Cardboard for Stools & Tabletops

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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!”

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.

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.