Cardboard Creatures & a Pinata too!


Mask Workshop by The Cardboard Collective in Tokyo, JapanOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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.

Mask-Making Workshop


Cardboard Collective mask-making workshop in Tokyo, October 24, 2014

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!

The Cardboard Collective

Cardboard Coin Bank


The Cardboard Collective:  Taiyaki cardboard coin bank

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!

Cardboard Taiyaki Coin Bank by Amber / The Cardboard Collective

To make taiyaki you will need the template, scissors, utility knife, glue, clips and cardboard.

Simple steps:

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!

Taiyaki from Takane's in Mitaka

Taiyaki at Takane in Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan

Cardboard Play Day at Musashino Place

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

A few photos from our first ever, open-to-the-Tokyo-public, cardboard pop-up play day.

We ran the event with just recycled cardboard, a few tools, bike power, and creative spirit.

Neighboring Ito Yokado kindly helped us bring many beautiful boxes over from their store (including the fantastic red stuff which was left over from New Year’s postcard displays) and MakeDo pieces were lent to us by the American School of Japan.

The Cardboard Collective

We assembled these incredible Wind-balls prior to the play day, with Tanaka Satoshi’s design plans that you can get here. Just plain fun. We’ve now got the smaller one up as a lampshade in the girls’ room and it’s gorgeous.

[slideshow_deploy id=’3382′]The Cardboard Collective

The highlight of the day was seeing parents and children building together. Once my Japanese teacher helped me to write a sign in Japanese inviting everyone to play freely, they all started getting to it. Little houses, castles, tunnels, trains and forts….it’s all poetry to me.

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

The same box on wheels that I made about 8 months ago (and flew back and forth from the US with) withstood countless laps on the concrete around the grass patch. I’m thinking we could do a great pop-up based on these alone….where to reclaim some old wheels????

The Cardboard Collective

Thanks to my friends from MIA, my husband (who even made dinner after we got home) and Chris B of a small lab for coming out, bearing the cold, taking pictures (many of which you see here) and wrangling cardboard with us at the end. A true labor of cardboard love! I really appreciate your support.

I’m looking forward to hosting more pop-ups and play days in 2013 so stay tuned for more info on where we’ll be next…

….of course I hope you’ll consider having a few cardboard pop-ups in your own home in the meantime?

Wow!!!!!!! & I Need your Help!

1. Cardboard Contest 2012, 2. IMG_7213, 3. Cardboard, 4. Accessory 1 ~ Photo 7 (made from cardboard cereal boxes), 5. Cardboard gargoyle mask, 6. Skull Mask, 7. African buffalo mask, painted, 8. Supernatural Habitat, 9. Made in Cardboardia. Workshop in Moscow., 10. Made in Cardboardia. Workshop in Moscow., 11. Minister of Culture, 12. Day of Giant Tyran’s Creatures, 13. Sea creatures, 14. Costume, 15. Cardboard Ishkabibble costume by Anandamayi Arnold, 16. картонная маска Бкнганга3

Wow!!!! I am in awe of the fantastic costumes that have been entered so far………… but I know we can get more people involved!

We want as many people to enter the Cardboard Costume Challenge and show their creations as possible! This is our chance to inspire a movement of incredible cardboard costumes full of creativity and craftsmanship!

Maybe you weren’t able to enter the contest but you have a friend that made an incredible costume out of cardboard, or another student at your child’s school? Help them to enter! I’m extending the submission deadline to Nov. 2 to allow for entries from various time zones.


You can copy and paste this message into your email or smart phone:

I saw your amazing cardboard Halloween costume today, and wanted to tell you that you should enter this cardboard costume challenge online There are prizes from Make-Do (a cardboard construction kit) and several different categories to enter. Check it out and hey, great job on your costume!


MakeDo Japan kindly donated the best prizes ever! One of the most imagination-inducing, creativity-boosting, cardboard-affirming toys on the planet! Thanks so much MakeDo Japan!

Live in Japan and want to buy MakeDo so you can tinker with cardboard throughout the year? click here. If you are an English speaker and need language help to purchase MakeDo, email me at

If you live elsewhere, MakeDo is available via Amazon.

Meet the judges: Lullatone

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We have another cardboard aficionado joining our team of judges! Shawn James Seymour of the Japan-based band, Lullatone. Shawn knows a thing or two about making incredible cardboard stuff. He teaches kids how to make a variety of musical instruments out of cardboard for a local television show here in Nagoya, Japan.

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably heard Lullatone’s beautifully soft yet vibrant music. They’ve done commercial work for clients like Target, Volkswagen and Anthropologie, but my daughters’ love the clip they did for a Japanese female hygiene products company called Laurier the most. Check it out.

If you haven’t heard Soundtracks for Everyday Adventures, their latest album, let me just say it’s one of our favorites. Usually we put it on while we’re doing things together like working on puzzles or cutting up vegetables for dinner. This is also an album I love to listen to when I’m just sitting around in my living room making stuff out of cardboard during nap time.

And one more little tip for you. If you ever need to calm down a cranky baby, try this Lullatone masterpiece. It works every. time. Thanks so much for joining us Shawn!

Meet the judges: Tanaka Satoshi

Tanaka Satoshi is an artist and maker who works on projects ranging from web design to architecture. He is known widely as a MakeDo Master, but I consider him to be an all around cardboard contemporary. Tanaka has created eye-catching, larger-than-life cardboard sculptures as well as projects for kids. The wind-ball pictured above as well as an adorable koi made from a tissue box are among my favorites.

Tanaka is the creator behind the Japan MakeDo blog, and will be joining our “collective” of judges for the Cardboard Costume Challenge 2012. I also share the pleasure of working with Tanaka at the Global Cardboard Challenge event on October 13th here in Tokyo. Thanks for joining us Satoshi san, we look forward to seeing more of your incredible cardboard creations in the future!





Cardboard Playdate

(Cardboard Pull Toy at 0123 Harappa)

After a week of sewing my heart out for the Elsie Marley blog KCWC (Kids Clothing Week Challenge) I’m ready for a break and the opportunity to get back to my cardboard projects.  I had a great time sewing and even had a blouse that I made for Electra featured on Elsie Marley’s Blog. It was a great opportunity to engage in a Sew Along, and I’m hoping we can do something similar  here on The Cardboard Collective someday (of course with cardboard).

Today I took the girls to a favorite public indoor play place in Tokyo called 0123 Harappa. Harappa is a place for kids aged 0-3 and their parents to play with developmentally appropriate toys, socialize with other children and parents, and basically have fun.

Harappa has lots of activities for kids including a library area, an art area with clay, paper, crayons and glue, an are just for small babies who are not crawling yet, a house and dress up area, an open area for ride on toys, blocks, slides, small climbing gyms and so much more.

I wanted you to see some of the great ways that the staff at Harappa uses cardboard. They have made some incredible creations, and they’re always changing! Here are a few of the things that they’ve made that I hope will inspire those with young children.

I’ve got to find out how they are cutting Japanese cardboard letters with such precision!

Peek-a-boo Wall murals. Hand painted cardboard.

Animal ball toss. They’ve put a rounded piece of cardboard inside so the ball rolls back to you quickly and easily.

My favorite. An amazing “Where Do These Animals Live?” wall puzzle (The pieces are magnetized and everything is hand painted.)

Cardboard Cylinder Walls for hiding small objects in. I didn’t see too many kids playing with this, but I know if we had one of these in our home the girls would absolutely love it.

Even this adorable cardboard lion memo pad and pencil holder!

You can see why we love this place.


Daruma dolls are a tradition in Japan having to do with casting a wish, setting a goal, or pursuing a dream. It’s been about 6 months since I started The Cardboard Collective and it’s taken me that long to straighten out a few ideas in my head about where I want to go with my cardboard passions. With that in mind, I purchased a Daruma doll at Jindiaji’s festival this year, filled in the pupil of his right eye, inscribed my goal on the bottom of the doll, and put him on the bookshelf in our living room (as did Electra). (When I hopefully achieve my goal, it is tradition to return the Daruma to the temple where it was purchased for ceremonial burning.)

After spending a few days sitting around the living room I realized that having a  Daruma doll in your house is a bit like planting your Kabuki-makeup-wearing kick-boxing coach in the corner with an eternal (one-eyed) look that says “Get out there Tiger.” You can almost hear the throaty Clint Eastwood like growl seeping out. “Wow,” is all I can say. It’s really kept me on top of my game!

One last note about Darumas; (you can learn more about their history and how they are made here) guess what they’re made out of? … Recycled Cardboard.

Cardboard Mini Photo Frames

Finally back from a blissful vacation in Indonesia, The Cardboard Collective is springing back to life. We’ve had sick kids, technology failure and just plain laziness plague us, but all excuses aside, we’ve got birthdays approaching that we need to deliver for.

Grandma D. is a teacher, painter, adventurer and all around photo-holic, so I know she’ll appreciate this homemade twist on some of the photo gifts we’ve sent her in the past.

You can make one for yourself with the PDF patterns below. They are sized for 3×5 prints. You can use any kind of flat, durable cardboard for the frame, and re-purposed paper bags or magazine pages for the photo-holders. Simply trace the pattern fold it up, glue it together, and you’ve got it. Each side of the cardboard frame measures 6 and 3/8 in. by 4 and 1/2 in. I used a contrasting strip of washi tape to adjoin the two sides and add some color, but sometimes a bland mat and frame can make your pictures pop. You can also use the oval and square patterns on a standard sized envelope to make the frame holders. Just lop off one side of the envelope where you will insert the photo. Take the envelope apart, center the oval or rectangular pattern on it, trace, cut, and re-assemble.