Saturday, January 20, 2018

How We Made Our 'I Spy' Castle


 I invited my friend and Beta reader, Tricia, to fly down and visit for a weekend so I could get to know her better. I learned more about the wonderful pre-school she runs. "How do you want to spend your time together?" I asked. "We can scrapbook, do needle-felting, whatever!"

She said she wanted to make a miniature beach scene to share with her kids. From there on, we were buzzing with ideas! What if we made a castle in the sand? One with lots of cool, fun, bright items that the children could find? With that task in mind, we set to work.

This is the finished project.


1.      The container – I volunteered an old plastic terrarium. The size is roughly 9” wide by 9” high by 13” long.
2.      The castle form–The castle was drawn on a piece of poster board. The flat castle is 10” long and 8” high. Then Tricia cut out the four windows, a big front door, and crenellations (those tooth-shaped bits along the top). Then the piece was curled into an oval shape and the ends were stapled together. Tricia used the final oval shape as a pattern to make a top floor for the castle. She added a small indentation for the wiring of the lights. She cut out two layers of trim to put around the windows, the door, and below the crenellations. She painted the castle a light gray and the trim a darker gray. I made the big door out of balsa wood. We decided to trim it with shells for handles and a bit of doily painted gold. The final touches included a heart-shaped “gem” and die-cut punch shapes to make the hinges.
3.      The stained glass windows—Tricia drew grids on an overhead projector cell. Using Sharpie markers she colored in the blocks. I love how bright and jewel-like they are! These were taped behind the open windows. There is a battery operated light that shines through the windows and wow! It is soooo pretty!


Notice the sparkling exterior. See the red kite? The light is one, so you can see how the colored windows glow.
 Note: Click on the picture to see a larger version.

4.      The castle exterior—The exterior is covered with crushed jingle shells. Tricia ground them down with a mortar and pestle. She spread white glue on the castle and pressed the jingle pieces into the glue.
5.      Mermaid banner—I made this from a piece of white cotton painted with fabric paints and hung from a toothpick and beads painted gold.
6.      Pink snail—Tricia painted the snail shell a cheerful hot pink nail polish. She added a coat of sparkle! I formed the snail’s body from papier mâche and glued him to the side wall.
7.      Base (sand)—Several layers of waste Styrofoam were shaped so that the castle would fit inside. The final shape was taped together with masking tape and then painted sand color. Glue was spread over the base before sand was added and pressed down so it would stick.
8.      Base (ocean) –This is acrylic paint put directly on the base of the terrarium.


9.      Plants—These are plastic plants trimmed to an appropriate size.
10.   Cactus—Tricia painted a piece of coral with green nail polish.
11.   Rocks (around castle base)—These are from my driveway! They get caught in the tread of my tennis shoes and I walk them into the house. I figured, why not use them?
12.    Stepping stones—Tricia cut these from a Styrofoam container. I painted them sand colored and added the fake wet footprints.
13.   Palm tree—I made this from a cardboard strut that’s part of a pants hanger. I used lapped pieces of a brown grocery bag to create the bark. The fronds are green painters’ tape folded over floral wire and cut to shape. The coconuts were formed from Crayola play clay and painted brown.

14.   Sand castle (miniature)—I used more of the cardboard strut. I cut it down to a 1” piece. The crenellations are small beads. The tower is part of a wooden chopstick that I whittled down. I painted the tower top red and the castle light tan. A black marker was used for the windows. The wooden door is a piece of a wooden coffee stirrer.
15.   Green lizard (on coconut tree)—This is rather crude, I admit. It’s an armature of green floral wire covered with green painters’ tape.
16.   Colored sea shells—Tricia added these! So cute!
17.   Crab—Again, I formed an armature from floral wire and coated it with paper mâche (paper towels and glue water).
18.   Starfish—These are five tips cut off of toothpicks and glued together before being painted.
19.   Flip-flops—I painted poster board with orange nail polish and cut it to the right shape. I glued on white floral wire for the straps.
20.   Beach chair—This was a gift from my son.
21.   Beach towel—This is a thick paper towel striped with an orange marker. The fringe is from a piece of white cotton fabric.
22.   ABC book—I made this from white copier paper, blue scrapbook paper, and clear packing tape. The letters were punched out and glued on, as was the flower.
23.   Lei—Tricia punched these flowers from tissue paper and threaded them into a loop.
24.   Sand pail and shovel—This is another piece of poster paper cut into a circular shape and a base. The handle is floral wire. The shovel is the base of a tea light candle cut to shape and glued to another piece of floral wire. And of course, then the whole shebang was painted.
25.   Flamingo—I bought this a long time ago.
26.   Seal—A bead I bought. Tricia painted it, glued it to rocks and a small piece of plastic greenery.
27.   Whale—A bead that Tricia painted.
28.   Dolphin—A bead that Tricia painted. I stuck it on a bit of toothpick and a base.
29.   Sea turtle—Tricia bought this at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
30.   Umbrella and table—A gift from my son Michael.
31.   Glass of lemonade—A piece of clear soda straw glued to a piece of plastic formed the glass. Yellow nail polish made the lemonade—and the ice cubes are sea salt crystals. The straw is the plastic covering from a paper clip. (You cut it and pull it off, leaving the metal shape underneath.)
32.   Napkin—A piece of napkin bound by white floral tape. A leftover flower from Tricia’s lei was added, along with a red bead.
33.   Bluebird—This is made of plaster poured into a Mod Podge flexible mold and painted.
34.   Nest with eggs. (Same as the bluebird.)


35.   Background of Jupiter Lighthouse and pelican on wharf. I painted them with watercolors and acrylics.

And I almost forgot--I added a red kite with a white tail.


I think the kids will have tons of fun looking for all the items we’ve included in this project! What do you think? Do you have a favorite item? 

1 comment:

Tricia Conner said...

It looks awesome! Thanks for the extra touches you added.