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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Making Art Together

The Lifecycle of a Cardboard Box

Over the past few months we have been experimenting with cardboard boxes and they have provided ongoing inspiration for Art Studio guests and Art Educators alike. We are always fascinated to see how many ways we can interact with and transform one material over time. We just can’t stop exploring cardboard as one idea leads to another!

Our experiments with cardboard started when we collected recycled boxes for Materials Play, a program offered at The Carle for preschoolers and their families. By cutting out two sides of the boxes and perforating the other surfaces with holes, the boxes provided an interesting structure for guests to weave yarn and ribbons around, in and out of.

We were struck by the way the ribbons and yarn patterned the surfaces of the box. We wanted to use the boxes to create theaters for a puppet-making project in the Art Studio, and the weaving gave us an idea for how we could turn these theaters into an interactive and engaging visual display. We continued weaving and lined the inside of the boxes with brightly colored paper. By cutting the bottoms out of the boxes, puppets (and people!) could pop up into the theaters to perform.

The theaters provided a fun platform for storytelling, drama and imagination. The different colors inside the boxes suggested a variety of scenes and scenarios to explore, from an ocean to the surface of Mars.

After the puppet project wrapped up we still weren’t ready to say goodbye to the boxes. We decided to deconstruct them to see what we could reuse. We find that sometimes by changing the material and then re-organizing it, we are able to look with fresh eyes and new ideas emerge.

During the process of deconstruction, an Art Studio guest became intrigued by the open structure of the box once the sides had been cut out. They used it as a structure to hang their mobiles. Yet another way to use a box!

As we cut the sides off of the boxes we noticed that they created large flat surfaces with holes, and these holes reminded us of craters on the moon. We had been searching for new display ideas for the Art Studio and we decided to create a lunar cycle out of our boxes. We used a compass to trace large circles and cut these out carefully with a box cutter.

We drew different phases of the moon onto the cardboard circles.

Recalling how much we liked the weaving effect on the cardboard, we used warm tones of yarn to weave the different shapes of the phases. Our team worked on these weavings over a week, picking up where others left off if they had a moment between studio tasks.

We used extra circles to make a similarly constructed window hanging.

Seeing the circles against the window gave us another idea and we used the last of our cardboard boxes to create rings filled with cellophane and tissue paper to create colorful hangings for the window.

Some of the circles are attached directly to the window with glue dots, and others hang from fishing line so that guests can move the rings and overlap the colors and patterns to explore light and color mixing. At this stage the boxes have been used in at least five different projects and displays in the Art Studio over the course of four months. We can’t wait to see where cardboard takes us next!



We enjoy exploring materials and ideas in the Art Studio, and we’re excited to share our process with you! Please consider the following factors when adapting these posts for your learning environment: 

We facilitate a variety of programs within the Art Studio for a wide range of age groups. Please carefully consider the age appropriateness of each individual activity in your own learning environment.

Our projects are always done with adult supervision and proper safety precautions. Be sure all of your projects are overseen by adults who likewise follow proper safety precautions. The adults overseeing your project must also be responsible for handling or assisting with any potentially harmful equipment or materials. 

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not responsible for any damages, injuries or liabilities that result from any activities contained within this website, and we expressly disclaim any responsibility or liability therefor. From time to time, we reference materials that we have found to be particularly important in our projects. We do not receive any monetary compensation for recommending materials. 


by Meg Nicoll

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 5th, 2017 at 11:00 am and is filed under By Meg Nicoll, Displays & Window Shades, Found Materials, Toddlers, Light, Our Favorite Materials, Paper, Sculpture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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