UPDATE: You can check out our 2011 calendar here.
So a while back I wrote about my struggles to find an idea for an advent calendar. Then Maggie from Red Ted Art pointed me to her Christmas Crafts post, and there I found something I really liked. Gail from That Artist Woman had made a citiscape, with little boxes on a piece of cardboard, and with presents (or, rather more cunningly, bits of papers saying where the presents are hidden). So I thought it would be nice to try.
It started with a plan - you can't build a city without a design, a bit of compressed wood chip, primed by Charlotte, and a cup of coffee.
I wanted to use something more solid than cardboard, because the idea was that we'd be able to keep the calendar as a picture after we'd opened all the boxes.
For the design, I decided that each building should be a house that we go to - whether friends', school, supermarket, or restaurants. I made sure to include some of Max's favourites, like the library, where he likes to go and have tea (don't ask!).
For the map, I tried to recreate a simplified version of the university campus we live on, the kid's school, and the part of town we regularly go to (for those in the know: Rumeli the soup restaurant is the last house at the top.)
I put the mountains that we see in front of our house and to the right. I put more snow on them then there is at the moment (where are we? California?!) - nothing wrong with a bit of encouragement.
Then we had to decorate the inside of the buildings - so there'd still be something to look at once the houses were taken off. I did this with Max, he drew the figures and we glued them on top of some squares of sticky paper (the kind, I believe, on puts inside one's drawers, for whatever reason).
For each house I handed Max a pit of paper with the address or the name of the person who lives there and he chose who or what to draw. Mostly it's pretty representative, but it turns out that our friend and neighbour, Banu, shares her building with Max's favourite TV show dinosaurs: Casimir and Hyppolyte... Our own house is going to be the 24th box, and it's decorated with a Christmas tree.
For the houses I drew Charlotte a rough model, gave her size, numbers, and other specifications, and she got on with it: measured, drew, cut, painted. For colours we used cobalt blue, white and mars black. Charlotte added reds and yellows to the mixture for the houses.
Then came the assembling - would you believe it's near impossible to find a way to sticky tape these things together?! And the finishing touches: felt trees and snow men, a taxi, dolmus (minibus) and bus, a tiny Father Christmas coming down the mountain with his tiny reindeer, and snow.
For the snow we used a method recommended both by Charlotte and by our artist friend Mineke. Take a tooth brush, dip it in white paint and flick the hair over your picture. It's fun! It goes everywhere!
Then at night, when the kids were safely tied to their beds, and their doors padlocked from the outside, 'im indoors and I set to filling the boxes and attaching them to the picture. Much swearing was involved - the key to it is to make sure they stick well enough so they won't fall down, revealing the presents before it's time, but at the time they should be easy to pull off and not leave a mark on the picture. The answer seems to be lots of swearing, and deciding to keep the picture flat on the dinner table at night and while the kids are at school...
Any how, here it is:
Box number one was opened this morning by Max: a playmobil figure. Happy boy!