Wednesday, October 24, 2012

TUTORIAL: Little Rock Ghost Town

For a year now I've wanted to create a handmade Christmas village for my kids. My mom has one a store-bought version at their house and Lucy and Owen adore playing with it.  And making one from recycled items seemed like the way to go.  The problem I kept running into was was how to create the little people to go with the village.  Make them out of clothespins?  Wood?  I couldn't come up with the right solution....
...until this picture popped up on instagram (@danamadeit).  Thanks Annie!  And it all came together.   The project wasn't meant to be a Christmas village...but a Ghost Town! YES.
So we churned a bunch of cardboard and paint together, made a bowl of village folk, and with our bats and moon as the backdrop had the perfect Halloween hangout.  Welcome to Little Rock Ghost Town!
The idea is self-explanatory.
Take a bunch of old stuff and turn them into spooky houses and haunted hotels.
Endless possibilities!
But this wasn't just a fun project.
I. Loved. It.
(maybe more than the kids.)

It was pretty much like carving pumpkins....but even better!  Less messy, more options!   If we had done this growing up I would have been at the table for hours, cutting, gluing, pruning, tweaking.  And my siblings would have been right there with me.  I love this stuff!

I'm just a dork for recycled-goods-turned-to-cool-new-things type stuff.
And I've been saving these boxes and cylinders for months now waiting for the right project.
So the excitement is legit.

Here are a few notes...
• Grab whatever recyclables you have on-hand: cereal boxes, other food boxes, diaper boxes, oatmeal cans, kleenex boxes, etc. 
• Let the kids draw their design on the box (like carving a pumpkin) and then let mom and dad cut out the design with a knife or scissors.
• Cut out the back wall of the house so that it's open and easy for playtime.
• Use a hotglue gun to glue everything together. 
• Be as creative and crazy as you want!  Add a chimney with a hole in top for ghosts to slide down.  Create stairs?  Make a railing around the balcony. 

When your houses are ready, paint them with whatever you have on-hand.  I always have a range of spray paints in the garage but you can also use wall paint and a brush, or markers, or you could cover the whole thing with colorful paper.  Just talking about this makes me want build a few more houses... 
We sprayed the inside of the houses one color, let them dry, taped the windows shut, then sprayed the outside of the houses a different color.  Some of the cereal box words still show through under the paint but no biggie.  I did two coats of paint on each house.
And look! You've got some haunted buildings!  They just need a few more touches....
Use sharpies to outline all the windows, doors, trims, and roofs, to add texture and trees.  Then write words on the side of the hotel, etc.  This step makes a huge difference.  The silver sharpie on black paint is my favorite. 
And there you go!
Now for some spooky inhabitants: ROCK GHOSTS.
I can't take credit for this cool idea. The little rock ghosts come from Annily Green.  Isn't she genius?  Pet rocks turned to Ghost rocks.  Love it!  The hardest part was finding rocks that were flat on the bottom and would stand up.  
But the kids had fun searching for them down by the river.  Then we sprayed them with white paint, drew Sharpie faces, and created a whole new family with all the usual suspects....pirate, overly happy ghost, girly hair-bow ghost, grumpy ghost.  Oooooooo.
The total payoff of the project was how much the kids LOVED playing with these things!  I finished decorating the houses and ghosts at night while they were in bed, then I set them up on our half-wall.
In the morning you would have thought it was Christmas.  No joke.  They woke up before us and I could hear them in the hallway whispering and squealing about the different ghost faces, and the tree on the house, and the names of the hotels, and how fun it looked when you shined your flashlight in the window.  
Then they gave names to every ghost.   They came up with a "Boo Boo Inn" song.  And they played with those things for 3 days straight. 
Best Halloween project yet.  
Yay for recycled family fun, both day and night. 

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