pictorial guide with links to 3 original video tutorials. The elementary school teacher in me did my best to appeal to audio and visual learners, so if you get frustrated by traditional patterns, fear not.
I’m in the final stages of pattern testing my first cardboard furniture pattern! While my husband sweetly refers to this step as the first pancake, I feel like I have flipped so many many pancakes already!
Last week I was on a mad search to find a glue comb (oddly a tool that is uncommon in the U.S.) to put in (yay!) my new Amazon Affiliates shop. A putty knife was the closest stand-in I could recommend. Then my brilliant pattern-testing mother told me about the piece of cardboard she cut from the handle of a box to make into a glue spreader.
Wonderful, I thought, one less product; one less thing to buy. But I was surprised at how well this solution really worked when I modified it slightly by removing a strip of paper to expose the corrugations. Identical glue stripe-ing!
If you make a second glue comb you can use the two combs to clean each other before the glue dries, otherwise just trim off the end and then cut another strip to make more corrugations.
OK, I’m in the home stretch now, hopefully I’ll have the pattern up any day now (whew!), and here’s a little sneak peak for all of you who follow the blog:
Do you have a drawer that always stays organized, and another that does not?
I do….. and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make the drawer (or ahem drawers) that do not stay organized behave themselves.
So with many a pre-sleep meditation on a solution, I tackled my cardboard storage (and have many times re-tackled it) to this point of civilization. No stacking and re-stacking, no lids, No plastic, just banana boxes and binder clips.
I had to know my cardboard sources well to find 2 different boxes that would nest inside one another, but once I found the winning combination I was set. I used the top and bottom of a large banana box with one end removed and the bottom of a smaller box for the drawer. No glue, just a few clips to keep the edges in place. The best part is that I can use these on the back of my bike trailer for Cardboard Play Days, and recycle or reuse at the end of the event….. Banana Box, you are a loyal friend.
I’m not quite sure how this Mother’s Day or Father’s Day project will find it’s audience; (unless I’ve gained a tween readership I’m unaware of) maybe it would be a more likely graduation or wedding project. I’m just putting this idea out there in the hope that at least one set of cardboard insoles will find it’s way into a pair of sassy mom pumps, or groovy dad shoes that are out dancing the night away, celebrating how awesome it is to be a parent.
…and Mom, I really wanted to make these for you, but I don’t have a pair of your shoes here in Tokyo to make the pattern from, so sorry about that. I hope you like the Mother’s Day present I did send you. It’s not made of cardboard.
I’m feeling a little out of practice posting to the blog, but also so excited to get back in the groove. April has been a wonderfully busy month! I sent my daughter to Japanese preschool for the first time, and have been commuting for about 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week by bicycle to do the pick ups and drop offs. The weather has been beautiful and I’ve loved it, but I do find myself wondering about those cold wet rainy days to come? Hot, hot August in Tokyo?
Taking the opportunity to be with my family and just be a “maker” for the month was deeply exhilarating. At times I filled every unused corner of our living room with towers of boxes, and bags of cut cardboard scraps. My family never flinched; a true testament of their unfailing love and support.
So many new ideas were born out of my sabbatical, that I’m planning to observe two cardboard sabbaticals every year. I can’t recommend them enough, and if you’ve ever felt that you needed a break from blogging, take one! and don’t apologize. Let’s keep blogging humane. We all need a break sometimes, particularly when we are working to bring something thoughtful and creative into the world on a regular basis.
One thing I thought about this month while I was hacking away at boxes, is what do all of you want to see more of? I’ve put together a quick survey so I can actually find out what you think instead of just imagine….and I would be really appreciative if you could take the time to fill it out!
It’s a painless 3 question survey: Click here to take survey
And yes, I didn’t forget about that big project I promised to tell you about! It’s a pattern and video tutorial I’ll be releasing very very soon for sale in my Etsy shop. It’s the first pattern in a series of cardboard furniture pieces that I’ve been designing over the past 6 months. I’m sure I’m being way too secretive about it all, but I’ve got lots of great posts coming up in the mean time and hopefully a few sneak peaks of the pattern too.
It’s good to be back.
Just a note to let you know I’m going on a little cardboard sabbatical for the month of April. I’ve got some surprises in store for you at the end of the month and I’ll be devoting all my time to getting them ready. I’ll also be sending my daughter off to preschool for the first time, catching tadpoles in the river with the girls every day I can and sewing my heart out for Elsie Marley’s KCW…. it’s bound to be a heart pumping, joy filled month, and I can’t wait to get started! See you May 1!
Yours in Cardboard,
I’m so excited about Spring’s arrival in Tokyo. Cherry blossoms are in full swing and Forsythia, Snow Drops, Grape Hyacinth and Narcissus are popping up all over our neighborhood.
Inspired by a post on Supercyclers, (Clink on Plastic Fantastic, and then at the end of the post More Plastic Fantastic) I made this long cardboard vase for our Easter Brunch. It’s an easy and unexpected way to showcase single stems and spring greenery. I used some plastic drinking straws left over from our fantastic lunch and bike trip to Ishikawa Brewery yesterday as well as a few plastic bags that some birthday cards came in.
Last Spring we made tea cup arrangements and I have to say it’s hard not to be happy looking at spring flowers…this is my 3 year old daughter’s arrangement. I love seeing which flowers and greenery she chooses, always different than what I would think of and equally beautiful.
A beautiful new cardboard find this week: Honey comb. I only have a few pieces dug out of a fruit vendors recycling pile.
We’ve come up with one way to use it so far…in our toolboxes.
Now that my daughters are almost 2 and almost 4 they’ve started borrowing my jewelery. I’m not quite sure what that means about my taste in jewelery, but they are scaling my 4 foot high bookshelf to get to it. As a compromise, I’ve decided to sacrifice access to some of my sturdier, more sought after necklaces in the hopes of safeguarding some of the more fragile and precious stuff.
Contraband jewelery stuffed into little boxes, purses and paper bags was popping up all over the house…. as if a colony of Leprechauns had taken up residence. In an effort to deter further looting, I bargained that some kind of necklace depot would distract them….
I started with just one box, which gave me 6 lengths of cardboard approximately the same length. I then assembled my caps.
I had a variety of laundry soap and maple syrup caps and some of the caps magically fit together, but some did not. I ended up using Washi tape to secure them. I didn’t have enough caps, so I borrowed a cylindrical block from the block bin. You can use whatever you have on hand for this project, it doesn’t have to be plastic caps. Blocks, corks, tiny plastic or glass bottles; all can do the job.
Next step was arranging the caps and tracing around them. I used a box cutter to carefully cut around the circles on the top layer, and then a serrated knife for the layers below. It’s helpful to try and cut just inside the area that you traced for a snug fit.
Last step was gluing the layers together. I used one layer as a backing and didn’t cut any holes in that layer. I also spread a thin layer of glue slightly diluted with water over the top piece of cardboard to preserve it and keep it from showing dirt and fingerprints. To hang the rack I threaded paper cord through the corrugated channels and tied it off.
A truce? Only time will tell…..
Spring is in the air here in Tokyo and we’ve been blessed with more than a week of beautiful 60 degree days. While out spotting Ume blossoms, we’ve been watching lots of birds, and talking a lot about nest building. I’m totally fascinated with all kinds of animal (and people) homes, so I’ve been thinking about how we could make a nest that the girls could build, add to, and alter.
Last week I did some Spring cardboard cleaning and stumbled across some Kraft paper that I had fished out of a neighbor’s recycling some time ago. Kraft paper (the base material for cardboard) works great for this project, but you could also use large sheets of newspaper, or if you’re a teacher try used, crumpled bulletin board paper.
I let the girls work with the Kraft paper to build the nest shape and showed them how to use the screwdriver to push the ribbon through the paper.
They were not strong enough to puncture the paper on their own, so in the end I had to help them secure the sides….maybe in a few years they’ll be independent young nest builders!
We watched a few BBC videos to show the girls how birds use different materials in their nests. They were inspired to add ribbons, play scarves, and lots of junky little things from around the house to the nest before they climbed in with a few good books.
I recommend building the nest on some kind of platform. We made ours from pineapple and banana boxes. There must be some kind of technical term for the fun factor that comes from elevating a play structure… the bird’s definitely know what I’m talking about.
Enjoy Mr. Attenborough with your cup of tea…….
Last year I started experimenting with planting in cardboard even though nearly everyone around thought I was crazy. Well, not one of them was shy when the time came to harvest our cherry tomatoes…
This fall I made a simpler kind of planter utilizing the planter hangers that I have, and torn pieces of scrap corrugated cardboard tucked and layered inside. They over-wintered well, and to freshen the boxes up in the Spring, I just added new cardboard to the outside edges and removed some of the inner layers.
Spinach, salad greens, cilantro and nasturtiums…we can’t wait for our little sprouts to start popping up! And we’re curious to see how our experiment with the glass case (Used for displaying traditional Japanese dolls- there are always tons of these at the recycling shop) works for our tomato starts. We’re hoping to transform it into a home for adopted caterpillars……
The other day I had a friend ask me how I’m able to get so many cardboard projects done with two little girls running around.
I told her about my loving and helpful husband and play-focused kids, but I forgot to mention what has previously been a kind of trade secret here at The Cardboard Collective:
Not actually a word, but an equilateral MATH equation whereby overalls = a state of flow.
Here’s how it works.
One thing I realized about Flow=veralls early on is that they send a clear signal of intention. “Hey! I’m ready to work on a project….here I go!” Everyone in your family instantly picks up on this signal and is able to do something that doesn’t require your attention for a while, which feels pretty amazing.
Working from home, there are no shirts and ties, no flight attendant blazers and pill box hats…there are only stretchy pants, jeans, plaid flannels, and the plain colored T-shirts that you try to keep from getting stained.
These clothing items basically only communicate the fact that you exist…
Flow=veralls on the other hand, have kinship with a kind of ancient knowing. Uniforms, monk’s robes, turbans, aprons, house dresses, smocks, scout kerchiefs… These are all costumes that we wear to prepare for the work that we do, and to signal our belonging within a group or our commitment to an idea. That idea could be a clean house, or peace within a spiritual one.
…..so in effect, I’m letting you in on my secret. I’m also inviting you to join a group of people that love to do work that is actually play, who can’t help but do something that they feel passion about, but are not always clear on where they will find the time to pursue that passion.
Whether you are knitting an afghan, tying fishing fly, or hauling cardboard by bike, Flow=veralls are ready to escort you to that time and space where you can make it happen.
I hope you do.
Winter is grey and cardboard is brown! I’ve been feeling the need to share some of my favorite ideas for bringing energizing color into your cardboard projects…
And don’t forget all the good old decoupage ideas from around the web!
Meeting new people here in Japan involves developing more formalized graces. As a farm girl from the Midwest, this is always an area of improvement for me.
One artifact of the Japanese getting to know you ritual is the business card and/or name card. When you meet someone new in Japan it’s considered polite to exchange your contact information in this tangible, well organized way.
I for one love the practice, as it’s elevated me from the frantic find a pen and write your name and phone number on an old receipt routine to a calmer more professional approach. Proper procedure involves offering your name card with both hands (as shown above) with a little bow of the head.
Now that the blog is becoming more of it’s own entity, I put together a name card using some brown Kraft paper grocery bags that I found in someone’s recycling the other day. It’s not as heavy as a traditional business card, but I think it’s really nice, and still very durable. If you have a business card template on your word-processing software it’s a very easy process.
I originally wanted to print onto post-consumer cardboard, but my ideal specimen would be a cereal box, and unfortunately we’re an oatmeal and eggs family. Cereal is not widely eaten for breakfast in Japan, so it’s also been hard to find used cereal boxes. I’d love to hear if anyone has tried printing on cereal boxes, did your printer take them?
I also wanted to share this great link with you, showcasing a letterpress printer that prints business cards onto old cereal boxes. (If I ever get a business info stamp, this could be a possible approach for my old tea boxes.) They are BEauTiful! Lots of other great ideas there too…
So hey, even if you’re business-less, how about a name-card or blog-card to step up your game? Why not?
My daughters are young and their needs are always changing. They wear a pair of shoes for 6 months then need a new pair.
They use a little chair, or a booster seat for a year or a month or 2 and then we have to replace it and either throw out the old one, find a friend who happens to need the same thing at the same moment we want to get rid of it, or put it on Craig’s List. (We have no charity shops here in Tokyo and limited recycling opportunities for large items.)
I find this kind of turnover exhausting. I wanted to create a dresser system for the girls that accomplished 3 things:
To make the dressers, we collected kiwi boxes over the course of a few weeks, as well as beautiful papers; a mix of washi papers, origami paper, paper bags and Gallery Opening flyers.
I then decoupaged the papers onto the fronts of the boxes with water and white glue. I made a door in each box by cutting two sides about a ruler’s width from the edges of the box, and and then scored the bottom to create the door opening.
The doors of the dressers always stay shut and close easily. In a year and a half of using these boxes, the doors have never flopped open or gotten flimsy.
The girls can easily open and close the drawers. By decorating each box differently they quickly have memorized what kind of clothing each box holds. (Only Dad is still struggling with this.)
Another benefit of these dressers is that they are not a hazard if they fall over in the event of an earthquake – an important consideration living here in Japan.
If you’re wondering where you can get kiwi boxes, check out your local produce department. This past summer I wrote a post about how to find free cardboard here. We also use these boxes for storing our toys, puzzles, and art supplies. Yes, kiwi boxes are a definite favorite here in our apartment.