Archive for the 'DIY Tutorial' Category

Make This: Vinyl Toy Mini-Amp


I’m a big urban vinyl toy collector, and I especially love Kidrobot’s Munny line. If you’re not familiar with them, Munnys are customizable figures that are totally suited to makers and DIY-lovers alike. I’ve been tinkering with a few examples to show at this month’s vinyl toy-themed Urban Armor teen workshop with Mark Gutting and came up with both a fun and utilitarian Munny project that I hope you enjoy!

One of the coolest things about Munnys is that you can pretty much turn them into anything you want with the right materials. You can find terrific instructions on how to turn a Munny into a speaker, so I thought I’d combine that idea with an Altoids mini-amp project that I was recently working on to create a Munny mini-amp for an MP3 player or smartphone. What’s nice about it is that the amp provides a little more juice for your music than the speaker alone, and since they are separate components, you can make more Munny speakers and interchange them with the amp. You can also use the amp with most any type of MP3 gadget!


This is definitely a more intermediate to advanced-level project for ages 13 and up that would be perfect to do over a weekend. You’ll also need a few specialized tools and basic knowledge of circuits and soldering.

What you need:

  • Munny mini-figure
  • Mini speaker: This can be scavenged from an old pair of computer speakers, etc. I used a 1½” speaker to fit the figure’s head
  • Exacto knife
  • Pencil
  • Spray paint (make sure to get one that works on metal and plastic)
  • Altoids tin
  • Mini amp components: I used Canakit’s 5W kit
  • Speaker wire
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Hair dryer
  • Single hole punch
  • Tin snips
  • Batting
  • Silicone glue or caulk
  • 9-volt adapter
  • Male to male audio cable
Some of the tools you will need

Some of the tools you will need

Step 1: Clean Your Munny

Carefully take apart your mini-figure and give it a nice bath using mild soap to remove any oils, residues, etc.


Step 2: Cut a hole for the speaker and cable

Using your speaker as a guide, mark a hole on the face of your Munny in pencil. Gently heat the vinyl with your hair dryer, making sure not to let it melt or warp. Cut the hole out with the exacto knife–be VERY careful because the warm vinyl cuts really easily. Test the fit with your speaker and cut away more material as needed.


Use your knife (or a cordless drill, if you have one) to make a hole at the bottom of your figure’s body for the speaker cable to pass through.


Step 3: Paint your figure

To make things easier, mount all of the vinyl parts on a styrofoam cup or something similar (I used a bottle and empty salt container) to spray paint. Take everything outside and give them a couple of nice, even coats. I gave the Altoids tin (which will be the housing for the amp) a coat as well, but it’s up to you.



Step 4: Get your electronics set up

Now’s the time to make sure all of your electronic components are ready to go. Solder wires onto your speaker terminals and put together the amp components. I won’t list all of the steps here, but if you are using the kit I mentioned above, it comes with a great set of assembly instructions.


Soldering wire to the speaker terminals


The assembled amp kit

Step 5: Assemble the Munny speaker

Thread the speaker wire through the bottom of the figure’s head, into the hole at the body’s neck, then out through the hole you drilled at the bottom of the body. Fill the head cavity with batting and then pop the speaker into the hole.




Now put all of the parts to your figure back together:


The finished Munny speaker

Step 6: Assemble the amp

Use the hole punch to make holes in the Altoids tin to accommodate the volume knob and input jacks for the amp kit. Mount the circuit board in place with the silicone caulk.


Assembled amp with access to volume knob, audio input, and adapter

Step 7: Plug everything in

Plug the amp into the power adapter, insert the speaker wires into the appropriate terminals, and the audio cable into the input jack. Plug the other end of the audio cable into your MP3 player or other device, adjust the volume of the amp, and crank out some tunes–the sound is actually pretty impressive!

There are multiple ways you can adapt this project, based on the components you have available. For instance, you could power the amp using a 9V battery instead of an adapter. If you come up with any mods or Munny projects of your own, feel free to email me your pics!

JC Bigornia
C3 Program Coordinator

Make This: Collagraphs


For our Urban Armor workshop this month, we focused on different printmaking techniques. We made some awesome block prints using linoleum blocks that we carved and ran through the printing press. We also played around with collagraphy, a fun and easy technique that you can do at home without a press or any other expensive materials.

In collagraphy, you collage an image to create a “plate.” You will then transfer the image from the plate by coating it with ink and pressing it against a new surface. The effect you get is different from a block print–it won’t be as clear, but you’ll get a neat, atmospheric-type of image. Keep in mind that, since you’re creating the plate out of paper, it won’t be as durable as linoleum or other materials, which will limit the number of times you can use it. Remember too that your print will be a mirror image, so if you plan to include text, make sure that it reads backwards on your plate.

What you need:

  • Collage materials (scrap paper, magazines, fabric scraps, etc., but nothing too thick)
  • A pair of scissors or x-acto knife
  • Glue
  • A pencil
  • Heavy paper (heavy drawing paper, watercolor paper, cardstock)
  • Smooth paper for printing (copy paper works in a pinch)
  • Gloss medium
  • Brush
  • Printing ink (I use water-based ink, available at craft stores)
  • Brayer (optional)
  • Paper plate for spreading ink
  • Baren or large spoon for burnishing
  • Scrap cloth or paper towels


Step 1: Make your plate

Create a collage on top of your piece of heavy paper–this is the image that will be printed. Experiment with layering things on top of each other; this will give your print different effects. Let the glue dry completely before moving on to the next step.


Cutting out designs

Collaging the plate

Collaging the plate

Step 2: Seal your plate 

Cover the entire plate with a thin layer of gloss medium. This creates a durable, smooth surface that will give you a good ink transfer and allow you to use the plate multiple times.


Sealing the plate with gloss medium

Step 3: Ink your plate

When your plate is dry, coat the surface with ink. You can do this with a brayer: put a dime-sized amount of ink on your paper plate and then roll it out with the brayer. Now roll the inked brayer across the surface of your image. If you don’t have a brayer, no worries! I dipped a paper towel into my ink and then wiped it onto my plate–it worked just as well. Whichever method you choose, be sure to wipe off excess ink in areas you don’t want printed using your scrap cloth or paper towels.


Inking the plate

Step 4: Print your plate 

Flip your plate face-down onto your piece of smooth printing paper. Using your baren or spoon, burnish the back of the plate. Then, carefully peel it away from the printing paper. Voila! If you want to print in a different color, wipe your plate off with a damp paper towel.



Final print: note that it is a mirror image of the plate

Final print: note that it is a mirror image of the plate

Remember that printmaking is an experimental process. Prints created from the same plate can look vastly different depending on how much ink you use, the pressure you apply when burnishing, etc. Part of the fun for me is not knowing exactly how each print will turn out! So I encourage you to make as many prints as you can, experiment, and have fun!

JC Bigornia
C3 Program Coordinator

Make This: Cosplay Armor and Accessories

Takenouchi no Sukune Meets the Dragon King of the Sea, Japan, 1875-1879, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The John R. Young Collection, gift of M. Frances and John R. Young

In thinking of an activity relating to the sculpture above for our June Studio Creations workshops, I kept coming back to the idea of costumes. The outfits, armor, and accessories worn by each of the three figures is amazingly detailed, and with Dallas Comic Con on the way, making cosplay accessories seemed like a really fun project. I’m going to show you how I made a “fin”-style gauntlet. But you can apply these directions to make whatever you want: helmet, tiara, jewelry, cape, etc.

What you need:

  • Craft foam sheets (available at any craft store)
  • Self-adhesive foam stickers (optional)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hair dryer or heat gun (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie marker
  • Scrap paper
  • Velcro (optional)
  • Elastic or rubber bands (optional)
  • Double-sided tape (optional)

photo 1


photo 2

Pieces for the base of the gauntlet

For the base of the gauntlet, I cut a piece of craft foam to fit the back of my forearm. I made a similar piece to encircle the back of my hand and palm.

photo 3

Heating the foam

Optional: I used a heat gun to carefully heat and shape the foam. While it was still warm, I formed the pieces around my forearm and hand. You could also do this with a glass, tube, etc. If you want to skip this step, you can curl the foam without heating it–it just doesn’t hold its shape as well.

photo 5

“Armor” pieces

I then cut more foam pieces for the armor plating. You can draw the shape directly on the foam with your sharpie or you could cut out a template to use from your scrap paper.

Save the scraps of foam that are left over–these can be used for decorations later! Self-adhesive foam shapes work well for decoration, too.

photo 1

Pieces after being heated and shaped

photo 2

Gluing the base together

I then used a hot glue gun to put all of the pieces together. Double-sided tape works, too.

photo 3

Armor pieces glued at an angle to make them pop out

You could use velcro or elastic to make a closure for the glove so that it stays on your wrist. In this case, I used the scrap foam to make some small studs that I will stretch rubber bands across to hold it in place.

photo 4

Finished glove

photo 5

Close-up of the stud attachments

Keep in mind that craft foam is very thin, so this armor is purely for show! And again, you can make almost anything you can imagine with these materials. For more ideas,  search “cosplay diy” and also check out this amazing tutorial.

And don’t forget to come to the DMA to see Takenouchi no Sukune Meets the Dragon King of the Sea and to participate in Studio Creations!

JC Bigornia
C3 Program Coordinator

Artful Eggs

The Easter holiday is almost upon us, and I for one am so excited to decorate Easter eggs! I am proof of the fact that this festive activity is for children and adults alike. Moreover, if approached in the right manner, decorating Easter eggs can be downright artistic. Beautiful eggs don’t require expensive materials or a BFA–in fact, all it takes to create some slamming shell designs is inspiration, imagination, and a few items found around the house!

Step 1: Boiling the eggs. Boiled eggs stand up better to the treatment required to decorate eggs (dyeing, drawing, wrapping). Place eggs in a medium sized pot and add enough water to reach about an inch above the eggs. Bring water to a roaring boil, remove from heat, then cover eggs for 15 minutes. Drain water, and allow eggs to cool. (This step can be accelerated a bit by placing eggs in a bowl of water in the refrigerator).

Drying rack made with flathead pins and foamcore.

Drying rack made with flathead pins and foamcore.

Step 2: Preparing the materials. As I said, artful eggs require simple materials: newspaper, food coloring, spoons, tongs, glass cups or mugs, white vinegar, a small paintbrush, tempera paint, hot water, Styrofoam board, and flathead pins. Placing flathead pins in a grid pattern on foam board creates a great drying rack for dyed eggs.

To mix colors, place 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2/3 cup hot water in your cup along with 3 drops of food coloring. Add more drops to darken the dye. This is a great (albeit stinky) way to review color mixing with kids–experiment and see what fun colors you can come up with!

Step 3: Finding inspiration. Inspiration can come from a variety of sources, but for this year’s batch I’d recommend using the DMA’s permanent collection as a muse. The Museum’s encyclopedic collection provides a wealth of ideas, and, who knows, you might gain some artistic insight during the art-making process! When choosing works of art I looked for bright colors, simple shapes and bold lines, as these would lend themselves well to my oblong canvases. Here are the four works I decided upon:

Step 4: Decorate! Before diving into your artistry, wipe each egg down with some vinegar (this will prepare the shell for the dyeing process).  It was interesting to use works of art that employed different decorative techniques.

  • The Matisse egg was first dipped into an orange dye for two minutes (increasing the amount of time in the dye will lead to a darker color).  After the egg dried, a small brush with tempera paint was used to add blue and green leaves and red berries.


  • To create the neutral background of the Pollock, the egg was dipped into orange and then blue dye (about 10 seconds each). I was then able to perform my own version of action painting!  With my paintbrush I flicked, splattered and flung watered-down black, white and grey tempera paint onto the egg. (Action painting can get messy, so newspaper comes in handy!)
  • Rothko’s contemplative color duo was completed by dipping the bottom of the egg in the orange dye (for about 30 seconds) and the top in red (30 more seconds). The egg should be left to dry between each dip. The middle portion of the egg was not taped, since I think the frayed edge caused by the dye enhanced the Rothko-style.
  • Completing the Mondrian egg took a little tempera paint and patience! Who knew that painting a grid pattern onto a rounded surface isn’t the easiest thing to do. With the straightest lines I could muster, I painted Mondrian’s primary color scheme onto the clean, un-dyed surface of the egg. It took a few layers of paint (left to dry in-between) to achieve more opaque colors.

Step 5: Display and Enjoy! 

Artful eggs. L-R: Henri Matisse, Ivy Flower; Jackson Pollock, Cathedral; Mark Rothko, Untitled; Piet Mondrian, Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow, and Gray

Artful eggs. L-R: Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Piet Mondrian

These artful eggs are too good to keep to yourself!  Share your masterpieces with us through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or even post them here on DMA Canvas–we’d love to see your DMA inspired works of egg-art! Now that you’ve completed your artwork the real question emerges: which will taste better, a Matisse or Pollock deviled egg?

Artworks Shown:

  • Henri Matisse, Ivy in Flower, 1953, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation
  • Jackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard J. Reis
  • Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1952,  Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated
  • Piet Mondrian, Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow, and Gray, 1921, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mrs. James H. Clark

Danielle Schulz
Teaching Specialist

Special thanks to Alex Vargo for her eggcellent work.

Make This: Poured Paint Sculptures


Studio Creations participants share their thoughts about Lynda Benglis’ work.

During Studio Creations this month, we looked at Lynda Benglis’ Odalisque (Hey, Hey Frankenthaler), part of the special exhibition Difference?. There are many aspects of this work of art that make it fun to talk about with people, but what I find the most interesting is the way it challenges how we define painting and sculpture. To me, it really lives between the two! This idea provided the catalyst for our Studio Creations art making activity. During each workshop, visitors created poured paintings based on chance, which, when dry, could be peeled from the painting surface and made into something sculptural. Here’s a quick tutorial for creating the project at home with your family:


  • Gloss medium or Liquitex pouring medium (available at most art supply stores)
  • Acrylic paint (I prefer gloss acrylics, but any type will work well)
  • Painting surface: A sheet of cardboard covered with heavy plastic (or something similar)
  • Squeeze bottles or cups for dispensing paint
  • Toothpicks for adding designs (optional)


Plastic-covered painting surface, gloss medium, and acrylic paint in squeeze bottles



Squeeze a small amount of gloss medium onto the painting surface. Using your squeeze bottles or cups, drop a little bit of paint into the medium. There’s no right or wrong way to do this so feel free to experiment! Try planning it out or putting the paint in randomly.


Now try tilting your painting surface in different directions. The paint will start to run depending on the direction and angle that you tilt it. This is where the part about chance comes in–you only have a certain amount of control over the paint as it moves. Chance played a big role in the way that Lynda Benglis created Odalisque–she didn’t have any control over the paint after pouring it.


Whenever you feel like it, add more paint. But be sure to drop it into the medium–otherwise, it could break off from the rest of the painting when dry. Continue adding paint and tilting the surface until your painting almost reaches the edge.


When you are finished, let your painting dry for at least one day. If you added a lot of paint, it may need an extra day or two to fully dry. Afterwards, carefully peel the painting away from the painting surface–it should be plastic-like in consistency.

Now try making it into something sculptural! Your painting can easily be cut and molded. Some ideas that came up during Studio Creations were: a mask, a bowl, a mouse pad, a jacket, and a sun catcher, among others. If you’d like to share your creation with us, feel free to send an image to and I’ll post it on our Flickr page.


Finished painting


Almost sculptural, don’t you think?


Detail of paint surface


  • Your painting does not have to look a certain way. Have fun and experiment!
  • For best results, I suggest using pouring medium instead of gloss medium. It’s a little bit more expensive, and it’s only made by Liquitex, but it was designed for projects just like this one and can prevent “crazing” in the paint. For super-duper results, mix a little bit of gloss or pouring medium into your paint before you start your project. One part medium to ten parts paint should be perfect. You can also try string medium!
  • You can get different designs by letting the paint run in one direction for a while and then turning it in another direction. This is really good for making swirls, circles, etc. You can use a toothpick to create fine lines as well.
  • The medium dries clear.
  • Lots of other cool poured paint projects can be found online!
  • Further questions? Feel free to shoot me an email!

JC Bigornia
C3 Program Coordinator

Make Your Own Festive Holiday Ornaments!

Winter has always been my favorite season—it brings back cozy memories of home and the holidays. Growing up in Ohio, I loved how decorated homes would transform our neighborhood into a bright, festive place. Set against a background of snow, it was like a living Norman Rockwell painting.

To help rekindle that holiday spirit, here is a simple and fun way for you and your family to create ornaments together out of recycled materials from around your home!

• Paper (patterned or construction paper, old drawings, book pages, posters, etc.)
• Scissors
• Hole puncher
• Ribbon, string, or yarn
• Stapler and staples
• Rotary trimmer or paper cutter (optional)

1. Using your rotary trimmer, cut the paper into strips; they can be any size you like as long as all the strips are the same (for reference, I used 1”x8” strips). If you don’t have a rotary trimmer cut the strips by hand using your scissors.


2. Stack an odd number of strips on top of each other—I find that seven to nine work best.
3. Find the top of the middle strip and stagger the rest of the strips stacked on top of and underneath it to create a pyramid shape. Staple the stack together to secure it.



4. Repeat the process at the other end of the ornament. The strips of paper will fan out, leaving you with a spire-like shape.



5. To hang your ornament, punch a hole at one end and string a ribbon through it.

Punching Holes

Try using different colors combinations when you stack your strips of paper. Also, increasing or decreasing the distance that you stagger the strips will change the shape of your ornament. Experiment with different supplies to further embellish your ornaments such as glitter, paper edgers, or shape punches!

Group shot


Have fun creating and have a happy holiday season!

JC Bigornia
C3 Program Coordinator


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