Mask-Making Workshop

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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

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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 Bear Desk Organizer

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The Cardboard Collective / Cardboard Bear Desk Organizer

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.

Simple Steps:

THe Cardboard Collective Cardboard Bear Process 2

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.

The Cardboard Collective

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.

The Cardboard Collective Cardboard Bear Process
5. Use the base of the drinking glass as a form to trace the bear face, add ears, cut. Glue face to the front of the organizer.

The Cardboard Collective

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?

 

Cardboard & Newsprint Unicorn Costume

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Cardboard and Newsprint Unicorn Costume by The Cardboard Collective

Cardboard and Newsprint Unicorn Costume

To make the costume you’ll need:

  • white paper egg cartons
  • white newsprint or tissue paper (rainbow colors would be great!)
  • toilet paper tubes
  • metallic cardboard, (or rainbow paint your regular cardboard)
  • stapler

Simple Steps:

  1. cut a rectangular strip of cardboard about 4 inches wide and 10 inches long
  2. fringe newsprint, then fold the ends over the cardboard and staple
  3. cut ears from egg cartons and attach with stapler
  4. create cone shaped horn from metallic cardboard and staple down
  5. cut toilet paper tubes so that they can fit over your wrists and ankles like a cuff
  6. fringe more newsprint and staple to cuffs (place tape over staples to avoid irritation)
  7. shape the ends of the toilet paper tubes to look like hooves.

Unicorn Costume by The Cardboard Collective

Cardboard for Stools & Tabletops

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   Cardboard Table Tops by Amber

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…

Cardboard Table Tops by Amber

Cardboard Tabletop by Amber

DIY Cardboard Camera

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DIY Cardboard Camera by Amber

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.

DIY Cardboard Camera by Amber

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….

DIY Cardboard Camera by Amber

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.

DIY Cardboard Camera by Amber

Say “チーズ!”

How to Pin an Insect

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How to Pin an Insect by Amber

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…….

Ichneumon Wasps on the Appalachain Trail by Amber

 

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…..

Bug in the hand by Amber

 

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.

Badminton Butterfly Net by Amber

 

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.

Pinning Insects by AmberHow to Pin an Insect at The Cardboard Collective

 

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:

  • Cut a base piece 14cm x 20cm.
  • Glue 2 more piece of cardboard (6.5 cm x 20 cm) on top so that you create a gap that is 1-1.5 cm wide and about 1 cm deep.

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.

Pinning Insects by Amber

 

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.

Pinning Insects by AmberBeetle in the hand by Amber

 

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.

Cardboard Playground circa 1967

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LIFE Magazine - November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) 

Big Play back top Rescan
LIFE Magazine - November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) Page 3 LIFE Magazine - November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) Page 2LIFE Magazine - November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) Page 1

LIFE Magazine – November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) Modern Living — The Big Play in Paper, from Giraffes to Gazebos

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.

Meryl Ann recently sent me an email message explaining that:
“This clipping was in my “morgue file” which was a file we had in the olden days before electronic files… with clippings of images that might inspire future artwork. My file had thousands of clippings, and I just threw most of it away a couple of days ago – a hard thing to do, since I had collected images for a long time – well, at least from 1967, lol!  I only saved a couple of them, and of course the second I saw this I thought of you, Amber!”

How very thoughtful, and how entirely awesome. Enjoy a trip back to the glory days of cardboard………………….we’ll relive them again soon?

Beautiful DIY Cardboard Storage is HERE!

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Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial https://www.etsy.com/listing/152961516/cardboard-totem-boxes-pattern-and-video?ref=shop_home_active

Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial https://www.etsy.com/listing/152961516/cardboard-totem-boxes-pattern-and-video?ref=shop_home_active

Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial https://www.etsy.com/listing/152961516/cardboard-totem-boxes-pattern-and-video?ref=shop_home_active

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: 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.

Nest Building with Kraft Paper

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nest building with children play open ended

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.

The Cardboard Collective

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!

Open Play

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.

Open Play

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…….