News / tools of papercraft

5 tiny details which make my next gift kit special.

I don't want to reveal all just yet: but here are five details which I've worked into my upcoming kit. Often, the chosen buildings have beautiful facades, but they are squeezed between two other buildings, and their backyards are inaccessible and maybe even ugly. So, I let my imagination free and invent scenes to fill the gables and rears. I draw maps and landscapes, people and animals - all inspired by the things I have seen in that town. 

Can you tell which town this is?

Gable and rear of Twice As NiceMap of galway detailDetail of Galway gift kitSpanish Arch in GalwaySwans in Conemara

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Keeping up with changes in Killarney!

As many of you paper crafters will remember, my original version of Tiny Killarney included a model of Killarney Bookshop, which sadly closed down a few months ago.

So, when it was time to reprint my Killarney pack for the new season, I decided it was time to include a new building: The Súgán. It's vibrant, colourful facade is just irresistable.

The Sugan

It is squashed between two other buildings, so I have no idea what the rear looks like ( this is often the case) - and two gables to fill with imaginary detail...

The Sugan project

I created a new landscape out of various previous drawings: caravans in a meadow, the Slea Head drive, cows grazing in the lush green fields... some of the things we love about Kerry!

Assembling the Súgán

I included the multicoloured cart wheel and the old bicycle advertising "Rent a Bike" as optionals for the advanced...

The Sugan model kit


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Fascination with the familiar in miniature

Recently, I made a series of paper models for a wedding: 18 models of Dingle and Annascaul pubs. Each table had a pub on it.  I cut out all window panes and inserted light to make them come alive. The feedback I got from wedding guests was that, not only were the models beautiful, but the most fascinating thing was that they were familiar places in miniature. There is something magic about seeing a place we are familiar with in miniature - something that brings us right back to those childhood experiences we had with dollshouses and miniature railway layouts...

Models for dingle weddingModel of Patcheen's, Annascaul

I once visited an amazing Ship in a Bottle Museum in Holland: , where the fascination with the miniature is taken to the extreme. After months of very detailed work and preparation, the tiny ship model is finally ready to insert into the bottle. Once inside, the masts and sails are pulled into the upright position using carefully prepared strings.

My models are not as elaborate as that. I paint my facades/ gables etc as big as I want to before scanning them all into my computer where I process them into models. Thanks to modern technology, I can work in large format and the computer shrinks it down to miniature for me.

model of o'flaherty's pub, dingle

This allows me to work at ease, exactly at the size I like. Also, I can easily insert drawings of impressions and ideas I gather about the building or town. 

I begin by drawing and painting on paper, but continue to create in the computer. The most exciting bit is, of course, when the model is finally printed out and I assemble a miniature 3D version of my artwork. It's magic!

Model of Curran's pub, DingleModel of An Droichead Beag, Dingle

Whenever I return to see the "real" versions of the buildings I have made, I feel strangely excited - I feel a very special bond between me and the building - as if we somehow know each other....

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A closer look at Bunratty Castle

When I first saw Bunratty Castle up close I was completely overwhelmed by it. How could I even begin to make a paper model out of this?

I normally don't bother with architectural drawings - I just photograph and draw whatever details strike me, and then create my model. But with an heritage icon like this, I felt intimidated and longed for something concrete to go by. I finally did get my hands on some basic technical drawings - but the rest all came out of my observations. Here are some of the detail drawings I made in preparation of the actual model in the Tiny Bunratty pack.

This is a very intuitive way of going about making a paper model. I'm reluctant to allow myself to get bogged down with the technicalities. I just want to capture the quirky beauty of some of the buildings I see...

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Magic Irish Towns

Have you read "The Magic City" by Edith Nesbith yet? It is one of my favourite childrens' books. Philip, the boy in the story, builds a city out of everything he can find in his new home - he starts off with conventional wooden building blocks, but when they run out, he uses books, ornaments, cutlery, whatever he can find. Then,at moonlight the magic happens:he becomes tiny, the city becomes huge and he walks through these amazing streets he has created.

It inspired me as a child to make miniature townscapes - sometimes with whatever was available in our house, and sometimes outdoors in the forest, on the beach, in the garden. I used to make tiny little stone houses with real cement and stones. I'd build tiny fireplaces and chimneys into them and light real fires inside them and watch the smoke rise out of them. How alive it made them look! Coming home in the evenings I'd smell like someone who'd spent the whole day by a camp fire. My parents were a bit concerned that I'd started smoking - until they found out what I was doing...

Recently, I received an unusual commission: to make models of Dingle Pubs as centre pieces for tables at a wedding! What fun, I thought... what if I could light them up and make them come alive like those little huts of my childhood?

Paper Model of Dick Mack's lit up!


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Some special instructions on how to build my model of Bunratty Castle

Some of my customers have asked me whether my model kit of Bunratty Castle is very difficult to make. My answer to you is: I have put a lot of thought into making this as easy to understand and assemble as possible - my focus is on fun, not tedium! So whether you're a complete newcomer to papercraft, or an experienced modeller, I think you will enjoy making this one!

I have outlined below the steps you need to take to build my great model of Bunratty Castle:

Before cutting out any of your kit, score all edges to be folded using a ruler and something pointy such as a darning needle or a very hard pencil - or, if you want to be really professional, a metal scribe.

Then start with the south facade:

Cut out and glue the turrets onto themselves and then cut out the white areas as shown. The flaps are folded inwards to receive the floors

First sheet of bunratty kit Details of model construction South facade of Bunratty Castle Model

Now move onto south facade part two:

I did try to squeeze everything into as few pages as possible to keep it nice and compact - so here is my way of building that tower wall as well as the south facade alcove all out of one piece of paper!

Alcove on south facade of Bunratty Castle Rear view of the South Facade of Bunratty Castle

I think, once you've reached this stage you're flying, but do email me if you get stuck...

How to build your own tiny Bunratty Castle


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Upcycling paper!

It only takes me 20 minutes of cleaning my house - and hey presto! - the recycling bin is full again.

Full of cardboard in different thicknesses, shapes, colours, qualities. If you start looking at this waste in a new way, you'll see it for the great craft material it really is!

I recently designed a powerpoint presentation for the LearnCraftDesign  website ( published by the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland) on how to do a little papercraft project with primary school children - it's called "Design Your Own Room". Why not have a look and get inspired?

Upcycling paper waste for crafty projects A labyrinth made of waste paper boxws A chair made of cardboard

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On the simple pleasures of Papermodelling

I never grow tired of making paper models: sitting in my studio, listening to a good Audio Book ( at the moment it's "Murder on the Orient Express" by Agatha Christie), while it's drizzling outside... it's one of my favourite ways to spend a rainy afternoon.

Everytime I approach a paper model, I just feel amazed and excited by the ingenius simplicity of this craft. Using a few simple tools, such as a scribe or darning needle for scoring, a scissors or craft knife and some fast drying glue, one can build the most amazing 3D structures. Whatever you can think of - make it with paper!

People ask me whether the models I have designed are too difficult for six year olds? My answer to them is: six year olds and even younger children love my models, because even if they cut them out all crooked and glue things together higgledepiggledee, they still look great! And once they've done a few, they won't want to stop: they'll start building the most amazing models of their own design. Paper Models made by children at one of my modelmaking workshopsPaper models made by children at one of my workshops

Making a paper model is not really about the perfect thing at the end ( well for some perfectionists it is), but much more about the pleasure of making it - understanding it, seeing the miraculous transformation from 2D to 3D take place beneath our hands.

I hope my models make that miracle happen for you.


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