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Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial

Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial

Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial

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.

I’m so excited to share this pattern with you! It started basically as a way to solve a problem I was having:
How do I organize my kid’s toys? (the little ones)
which led to other problems:
How can I make something that’s just right for them?
How can I make it out of cardboard?
How can I make it strong?
How can I make it recyclable?
How can I make it beautiful?
Well, curiosity can lead you down a long and winding path.
Mine included a re-acquaintance with high school geometry, learning more about photography and lighting, the search for affordable copyright free music, video editing, cardboard sourcing, explorations in color and pattern (ultimately inspired by the divine Japanese kimono), tool and material testing and lots and lots of watching kids play (the best part)!
I ended up with Totem Boxes.

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:

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.

The Cardboard Collective Etsy Shop is Now Open!

I forgot to report in my last post that we are back in Tokyo! Wow, so much has been going on, and the online class I’ve been taking from Sister Dianne Gilleland (of Craftypod fame) is the catalysts for a majority of it all.

In the class I’ve been working on ways to get some of the cardboard PDF pattern designs I’m developing out into the world for everyone to see. It’s going to take a few months, but for the time being, I’ve opened My Etsy shop: The Cardboard Collective and I have two Japanese Craft Books for sale.  Remember this picture from my about page?

This is the table and chair set that started it all. The project that got me so incredibly excited about cardboard that I felt compelled to start this blog and spend all my free time cutting, gluing and collecting the stuff.

The plans for this table set are in one of the books that I have for sale in the shop, and the second book that’s available by the same author, has more furniture and lots of great cardboard toys and games to make too.

I’m feeling great about the fact that I’ve been able to find an excellent used book source for these two titles and that they’ll be able to live another life in the hands of fellow cardboard enthusiasts.

Some more great news is that I got to attend the Etsy World Craft Party in Tokyo! The event was held at FAB Cafe, a fantastic place with a laser cutter on site! You can try your hand at some amazing projects like laser-burned jeans, wooden stamps, decor, and basically anything you can dream up.

I’m excited to make an appointment and go back to use the laser printer to create some custom stamps and stencils for The Cardboard Collective. I also want to find out more about how it might work on cardboard, and of course, just hang out at Fab Cafe.

The best part of the night was meeting some other Japan Etsy Sellers, and learning more about their craft and their shops. I got to chat with Angela and her husband from Sake Puppets, a shop specializing in Sashiko embroidery kits, as well as Elena, the spunky woman who heads up Etsy Japan. All in all it was a great night, and I loved designing and creating the cardboard props for the photo booth.

Thanks again Etsy for a lovely evening, and I hope you all get a chance to check out my shop!