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 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.

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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?

MakeDo Cardboard Igloos

On Saturday we were excited to host another Cardboard Play Day at the American School in Japan with an enthusiastic group of young builders.

Kids living in dense urban areas like Tokyo usually don’t have a backyard or nearby place where they can muck around.

Providing the space and materials for cardboard tinkering is akin to tree house building for city kids (as well as a beefy upgrade from blanket and sofa cushion forts.)

We had the most gorgeous day of pre-winter weather that you could hope for and a great turn out of kids and parents.

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I really enjoyed working side by side with the kids this time, holding pieces of cardboard together for them and taking their direction as they figured out how to attach shelving, install “TVs” and keep intruders out of their igloos.


The kids faced the perils of dome collapse and near exhaustion from sawing cardboard doors and windows all day, but we still we had to kick them out by 2:00 so we could cleanup and go home…

Looking forward to putting on another cardboard play day again really soon!

Tokyo Maker Faire 2012

Sunday was the last day of Tokyo’s first ever Maker Faire.

It’s safe to say I was pretty blown away by the whole event. Imagine squeezing shoulder to shoulder step by step through a space as big as a football field, chock a bloc with little tables, thousands of people, and tons of blinking, flashing, gyrating electronic gizmos.

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I came knowing nothing about Arduinos, Rasberry piis, and flying drones, and left knowing nothing more … sadly, I was way too intimidated to ask a programmer to explain basic coding and circuitry to me in Japanese.

I did however, do a lot of googling when I got home, and learned enough to have a semi intelligent conversation (in English) with someone next time I need to, which could be quite soon considering I’m now planning on building one these to do my grocery shopping for me…

This is a giant cardboard giraffe robot that was designed and built by kids using a program developed by MIT called Scratch.

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The folks at a design group here in Tokyo called Otomo held a series of workshops for kids earlier this year where this noble beast was conceived and built.

The giraffe has a camera in it’s head and a controller in it’s tail. As the giraffe’s head “looks” around, video streams to an old school, Wizard of Oz-style monitor nearby.

I don’t think I could have dreamed of something that would have captured my imagination more than this amazing cardboard safari creature.

I basically had to pick my jaw up off the floor, and embarrassingly said “This is so cool” way too many times while talking to the couple from Otomo. I had one of those moments when a tiny little seed gets planted…..

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!

Organize Yourself: Cardboard Library Pocket

I started gluing these library pockets in my sketch books and travel guides and quickly became addicted. They are a great addition to a Moleskin notebook too. I particularly like to use them on the front of the little cardboard covered notebooks I get from Muji. These notebooks are just the right size, inexpensive and great for sketching out ideas while the girls are playing on the playground every morning. My to do list stays front and center in the cozy little pocket and I can pull it out without having to delve into my sketchbook.

Cover them with interesting magazine pages, manga, paper bags, or other junk mail ephemera, and you’ve got a very classy place to keep your grocery list. No more forgetting the soy sauce!

For this project I recommend using the lightest weight cardboard you can get your hands on. Think “bone china” of cardboard. Re-purposed manilla folders would work great too.

To make the fabric covered pocket pictured at the top, I first traced the template onto cardboard and cut it out. Then I simply glued a scrap of kimono fabric to the pocket with watered down white glue and then painted over the top decoupage-style with the white glue  and water mixture so the fabric was entirely smooth and saturated. I let it dry overnight, cut off any remaining fabric, and then glued the pocket together and affixed it to the notebook. Easy.

Last minute stocking stuffer?

Click on the picture below for two sizes of free downloadable library pocket pdf templates.

Oh My Deer: Cardboard Antlers

If you are anywhere around Michigan (USA) this week, don’t go out and about with a pair of these on your head.


Like it or not, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandpas are out in their  hunting blinds right now hoping to bring home some four-legged game of the white-tailed variety.

For those of use city dwellers who are not out hunting and are limited to interacting with wildlife like birds, dogs, cats, rats and the occasional tanuki, we’ll be snug in our beds on a cold November morning.

If you’d like to make your own pair of cardboard antlers, it’s ideal to use light weight cardboard that is plain brown on both sides. I first cut a paper pattern from newsprint, then traced onto my cardboard with pencil. Be sure to allow for enough length at the base of the antlers to fold up a small cardboard tripod. Adhered with a little masking tape at the back, the cardboard loop allows you to string a ribbon or head band through the antlers and easily secure them to your head to help them stay in place.

You can add more horns to your antlers by making a cut at the base of the horn piece and at the place where you will insert the horn on the antlers.

So whether you are celebrating a trophy buck, curling up with a copy of Imogene’s Antlers, or dressing up as our favorite reindeer this Christmas, I hope you enjoy making these cardboard antlers. With the pattern, I’m sure you could assemble this project in 10 minutes or less; less time than it would take you to go to the store and buy something similar and no extra burden on the planet when you pop them into the recycling box at the end of the season.

Tool: Off-set Handled Scissors

These scissors are a great new tool for cutting through cardboard. The off-set handle makes it easier to maneuver around corners and curves, and the wide openings in the handles provide for a roomy grip. The English translations for the packaging here in Japan always makes me chuckle. These scissors are definitely either made of hard materials, or will help you go after a hard(difficult) task!

On a scissors space-time continuum, the off-set handled scissors definitely rate as the best for getting through cardboard, even outperforming the “chicken boning shears.” At the other end of the spectrum we have my sewing scissors, which I would never, ever use to cut cardboard, our household paper scissors, the delicate, but still useful for poking small holes embroidery scissors, and last but not least, wooden scissors. They actually do cut paper.

Cardboard Marquees

Another way to display cardboard beads, letters, pictures or shapes cut from cardboard.

To make the marquee I first decided to orient my cardboard with the fluting running vertically since most of the letters to be cut from cardboard run in the same direction.  I used one side of a box with the top and bottom flaps folded back to create a triangular base. Next, I  gently scored the the edges of the area I wanted to display and then started to gently peel away the top layer of paper to reveal the corrugated part of the cardboard below.

I used a chopstick to pry up some of the paper from between the flutes of the cardboard. It really helped to move the process along. (I would definitely enlist the help of any willing young spectators for this part.) If you are lucky enough to find some cardboard with the corrugated part exposed, then you can just glue it on top of the marquee base and get to work peeling the backs off of all the cardboard letters or shapes that you are using.

Make sure that your letters have the same size fluting as the marquee base if you want them to hold their place securely.

Just a piece of tape (masking tape, washi tape, or paper tape) to secure the marquee base at the back and you are ready to start crafting your own personal message to the world.