Thursday, 20 February 2014

⧈ A toy hotel for Zee B ⧈

I wanted to share this, a simple project that taught me that having a lack of resources can be a GOOD thing. 

I found myself living in a beachside room in Cape Town, the one place in the world where fresh air is really really um... fresh. It hurls in straight from the Antarctic. It's gulp able, restorative and sometimes full to the edges with negative ions. And it never stops rolling in over the endless metronomic waves. It's exhausting to watch for too long. It's like thinking about infinity. Ouch.
Whilst living in this beautiful location and watching this endless sea, I didn't have any furniture and Cape Town prices for second hand stuff is waaaaay too expensive for temporary measures, so after making a bedside table out of a cardboard box and a scarf I got an idea. A creeping little voice that wouldn't go away. We had a young lady staying with us who needed to put her toys and clothes somewhere tidy. I decided to embark on a project that cost a few pence, was hours of fun to make and is now an iconic shelving system. 

If anyone would like to make one you only need some cardboard boxes, masking tape, newspapers, wallpaper paste and paint. I got a load of cardboard boxes from the Wine Shop. Wine in Cape Town is delicious, high quality and very well priced. They also have lots of strong boxes to throw away which I pounced upon. After deciding my arrangement I started to bind the boxes together with masking tape. If I had access to better supplies I would have probably used a gaffer tape or possibly even soaked strips of fabric in white PVA glue but this was the first time so I can give you the fruits of my learning curve. 

This is what it looked like at that stage

I then added a few extras to make it seem more interesting to an investigative child,  I added a secret compartment and a decorative heart cut from the cardboard. I wish I had added a couple of metal rings that screw into things as it would have been cool to hang things from it too, bunting, jewellery, key rings, goggles etc...

I put a lot more masking tape on after I snapped the above image, I wanted to be sure the boxes would stay together and the tape wasn't very good quality, you can see it starting to peel off. Next task was to tear free newspapers into strips, I used a piece of wood, You could use a strong ruler...put the newspaper piles under it with a strip sized piece showing and tear strips against the wood edge. 

Make your wallpaper paste up, a bit thicker than the usual wet slop and I pulled the strips of newspaper through the paste and used my fingers in a scissor action to wipe off the excess slop. It was messy, we did it outside. Kids get bored with this after a while so just let them have a go. You get to do loads of it. It helps that it was sunny and breezy in Cape Town that week. 
Patience is required and a certain meditative quality sets in as you glue strips, wait for them to dry and then start all over again. It's papier mache essentially. I did the back, the underneath and the insides of boxes paying special attention to box joints. The boxes get wet and warp but that just adds to the charm for me, they can be propped up whilst drying. It is very fragile when wet but brittle tough when dry. I think I managed about 5 layers of paper before I got tired of it. It looked nice like this, I left it to dry out for around a week. It shouldn't be moved whilst wet, get someone to help you if you need to put it in a drying place. I sat it on newspaper which I peeled off after. 
Here's a close up of those joints, layered up with extra strips...if I did it again, these would get reinforced with plasterer's scrim mesh tape.
The heart detail needed a bit of jiggery pokery but in the end I wrapped newspaper through and around the heart opening.
I painted the whole thing with white emulsion, it was the cheapest thing I could find and I was now on a mission to spend as little as possible.  
I managed a couple of coats, it took ages what with all those surfaces.

At this stage it actually looked like I imagined it would which is an achievement in itself for a creative idea being born into reality. It's easy to get distracted on the path of making but I was quite tenacious about finishing this and I did have a little helper who was really enjoying the making. She didn't really understand where I was going with it all but she mucked in like a Mini Trooper Art Assistant Deluxe.

Ready for embellishment (although I liked it like this)
the light and shadow make enough of a pattern for me.

I wanted to dwell on my favourite architecture in Cape Town for inspiration.

But these are my ethereal and wafty artist ways and I had to attend to the important matter of getting this project finished and accepted a helping hand from a very excited young lady.

What would you have done with it at this stage? I would love to know...

We set about making a kind of English Garden Theme as we had done a lot of birdwatching, plant picking and garden viewing. A little corner of Cape Town was made into an English garden to remind us of home. No sketching, straight in with paint and brushes. We donned knickers and headscarves and painted an afternoon away. The very best thing to do whether you are 5 or 50.

Spot the garden worms for the birds to eat?
Insects and bees and frogs and dragonflies and birds, of course.
And a throbbing pink heart thrown in to remind us all of what is important.
When LouLouLOves makes something then the heart has to become part of it.
Little ZeeB wanted to sit in every shelf when it was finished but she didn't quite fit which was just as well. It's a tough piece but not a climbing frame.
But it gave me an idea to make a puppet theatre in the same fashion.
I might do one with Aubrey when he get's older, a circus booth for putting on 
The Greatest Show In Town.

And here is is in situ, in all it's glory.
The piece is still used a year later as a toy hotel and is much loved.
I want to make another one, a grown up one...
Cost £7.50. 


Sarah said...

Brilliant! Such a good idea and so cheap! We just made a large Chinese New Year Horse at school with much the same method and the kids loved doing that. Glad your little helper had fun and got such a great set of shelves to store her stuff!

chocolategirl64 said...

adorable thrift! I made a dolls house for Hayley in the same way {too many years ago} using the cardboard boxes that our flat pack kitchen came in: such fun :-)
lovely to have you back to the blog world LouLou X

louloulovesbooks said...

Oooh some good ideas here ladies. I think I will go for a puppet theatre next. More like a punch and judy booth without the domestic violence! Thanks for your comments. It's lovely to be back xx

Francesca said...

v lovely. an endearing wonkyness yet perfectly practical :-)

Anonymous said...

So good to see your gorgeous blog back. Yeh. I love the wardrobe/toy house unit. I could see some Sylvanian Families wanting to move into that! x

A bird in the hand said...

What a fabulous project. I'm eyeing cardboard boxes with new respect.

Lizzie said...

It just shows that fabulous doesn't have to cost money!
What a great job you both did.
(Now I could do with a bit of extra storage in my studio...hmmm...).
I'm so glad you're back!