Recreate Ancient Ruins with leftover cardboard
You’ll just need a cardboard box and a few basic tools to create these ancient architectural ruins, inspired by the wood sculpture Pompeii by artist, architect, and furniture designer Po Shun Leong. This project can serve as a launching point to design your own imaginative architectural realm from cardboard scraps!
About the artist:
A man of many talents, Po Shun Leong creates complex wooden sculptures and boxes reimagining ancient sites like Mesa Verde, Pompeii, and Petra. He works with many different types of wood, and encourages artists to recycle their scraps into new art.
“Be joyous, use all your … scraps, and add to the sum total of beauty in this world.”
-Po Shun Leong
• Corrugated cardboard
• Medium- large bowl to trace
• Strong glue, like Elmer’s Glue-All or Alene’s Tacky Glue
• Masking tape
• Paper towel for wiping hands
• Extra cardboard (paperboard like cereal boxes, paper towel tubes, etc)
• To glue cardboard, add glue then hold the pieces together and count to 20.
• Use a small piece of masking tape to temporarily hold cardboard together while glue dries.
• Wet a cardboard box and leave it outside to dry to easily separate the corrugated layer from the smooth layers. The water dissolves the glue!
Use the bowl to trace a circle onto a large piece of cardboard. Peel some sections of the paper covering to reveal areas of texture. Keep the bowl nearby to hold small scraps of cardboard
Cut 4 cardboard rectangles, around 6” wide by 4” high. Peel the paper from both sides of the cardboard to reveal the corrugated piece in the middle. Add glue to the short end of the rectangle and roll into a column. Repeat with the other rectangles to make 4 columns.
Measure and cut 3 triangles, about 5” wide by 2” high. Stack and glue them together to create a pediment. Do the same with 3 rectangles, about 5” wide by 1” high, to create the tablature, or base for the pediment. Cut 12 small squares, about 1” by 1”. Create 4 bases for the columns by stacking and gluing 3 squares per base. When dry, stack and glue the pediment to the tablature and the columns to the bases.
Create the corner of a building ruin by cutting 2 rectangles and cutting away sections to look like brickwork. Use the leftover right angle triangles from your pediment to make braces to hold the two walls together. Or try a different cardboard construction idea to build a wall or building.
Add details to the architectural elements using cardboard scraps. Be creative and add your unique ideas to the structures. Glue the final pieces to the base and add finishing details.
Option: For younger artists, provide cereal boxes, tubes, and lighter paperboard, which is easier for young artists to cut and manipulate. Pre-cut some basic corrugated cardboard shapes to help trigger creative thinking.
Challenge: Start with a larger base and incorporate other recyclable materials into your design.
Simplify: Don’t worry about measurements and rulers, just start cutting shapes and let the process happen organically!
Learn more: Po Shun Leong’s website is a treasure trove of interesting information!
This idea brought to you by Leslie Strauss.
Unique art prints made from bubble wrap
Who doesn’t love bubble wrap? Here is a simple printmaking activity using just bubble wrap markers, and paper. Children of all ages can color designs onto any type of bubble packaging and make prints. The prints can then be used to make cards, wrapping paper or displayed as art! The possibilities for creativity are endless. If you can keep yourself from popping the bubbles, you can rinse them off and use them again and again!
This project was inspired by Bubble Wrap by Courtney Starrett, on view at Mint Museum Uptown.
- Copy paper or construction paper
- Bubble wrap in assorted textures/sizes, cut into pieces or shapes
- Assorted colored markers
Begin by choosing a piece of bubble wrap. You can compare the different types and sizes and talk about the properties of air in the bubbles and how they provide cushioning. Children can draw and color on the bubble wrap to create a color pattern or something more abstract. Notice how the ink from the marker does not get absorbed into the plastic. Don’t wait too long to make your print or the ink will dry.
Flip your bubble wrap over and press it firmly onto the paper to create your print! There might be enough ink to make another print and each one will be totally different. Experiment with the different bubble wrap types if you have them. Older children can draw designs onto big bubble packaging.
Any image will be printed in reverse so lettering would need to be drawn backwards.
You can extend this activity by looking for shapes and patterns in your prints and drawing in details to turn them into faces, animals, and more. Now you can pop a few bubbles for fun! Seamus the cat was very helpful until… POP!
Three ingredients plus three steps to make your own signature clay pots
Baking is one of the little things that brings us joy while at home during the pandemic. Creating objects from common baking ingredients bridges the relationship between industry, craft, and consumer. A basic clay can be made from flour, salt, and water. Have fun using spices, such as turmeric and paprika, along with compost like coffee grinds to add texture and color to your clay.
This project is inspired by Autoarchy on view at Mint Museum Uptown.
- Cold water
- Spices or kitchen compost
- Rolling Pin
- Wax paper
- Ribbon or rope
- Metal tabs from soda cans or washers
Start with 1 cup flour and 1 cup salt. Add spices or other kitchen ingredients for color and texture. Slowly add up to one half cup cold water while mixing together to form a ball. It helps to knead the clay for several minutes. Add a few more drops of water if the clay is not holding together.
Consistency will vary depending on what type of flour you use and what you mix in.
If the clay is too soft, knead in more flour until you have a clay that can stand when shaped. Divide dough and form into pots, bowls, or plates.
Make small pinch pots from balls of clay and allow to dry on their own. Make larger bowls by rolling the clay into a slab and draping over containers with a piece of wax paper between the clay and container to keep it from sticking. Once the outside of the clay is dry, carefully remove it from the container and take off the waxed paper. The inside will need additional time to dry. It can take up to 24 hours total to dry depending on size.
Option: Drape clay over a greased, oven-proof container and bake in a 300-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes depending on size and thickness. Younger children should ask an older sibling or adult for help with the oven.
Challenge: Decorate the outsides of your pieces with materials you have at home.
Simplify: Let younger children use as play dough. The clay can be stored in an air-tight container for up to three days. Food coloring can also be used as a colorant.
This idea brought to you by Maggie Burgan.
Show your love with tie-dye hearts
This is a fun and easy project that can be used to share messages of hope and support with those you love.
- Paper coffee filters
- Spray bottle for water
- Sharpie (optional)
- Protective table covering (ink from the markers will bleed through the coffee filter)
1. Use your markers to create designs and patterns on the coffee filters.
2. When you are finished, place coffee filters on an old towel or disposable table covering. Spray the coffee filters lightly with water. Start with just a few sprays and watch the colors spread. You only need to spray one side. (Be careful not to use too much water or all your ink will bleed out.)
3. When the coffee filters have dried, fold them in half and cut out the shape of half a heart with the fold down the center.
4. Put glue around the edge of one side of the heart. Use small pieces of crumpled-up filters or recycled paper as stuffing. Place the top filter over the stuffing and press down on the glued edges to form a pocket.
5. Add glue to the other side of the heart, add a few more pieces of crumbled paper, and press seams together.Let glue dry.
6. Write a word to reflect on or a message to share with someone you love.
Challenge: Make several more hearts and string them together to form a garland or banner.
Simplify: Pre-cut filters into heart shapes.
Create your own Chihuly-like sculpture
Inspired by Royal Blue Mint Chandelier by Dale Chihuly that hangs in the Carroll Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown, this project incorporates layering and mixing colors while using recycled materials from home. Watch how Royal Blue Mint Chandelier was moved to the Mint Museum Uptown.
- Old wire hanger (the thinner the metal, the easier it is to bend)
- Recycled plastic bottles
- Paint brush
- Scissors (pointed tip work best)
- Corks (optional)
- Pliers or metal snips (optional)
NOTE: This project is geared to older children and teens. To simplify this for younger children, precut the plastic bottles and begin at step 4.
1. Begin by removing the paper rod from the hanger. Either bend or snip off ends of the hanger so that the corks can be attached. If you don’t have any corks or wire cutters, just bend the two ends of the hanger in opposite directions. This will create the bottom of your chandelier and keep the plastic bottles from falling off the hanger. Option: If you don’t have a metal hanger, you can create a sculpture that sits flat.
2. Using scissors, cut off the tops or bottoms of the plastic bottles. Squeezing the bottle flat makes cutting easier. Once that is done, cut on a spiral or in straight lines stopping near the top. Leave enough of the top or bottom of the bottle so that they can be stacked together. Alternating tops and bottoms will create space between layers. Play with both options to see which one appeals to you before cutting all your bottles. (The thickness of the plastic bottles varies by brand; you may need to ask someone for help with the cutting).
3. If you are using the bottoms of the bottles be careful not to make the hole too big or it will not stay on the hanger. (See lower part of the photo). If you are using the tops of the bottles, cut just below the mouth of the bottle where the plastic becomes thinner. (See upper part of the photo).
4. After you have decided how many bottles you want to use and how you will stack them, paint them any way you like. If you want the bottom of your chandelier to be seen, paint or decorate your corks. Make sure the paint is dry before assembling.
5. Slide each bottle over the top of the hanger, stacking one inside the other. Bending or rolling the plastic strips in the opposite direction will take out some of the curl and create a straighter piece. Have fun creating your own unique work of art!
Challenge: Build a wire armature to create a larger piece. Be sure to watch the video below to see how Dale Chihuly built his chandelier. Add a strand of battery operated mini lights to make this project shine!
Freshen up with contemporary patterned pots
Get excited for spring and explore color, shape, and pattern with this fun terracotta pot-painting activity. This project is inspired by Thomas Downing’s painting, Grid 5, which features a circle, repeated in variations of color and subtle patterning within a grid-like structure.
- Any old terracotta pot, just make sure to clean it well first
- Acrylic paint (try house paint if you don’t have art acrylics)
- Paint brush
- Water cup for brush cleaning
- Something to use as a paint palette (paper plate, wax paper, etc)
- Paper towels and newspaper to manage mess
- Masking tape or painters tape (not required)
*Note that acrylic paint is not washable. If you are collaborating with a young child, dress for a mess, and supervise at all times. Or, try a similar process with washable materials on paper, instead.
Brainstorm what colors and patterns you want on your planter. Think about using repetition of line and shape to create patterns. Explore how different colors interact with one another.
Map out your design onto your pot. Use a pencil to lightly draw your design onto the pot. Lay out strips of tape if you want to create stripes or clean lines with your design.
Paint your pot. Start with the large designs, and work your way to the more detailed areas. Be sure to let areas dry between coats. If you make a mistake, you can simply let the area dry and then come back and paint over it. Try to leave areas of your pot unpainted. This will help the soil and pot to dry out between waterings, and mimics Downing’s use of unprimed or raw canvas.
Exhibit your artwork. Once you’re satisfied with your creation, find somewhere special to display it at home.
Inspire the young designer with simple sewing
This family activity introduces the art of sewing to young children and is inspired by the Impressionist painting Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing, by John Leslie Breck. Parents can cut fun shapes from cardboard, punch holes, and encourage children to practice stitching.
Along with the fun and creative opportunities simple sewing provides, it also has many benefits for children including:
- Pincer grasp development
- Knowledge of bilateral coordination (using both hands)
- Motor planning
- Eye-hand coordination and visual scanning
- Cardboard or cardstock to cut into shapes
- Hole punch or pencil to make holes
- Yarn, embroidery thread or shoelace
- Markers or watercolor paints
Work with your child to plan a shape to draw on the cardboard. Cut the shape out. We selected a T-shirt and socks to “mend” with yarn. Have fun drawing, coloring, or painting designs and details on the cardboard.
Punch holes throughout your cardboard shape with a hole punch or pencil. Adults should do this part. Cut the desired length of yarn or thread, taping one end to the back to secure it, then use the other end to make a “needle” tip by tightly wrapping tape around it. A shoelace works well for this too.
Show your child how to “stitch” in and out of the holes. Let them make their own random designs.This should be a fun exercise for young children, who can pull the yarn out and stitch over and over again.
View the painting Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing together and expand the learning experience. What do you think the young woman is sewing? If you were there with her, what sounds might you hear, and scents can you smell? What is the weather like there? What would you say to her?
Make Your Own Spring Flower Necklace
Spring is a time of rebirth. Flowers are popping up and bringing color back into the world. This project was inspired by Frozen, 2011, a nature-themed necklace by artist Sam Tho Duong. Imagine what the frozen seeds would look like if they thawed and bloomed.
This project has lots of room for creative variation. It can work with felt or paper. The necklace can be made with pipe cleaners, ribbon, or string. Another option is to use the flowers to create a wreath or a card to give to someone you love for spring holidays, birthdays, or Mother’s Day. Experiment with texture and color to create a unique arrangement.
- Felt or colored paper*
- Pipe cleaners, ribbon, or string (optional)
- Pencil or chalk
- Liquid glue (tacky works best on fabric)
- Round object such as a mason jar or roll of tape to trace different size circles
- Buttons or beads for decoration (optional)
*Note: if you don’t have felt or colored paper, no problem. Just use plain paper and color with crayons, colored pencils, watercolors or markers.
Use pipe cleaners to form a necklace. Cut and twist smaller pieces to create knots or branches. Do not join the two ends together yet; you will attach them to the base later.
Fold green material in half and cut out a leaf shape. Be sure to avoid cutting on the fold. When you open it, it will look like two leaves connected. This will be the base on which you will glue your flowers.
Bend and glue a pipe cleaner to the back of the leaves and let dry. The two ends of the pipe cleaner should extend beyond the leaves; this is where you will attach the necklace later.
Start with a piece of felt or colored paper. Trace and cut out a circular shape. (It does not need to be perfect!)
Using a pencil or chalk, draw a spiral from the outer edge to the middle of the circle. Cut along your pencil line.
Beginning with the inside end of your spiral, roll your material tightly using your thumb and forefinger to hold it in place as you add layers. Put a small amount of glue on the tail end to keep it together and let dry. Continue making different size and color flowers. You can turn one of the smaller size flowers upside down and it will look like a bud.
Once all your pieces are finished, glue the flowers to the base. Use old buttons or beads to decorate the center. Once everything is dry, connect the base to the other two branches of the necklace by twisting them together.
Option: If you prefer to make a card, fold a piece of paper in half and glue the paper flowers to the front.
Challenge: Instead of cutting right on the line, cut a scalloped edge or use patterned craft scissors for visual interest. Add details such as leaves.
Simplify: Use larger paper and/or pre-cut spirals.
This idea brought to you by Maggie Burgan.
14 pro tips to take your best snapshots while sheltering at home and beyond
As we continue to make sense of our reality, many are taking notes, and finding other ways to document their daily experiences. Snapshots of day-to-day adventures at home and front porch photo sessions are ways to capture life during a pandemic that we aren’t soon to forget.
Capture the Moment
Look for context
“Think about your pictures as lasting documents of how things were in this very surreal moment in all of our lives,” says Logan Cyrus, a photojournalist based in Charlotte whose work has published in The New York Times, Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. “Try not to stage things.”
Get a close-up
While we’re practicing social distancing in our communities, we don’t have to do that in our backyards, says N.C.-based visual artist Micah Cash, whose installation Waffle House Vistas was featured in The Mint’s Coined in the South exhibition. “Get close to your subject and remove wasted space in your images. If I’m photographing a tomato plant, then I need to get close to it. Same with an image of my son watering the garden: The camera needs to be close enough to show that he is the subject. Don’t crop it later. Zoom with your feet and get close,” he says.
Close-ups are particular great when photographing children. “Get the camera on their level or lower, and in their space,” says commercial photographer Adam Whitlow who owns Latch Creative. “You never know what they’re going to do next, and if you are too far away the moment won’t have the same impact.”
Sneak a snapshot
Capture a truly candid moment by snapping a picture when your subject isn’t looking or is busy doing something, suggests Kim Hutchinson, whose work has been featured at various galleries in the city. “Go abstract. Not every image has to be crisp and perfectly balanced. Find joy in imperfection,” she says.
Still life is real life
Humans and pets aren’t the only interesting subjects to photograph. Consider a still photo set up of spring flowers, pandemic puzzle projects, or new recipes simmering on the stove.
“Spring brings an abundance of color and life. Try macro photography and put together arrangements of items that capture your story now. Play with different backgrounds and moody light to create drama,” Whitlow says.
Think about the “why”
Are you a parent? Is your child in the middle of a temper tantrum? Maybe that’s a good time to make a picture, Cyrus says. “We want to remember the fun of writing inspiring messages on a sidewalk with chalk but we also want to remember the difficulty of being at our homes all day and how we managed to get through it.”
The best photos aren’t posed
Make a game of it, says Elly Kinne, CEO and lead photographer for Weddings by BlueSky. “Play with your child, pup or catch your spouse in a laugh. When you see a beautiful moment, take that photo.”
Think Outside the Frame
Find a new angle
Break away from the convenient eye-level camera angle says Jeff Cravotta, owner of Cravotta Photography and one of the talents behind Charlotte Ballet’s beautiful photography. “Lay down on the ground to either have an ant’s-eye view or look up to your subject, climb up someplace high to look down at your subject,” he says.
Be aware of what’s in the background
Don’t want that trash can in the background? Move it or move yourself, advises UNC Charlotte associate professor of photography Aspen Hochhalter. “Make sure everything that’s included in your viewfinder or on your screen is something you want in your photo. You have ultimate control of what is included in your frame, all you need to do is notice the details in your scene.”
Look for the novel and unexpected
“The photo (above) was taken at a dumpster,” says wedding and portrait photographer Richard Israel. Look for unusual locations and let the reflective colors soak onto your subject.”
Keep your subject in open shade for flattering light, and use as small an aperture as possible or portrait mode on your phone for that out of focus background, he says.
The Right Light
Embrace the “magic hours”
The first hour of the day and the last hour of the day are the best opportunities for photography,” Hutchinson says. “This is due to the lower angle of the light and how it is filtered through the atmosphere and the environment. If you can manage to shoot either earlier or later in the day you will get better results with natural light.”
Harsh midday sun isn’t flattering and is difficult to control, Whitlow says. “Try to find a shady spot or position for your subject so the sun is behind them, and use your flash to light their faces.” If you feel like adding other techniques, find some white foam core or poster board and try to bounce light back into your subject or use a thin white fabric to diffuse harsh sun, he says.
Don’t be afraid to play with exposure
Many photographers prefer to put their subjects in shade, so that the lighting is more balanced. If you usually shoot at 200 ISO in sunlight, try shooting at 400 ISO in the shade, says music and event photographer Daniel Coston.
If your subject is in the sun and they look too bright, just drag your exposure down before you take the photo, Kinne says. “On an iphone, just click on your subject on your screen, a bar will show up, drag the exposure up or down depending on the look you are going for.”
What about lighting inside?
“Window light, window light, window light,” says wedding photographer Casey Hendrickson. But not directly hitting your subjects. “I always like to photograph at a 90-degree angle to my subject when shooting inside to have the proper depth and shadows, but also ensure that colors remain true.” If the light is too harsh, and shadows are too contrasted, try placing sheer white/ivory curtains over the window to diffuse the light, she says.
Let the grid be a guide
Use the grid setting on your camera to compose your image according to the rule of thirds, says Cash. “When turned on, you can line the subject matter onto one of the intersections or along one of the lines to make a more natural and balanced photograph. But feel free to break this rule when you want an image to be more formal, jarring, or stark. Knowing the rule allows you to break it creatively when your image needs it.”
Create motion and try time-lapse
“For many people, time is practically standing still. Time-lapse can provide that much needed assurance that life is still moving forward,” Whitlow says. Find a scene that has repetitive action and is evolving within the frame. “This could be as simple as someone perpetually throwing a ball to the dog or the endless stream of walkers and bikers on your street. Set your camera on a tripod or stabilize it somehow and be patient.”
Israel suggests creating a sense of motion by panning the camera with your subject.
Flash or no flash?
Using a flash is good if you are in a room with very little light, or just want to get that perfect posed photo of a group of people. However, using a flash can seem a bit much to some people and kids, Coston warns.
“Look up your camera’s ISO setting, take it off of the auto setting, and increase the ISO to 800 or 1600 if you are indoors. This way, you can take photos without a flash, and there will be less motion in the photos,” he says. “Whatever you are into, whether it’s your family, job, travel or everyday life, it all means a lot to you. If you want to document it, you should. No matter how good or bad of a photographer that you think you are. It’s your eyes through whichever camera you have with you, even if that’s just your phone.”
Ice investigations: A ‘cool’ project for kids
Freeze odds and ends from around the house in a water-filled resealable bag or plastic container, and dig them out again using tools you have on hand. Inspired by artist Danny Lane’s Threshold—a sculptural glass installation comprising an undulating wall of glass rods with colorful objects and lights placed behind—the process-based project promotes eye-hand coordination, builds vocabulary and critical-thinking skills, and is lots of fun.
- Large zip lock bag or plastic container (make sure it fits in your freezer!)
- Objects to freeze
- Real or toy hammer, metal or wooden spoon, chopsticks, peeler etc. (depending on the age and ability of the child)
- Optional: gloves, safety goggles or sunglasses, food coloring, magnifying glass
Put the resealable bag it into a bowl or container and add water. Let your child add the items one by one, observing whether the items sink or float or look different in the water. Seal the bag, removing the air, and place it in the freezer. Occasionally peek at the bag as it is freezing to see how things are changing.
Assemble your excavation tools. Be sure to take safety precautions if using any sharp tools! Once your ice is frozen, remove from container. Make observations about shape, weight, texture. Are there air bubbles? Do the objects look different from different angles?
While you wait for the water to freeze, watch this short video about the sculpture, Threshold, that inspired this activity.
Once frozen, take everything outside if you can, or place it in a tub or larger container. Experiment with chipping away at the ice with different “excavation” tools to reveal hidden objects.
Encourage children to freely experiment and experience the process, and talk about what you see and feel as the melting process occurs.