Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Light-Up 3D Paper Houses

I recently started a maker club at my kids' school. Our first meeting is tomorrow and this light up 3d paper house is our first project.

I want my club projects to have some tech and have a lot going on the art side too. And I don't want the projects to be too prescriptive (but if I give too little instruction and I'll probably end up with a paper ball fight.)

I started with a downloadable template (there are many- I can't really link to one here because I used one that wasn't mine and I altered it in Photoshop anyway.) I just wanted a simple house-- a few outlines of windows and doors but that's it, so kids can create whatever kind of house they want.

I printed the template on card stock (whatever card stock my printer can handle and whatever I think my kids can cut.) I plan to have them color first, then cut out and assemble.
Detailed examples spark creativity, and also keep some kids from declaring they are done in five minutes.
I made a medieval cottage and a gingerbread house as examples of what can be made with the templates but I'll tell the kids to make whatever they want. "Your house? Great. Haunted mansion? Perfect. Dinosaur prison? Rock on, kid."
I've added these to home-made light sabers, Altoid tin dioramas, greeting cards, etc.
This is the simple circuit that goes under the house. A path of copper tape connects an LED to CR2016 lithium coin battery.

The copper goes around a green flap of electrical tape so that when you press down on the flap, the circuit is connected and the LED lights up. I secured the "legs" of the LED and the battery with more electrical tape. I also bent them so the LED is up higher/ more in the center of the house.

It works!

LEDs are often quite bright, so this makes my whole card-stock house light up but I don't mind.

It still works!
My ten year old says this is a cool project and she would definitely tell me if it wasn't. Without hesitation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Holiday Cakes

When making Christmas cake pendants for my first show, I thought I should make some Hanukkah cake pendants too. I don't think Hanukkah cakes are officially a thing, but they should be.
The Hanukkah cakes have tiny dreidel decorations, only labeled with Gimmels and Heys. No loser cakes here.

Every happy holiday deserves its own cake. Though holidays like Labor Day and Arbor Day seem cake-neutral. 

Sorry Yom Kippur, no cake for you. Because, you know, sadness and fasting.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Snowman prototype
My kids and I saw these sock snowmen at a holiday craft fair last weekend, and I told my daughter we'd try to make them at home (and I actually meant it.)

It turns out they were super quick and easy. We made the snowmen from dry lentils and dollar store socks (and they are tied off with rubber bands-- no sewing). The hats and scarfs are cut from more dollar store socks. For details seek out any number of "sock snowman" tutorials on line, they are easy to find.

Our spin on this project was that we made some accessories from polymer clay. We even faked some buttons using clay to get just the right sizes and colors that we wanted. I had a headpin running through the carrot sticking out the fatter end of the carrot, so I just added a bit of glue to that end and jammed it in into the snowman's head (sorry, snowman.) The eyes and buttons stay on easily with just a bit of glue.

I built one while my daughter was at school (in a few minutes, really). Then when she and her friend saw them, of course they had to build some. Yeah, I knew that would happen.

Snow family in situ
These snowmen are a cute, holiday-neutral, and kid-friendly project. And let's face it, I was never going to cook those lentils anyway.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Give Someone The Bird This Holiday Season

 A friend commissioned me to make a pair of turkey earrings for a Turkey Trot she was running. This is how they turned out.
You need these. You know you do.
Before shading
Hilarious and strange. So I decided to make some for my Etsy store.

I begin by sculpting each turkey using very light yellow clay.

I then skewer it with a long eye pin, and texture it using both a small ball of foil and a bumpy plastic cutting board.

Finally I brush on shades of yellow, reddish brown, and dark brown pastels.

I use the blue cutting board in this picture to texture the turkeys.

I sculpted some stuffing on to my turkeys, baked again, and added a nice glossy finish. 

Not too big-- wouldn't want to be gaudy

I finally added some red beads (holiday bling!) and finally the ear hooks.
 So wear these at your next holiday dinner, and maybe you can steer the conversation away from politics for a moment. Good luck.

You need these, you know you do.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Harry Potter Mini Wand-- Target Dollar Spot Hack

 My Harry Potter Mini Wand flashes different colors when you tap it against something.
Harry Potter Mini Wand
I occasionally teach classes and recently started a maker club at my kids' school. I describe the club as craft projects, sometimes with a tech twist. So when I saw these snowman wands in the Dollar Spot area at Target I thought I could gut it for parts and make something, and if it didn't get too complicated I could have my students make some.
Flashing LED Snowman Wand

I mean, for a measley dollar, it must have batteries and multiple colored LEDs, and the whole thing works already. Why not hack it?

Decapitated Snowman Wand
Indeed it does have all those components, you can kind of see them in this photo here on the right.

I should say at this point that my son was not happy that I decapitated the snowman wand. I anticipated this and bought him his own snowman wand-- but he was still not happy.


Not exactly promising yet.
Anyway, step two was covering it with a layer of masking tape. I thought that things would stick to the masking tape better than the slippery plastic.

Hmm maybe this won't be terrible.

Then I took a long strip of masking tape and stuck it on one end of the wand, and twisted the tape as I wrapped it all around the wand. I did this a couple times until there were no large flat spaces left.

I then brushed Mod Podge onto each section and tore small pieces of tissue paper and covered the whole wand, similar to making a pinata except just one layer.

I used blue tissue paper because that's what I had, but brown or black would be ideal and then you could skip the whole painting stage.

I brushed another thin layer of Mod Podge over the whole wand and let it dry. I tried to hasten this process with a hair dryer because I am impatient.

Not promising again, really ugly.
 Then I painted it brown. So very, very ugly.
Yes I know it look like poo.
 The I took *a very small amount* of silver paint on my finger, and rubbed it on all the parts of the wand that stood up, trying to leave the recessed areas dark. When this dried I covered it with one more coat of Mod Podge.

At this point not much of the LED light was showing through, so I used a needle tool to gently scrape away some tissue and paint to expose the lit area in small patches. Now the flashing colored lights were easy to see.

Again here's the final product, with the lit part on the left. You just need to tap it again something to start the flashing LEDs.

Here's my wand next to the original snowman wand.
My Harry Potter Mini Wand Compared to the Original Unhacked Snowman Wand
I know it's a success because my son now loves it and keeps trying to steal it. I'll probably give up and let him have it in a day or so.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cubs Hat Earrings

My city, Chicago, was elated just a few days ago from the Cubs victory. I am really not a sports fan, but even I got sucked into the insanity that was game seven of the World Series. And the next morning, I made myself a pair of Cubs hat earrings and wore them when my kids and I joined 5 million of our closest friends at the Cubs parade.

Go Cubs Go.
People commented on my earrings everywhere I went. Then my mom, who lives nearby and helps out my family all the time, said she wanted them. When my mom asks for my earrings, I give her my earrings.

But that meant I needed another pair (needed!) so this morning I made more. Many more. Because why do all the tedious things I should be doing in the morning for my work, to get my kids ready for school, etc. when I could be making Cubs hat earrings?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

It Begins

When my daughter was three, we walked past a store window that had a pillow with a tree embroidered on it. "We could make that" I said to my daughter absently. In theory like to make things, but when I said "We could make that" I never considered that we would, you know, make something.

At home a few hours later my daughter turns to me and says "Mommy let's make the tree." She was calling me on my BS. For some reason, even though kids are so literal, I didn't expect that.

I managed to find felt in a few different colors and a needle and thread. I cut out tree and flower shapes and stitched them together by hand until we had a much uglier version of the tree we saw in the window. My daughter was very pleased and I was just surprised that we actually made something.

I don't think I took a picture of the tree that we did (as I said, it was kind of ugly.)

But we went on to other projects and experiment with all sorts of materials.

Polymer clay cake charms. Not edible, not in the slightest.

Some of what we make is good, some not so much. But I have come to really believe in the power of making things. It's not just about what we make, but the ideas, the whole process.

Stormtrooper mosaic. My son's favorite.

Or maybe that's just what I have to tell myself when I end up with something like this:

Uncomfortably leggy sock monkey with ill-fitting sock monkey sweater.

 We're starting the Micromakery blog to document some of our projects.