Monthly Archives: August 2018

Cello Dolly

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With my penchant for puns and general silliness, when a broken and abused cello fell into my hands ( … OK, when I charmed a guy to dig it out of a dumpster for me …), I couldn’t resist turning it into an over-sized doll. (I mean, really, what did you expect from me?)

While I conceived this project last May, it has been done in fits and starts because of interference from other projects, vacations, and prepping for school – not to mention pulling together materials (read a frame) large enough to accommodate a cello. So, without further ado, here’s the process of my latest creation.

As you can see, this poor cello was in need of love.

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After several attempts at separating the front from the body, I called on Lochinvar to lend a hand. Once he managed the task, I gave it a quick sanding to remove the shiny finish.

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After a coat of Gesso and a couple of coats of white chalk paint, the front was looking a good deal better.

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Since I was going for a paper doll feel, I decided to create a polka dot “dress” from the cello.

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Meanwhile, the hunt for a large enough frame began. After some focused shopping (read hitting every thrift store in town) I found this pretty icky but sturdy frame on a half-price Saturday at Goodwill. The center of the frame was covered in a suede-like fabric.

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Two coats of Gesso later, I was afraid I was wasting my time trying to revive the frame.

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However, three coats of white chalk paint finally seemed to breathe new life into the structure.

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A couple of coats of black paint in the middle gave just the right touch to coordinate with the polka dots I had put on the cello “dress.”

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The final piece has a scrap wallpaper background with paper doll outlines printed on vintage sheet music and covered with a light coat of gray chalk paint to provide plenty of contrast to the Cello Dolly design. Embellishments include some actual jewelry (the pendant, dog tag, ring, and earring) along with dressmaker fringe, and a purse constructed from a fabric scrap. The face and arms are constructed of card stock and drawn/colored using alcohol markers. This is the largest piece I have completed to date measuring 33 x 50 inches. 

I actually have two more broken cellos and a guitar stacked in the corner of my studio, but I haven’t envisioned anything for them yet. Hmm … I wonder where I’ll find three more giant frames.

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The Mother of Invention

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The old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” held true for me this week. Kids are returning to school in the Valley of the Sun, and that means dealing with cell phones in class. This year, my school is adopting a no-phone policy across the board during class time. (This is good news for those of us who battle the texting, gaming, and surfing that distract students from learning.) In order to make the edict more palatable I want to provide a space where students can park and charge their phones while we’re working on literacy and writing skills.

To my dismay, most of the classroom phone storage devices are hanging shoe organizers with pockets. Since all of my wall space is taken up with posters and academic language word walls, I want something that will rest on the counter at the side of my classroom. The few tabletop organizers I found were on the pricey side and wouldn’t arrive until after the kids report in a couple of days. So, I decided to make one.

I observed that the organizer I’m after is simply a series of boxes or slots that are large enough to accommodate any phone and provide access to a plug. So, here’s my low cost solution:

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I went to my local post office and picked up 19 of the (free) small Priority Mail boxes, which are about the size and shape of three DVDs stacked together. I drew a line down the center in order to get two open boxes from each piece. (I have 36 chairs in my room, so the 19 boxes cut in half  create 36 slots plus a couple of extras in case I mess up!)

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Here’s how the boxes look once they’re cut in half and assembled. (Just use the fold lines and pre-applied tape to put them together.)

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Next, I arranged the boxes into groups of four. The desks in my classroom are numbered and arranged into quads to create small tables and work groups for students, so it seemed logical to mirror this organization in the cell phone garage.

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I considered stacking the boxes vertically, but ultimately decided against it because I think the other arrangement provides more stability.

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Once the arrangement was finalized, I added labels that correspond to the group and seat numbering system on the desks in my room. Students will put their phone in the slot that matches their group and seat number. (I have nine groups of four students.) Then, I used left over box tape to form a set. After I finished the whole thing, I realized I probably should have “laminated” the labels with clear tape before attaching them just to add some durability to the card stock. (So, consider adding that step if you construct one of your own.)

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Once all the sets were created, I used left over masking tape to put them all together. I taped around the whole group a couple of times and across the bottom of each set both vertically and horizontally. (I have to confess that I changed tape here because I ran out of the box tape. I was determined to just use whatever I had to complete this project.)

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Finally, I used some shiny silver duct tape from my stash to finish the “garage.” This added more stability and durability to the project. (If you want to use spray paint to finish the piece, I suggest covering the whole thing in masking tape first to add that stability and create an even finish.)

When I take this to my classroom tomorrow morning, I’ll line up a couple of power strips in front of the boxes to provide a charging station for my students. Hopefully, this will entice them to willingly park their phones and give them a rest during Junior English!