Cardboard as Art: The Coolest Places on the Web

September 27th, 2010

Cardboard art and sculpture is quickly becoming an art form to be reckoned with and nowhere is that more evident than on the Internet. Cardboard artists are using the Internet to display their work, attract fans and sell pieces of their craft. Aside from our humble blog of course, below are some of the coolest places to visit if you want to know more about this up and coming art form.

Cardboard Safari
This website primarily offers customers the chance to decorate their walls with laser-cut, three-dimensional cardboard sculptures of animal trophies. A very small company out of Charlottesville, Virginia, Cardboard Safari will mail you a deceptively flat-looking package filled with cardboard slats and a set of instructions, the assembly of which adds to the fun of having a mounted moose, bison, rhino, buck or elephant. Each animal comes as a micro, medium or large trophy, with rhinos also available in the same sizes as full-bodied sculptures, offering flexibility in price and size so you get the right fit. Though animal-themed, Cardboard Safari has also branched out to sell holiday items such hearts, trees and skulls.

If animals aren’t really your thing, cardboarddesign is a design company located in New York City specializing in eco-friendly toys, furniture and vases. Cardboarddesign seeks to be more of a fun lifestyle choice than artwork displayed for viewing, with products as practical and functional as tables and chairs. Their new product line is a bit more artistic though, and promises to be a big seller as it is one of the most interesting products available. Liquid cardboard is a series of products that are designed to easily be pushed, pulled and shifted into new shapes, functioning as an intriguing centerpiece to any coffee table.

Karton Art Design
Karton Art Design is a Hungarian design company that combines cardboard and upper end furniture. Though it may be a bit pricier than certain kinds of conventional furniture, it is imbued with an elegant sense of style that is near priceless. Their products include desks, bookcases and wardrobes, and all come with a 3-year warrantee.

Foldschool is a website run by Nicola Enrico Staubli, a Swiss architect, with the goal of freely educating people in the construction of simple children’s cardboard furniture. Claiming to be strong enough to support an adult, Staubli has made the designs and instructions available free of charge, in an effort to help people make a quality product at an affordable price. The available designs are currently a stool, a chair and a rocker. Though they are meant for children, they provide a fun way to reuse and recycle some of the cardboard that is so often thrown out, as well as cultivate some skills that can be used for bigger and better homemade cardboard furniture.

Chris Gilmour
Chris Gilmour is an English artist using cardboard in a complexity that baffles the mind. At his website, you can peruse his numerous creations, each with such detail they appear to be real at first glance. Gilmour fashions the majority of his pieces to scale, making them even more unbelievable. In his work there is no artistic interpretation; he attempts to recreate them with cardboard exactly as they would appear when made from the correct materials.

Located in Seattle, Washington, Graypants is a design studio run by two graduates from Kent State University that have managed to use cardboard and other recycled material in inventive and compelling ways. Currently, the only products they have for sale are upper end light fixtures inspired by planets and stars. They are beautifully constructed out of layered cardboard and give off an ethereal glow. Though not yet available, their concepts are even more intriguing and show a lot of promise for this studio.

10 Everyday Cardboard Products

September 27th, 2010

Cardboard, like all paper products in general, is used in a surprising number of ways in everyday life. It is strong, readily available in all forms, light and easy to throw away, and easily recyclable. The next time you go to lump all your trash together, stop and think about how easy it is to make a difference, save a little money, and recycle these cardboard items- or just hang on to them and enjoy the wonder of cardboard.

1. Pizza Boxes
They open up like giant clams, and are greasy and cheesy inside; it is enough to make anybody nostalgic for college, where pizza is one of the main food groups. But those pizza boxes are good old-fashioned corrugated cardboard and are thus, reusable and recyclable.

2. Shoe Boxes
With the way they make shoes these days, you can’t go more than a year or two without buying a new pair. Shoe boxes are great for so many things, from dioramas for school, to a hiding place for those embarrassing high school love notes.

3. Cardboard Personality Cutouts
These act as the perfect oddball decorative item, especially for the grungy college apartment. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be placed almost anywhere. Just be sure to have a great story ready for when you’re asked about it.

4. Cereal Boxes
Cereal boxes are always coated in waxy characters and advertisements on the front, cartoons and puzzles on the back, and more often than not, a prize inside that you can fight your siblings for.

5. Milk Cartons
It used to come in a glass bottle, delivered by a man who was all dressed in white. Now if you’re buying less than a gallon, your milk (and even juice) most likely comes in a cardboard carton.

6. Sports Cards
Sure companies try to make them shiny to attract attention but underneath that all that wax, sports cards are printed on a thin kind of cardboard, similar to cereal boxes.

7. Display Boards
We all remember what it was like in high school, staying up late the night before a project was due, hastily gluing fun facts to a tri-fold display board, the majority of which are made of corrugated cardboard. With a little removable mounting tape, you can reuse that display board for years, through college and for business presentations.

8. Chinese Takeout Cartons
Another creative way that cardboard allows delicious food to reach our homes (see ‘pizza boxes’). Other than fortune cookies, Chinese food cartons are the most fun accompaniment to your dinner. It just wouldn’t feel the same if the food came in anything else.

9. Home Appliance Boxes
Home appliances are often packaged in larger cardboard boxes, offering a wider variety of uses the second time around. Even you’re online shopping goods will be delivered in a cardboard box. If you’re ever planning to move, these are good to hang on to when it comes to pack everything up.

10. Toilet Paper Tubes
Enabling citizens everywhere, everyday, to access and roll off their toilet paper with ease. Maybe you’ve never thought about it before, but could you imagine your bathroom without them? Can also be used for any number of arts and crafts projects and to distract your pet cats for hours on end.

Arts & Crafts with Cardboard

September 27th, 2010

So the new refrigerator arrived, and it’s standing bright and proud in the kitchen, but you’re left with a monstrous cardboard box you have no idea what to do with. Just the thought of breaking it down to fit in the recycling bin makes you cringe, doesn’t it? But it seems a terrible shame to toss out such a fabulous toy for the kids. Why not have some fun with it! Get the kids in on this, because they are going to love what they can do with an empty cardboard box of any size!

Large boxes
Amongst the simplest of transformations is the ‘house’ box, which can be as easy as laying the box long ways and carving out a window or two, then stuffing bedding inside while keeping at least one end open. Of course, this can be painted or otherwise decorated by the kids with a parent’s help, but a plain box works just as well.

As children mature, so does their taste in toys- but that cardboard box never loses its shine; castles, with working gates can be made, complete with easy to add construction paper turrets. Cardboard castles can be elaborate or minimal, both with the same child-pleasing results. Large boxes are also fantastic for rocket ships, barns, and dollhouses. A robot costume is always a fun and popular option, and one of the easiest to configure. A hand puppet theater is another classic. These massive boxes can also be used practically, such as for the storage of stuffed animals or toys, and painted as you please.

Medium boxes
Decorate a plain medium box and cut two holes out of the back, big enough for a child’s arms to extend through. Then place a bowl of unknown substance in the box, and let a child reach through the holes and try to determine the contents of the bowl. This works very well for Halloween when spaghetti noodles can be used for intestines, peeled grapes for eyeballs, and gelatin for brains.

A small nightstand can be created using a medium box, decorated or painted however the child likes. Cardboard boxes can also play host to a collage of pictures cut out from magazines and glued onto it. This kind of project is great for interaction, verbal communication, and analytical thinking. It’s not all about fun, though it will certainly seem that way!

For mom or grandmother, or anyone who has rolls and rolls of ribbon, this size box makes the perfect ribbon dispensary. Thin dowels punctured into the side of a cardboard box, which has been reduced in depth by 3/4ths, can be hung on the wall or back of a door and used as a gift ribbon holder.

Small boxes
This size is great for more personal fun. Of course, boxes are well known for their storage capabilities, so why not use them, right? They make excellent crayon holders when painted or covered in construction paper, with a hole cut out of the top, tissue-box style. A small cardboard box can be crafted into a lovely photo display.

A shoebox can be transformed into a guitar if you’re so inclined, with a bit of string, some tape, a little glue, and a cardboard ‘neck’. Beautiful beads can be made from cardboard cereal boxes, stripped and rolled into oval shapes, laminated with aluminum foil for ‘bling’ factor, and strung. Or maybe your little ones are in need of a cardboard mailbox for Valentine’s Day cards, or a clever little sliding tooth fairy box?

There are so many fun, educational, and functional crafts that can be done with a cardboard box of any size! Many internet sites offer free ideas, pictures, and even patterns. While it may require a bit of time for an adult to assist in their making, cardboard arts and crafts are their own reward, offering hours of imaginative play, and helping to sharpen your child’s motor, analytical, and creative skills. Hurrah for empty cardboard boxes- the possibilities are endless!

Cardboard: The Paper that Lasts

September 27th, 2010

Records have come and gone, VHS tapes are all but extinct, but cardboard has been around longer and shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, as more demonstrations of its strength and longevity are witnessed, the more we, as a people, fall in love with this paper that boasts the rigidity of the mighty oak. A ubiquitous presence, it is a rare moment indeed when someone pauses to ponder the origins of cardboard; after all, it’s everywhere. But the term ‘cardboard’ is very generic. Most of those who specialize in cardboard products carefully use more descriptive and specific terms, such as paperboard and corrugated cardboard.

Cardboard: Its History and Evolution
It is believed that cardboard was first invented in China in the 15th century, though the first commercial cardboard box was presented in England in 1817. This pleated paper was used for packing goods, and even as liners for tall hats. Pleated paper is the wavy stuff between the smooth front and back sheets on the cardboard we know today. It wasn’t until 1871 when Albert Jones of New York, New York would create the single-faced corrugated cardboard. Then, G. Smyth would improve upon that design in 1874 by adding another face, making the durable paper we use currently. Corrugated board has its two flat sheets (also known as liners or faces) covering the wavy paper made of short fibers. The waves in the paper perform a function, and resist being compacted when pressure is applied.

All paper products start out as wood first and the type of wood used makes a big difference in how the paper performs. Cardboard made from soft woods, like pine, have longer fiber pulp, which results in puncture resistance, are not very malleable, and so keep their shape, and are strong in tension. Cardboard made from hardwood (oak, elm) has shorter fibers, which ends up weak in tension and tears easily, but has good compression strength, and is easily moldable using heat and moisture. This makes for great furniture. The face sheets and the interior fluted sheet are then glued together using starch adhesives derived from wheat, corn, or potato.

Sounds sustainable, doesn’t it? It is fully biodegradable in 2- 3 months, depending on the climate conditions. Cardboard is very environmentally friendly, works well with recycled papers, and if you’ve never seen cardboard furniture, you’re in for a treat when you do. The paper can be made wood-thick, highly durable, and painted to your hearts’ desire. Extremely malleable, it can be twisted and turned into eye-catching designs that you would never believe was really cardboard in disguise. Cardboard can appear simple and unsophisticated, as well as trendy and stylish, that you would swear were bought off a showroom floor.

Cardboard and Its Myriad Uses
Not just furniture can be made of cardboard; so too can real working houses. In 2004, Australian architect Peter Ryan built an almost entirely-cardboard home in Southern Melbourne, Victoria, that was easily able to withstand the extremes of weather in the region, ranging from baking hot to pouring rains. This kind of innovative approach offers some astounding future applications, especially considering the need for emergency housing and disaster relief.

Have you ever noticed that about 10 minutes after a young child gets a big new toy, it’s abandoned for the delight of playing in the box, instead? It has become something of a joke, but it’s very true; kids love the free-reign of imagination a plain cardboard box offers them. They can get fancy too, and with the help of an adult, a child can turn boxes into forts, castles, pirate ships- anything they desire. So common a toy is the plain cardboard box, one was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2005, one of only a handful of non-brand specific toys.

The Future of Cardboard
Cardboard is wonderful, and has a very bright future ahead of it. It’s already done a fine job of outlasting the 8-track player. Cardboard is here to stay and this is hardly a bad thing. As the zeitgeist leans more and more towards being green and people cozy up to eco-friendly comforts, cardboard will be given its much deserved dues.

Green Art is on the Rise

September 27th, 2010

Green art was born out of the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which essentially started with the publication of Rachel Carlson’s Silent Spring. Environmental art sought to raise consciousness of the need to be mindful of nature. Though environmental art has been continuously evolving through the decades, its current incarnation is a mix between environmental art and sustainable art. This blend of the two has produced some truly remarkable forms of art, cardboard art among them.

Sustainable art is similar to environmental art, but is focused more on using what one has, or can easily find, and using it well. This form of art is very aware of its environment, whether political, social, economic, biological or ecological, and seeks to interact with these different environments to create a more lasting and sustainable world.

These art forms have seen abundant growth since the resurgence of the idea to leave behind a better world for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Slowly, people came to realize that however much fun it might be to drive a Hummer in the suburbs, it wasn’t necessary, and would harm the planet. You can’t go far without being reminded that there are 100 different ways to be sustainable and environmentally conscious, from buying fair trade coffee to driving a hybrid car.

So if art reflects the social consciousness at the time of its creation, it was only a matter of time before sustainable art saw a drastic rise, of which cardboard art would be an integral element.

It should be no surprise that this reemergence of sustainable and environmental art would eventually move beyond the bounds of art for art’s sake. Interior design and architecture also hopped on the environmental bandwagon and began incorporating many elements of sustainable art. Homes and furniture were being designed with the intent of leaving less of an impact for future generations.

Another reasons for environmental art’s popularity is because of how hip it has become to “go green”. Celebrities love to give back to the environment, endorse eco-friendly products and star in public service announcements promoting more sustainable living. Companies increasingly advertise how they are doing their part to lessen their environmental impact. It is one of the few instances where peer pressure is actually a good thing.

When taking all of these facts into consideration, it’s logical that paper arts, including cardboard art, would grow into the art form it is today. In our consumer-oriented society, everything we buy is enclosed in one of two materials: paper or plastic. It’s the age-old question that bag boys have been uttering for eons. And even when something is wrapped in plastic, there are pretty good chances it comes in a box, made of cardboard. Because of how much there is and how easy it is to work with, artists have begun using cardboard to great effect.