First released at the San Diego Comic Con in 2010, Funko Pop! Vinyl Figures, commonly referred to as “Funko Pops”, are one of the most popular geek collectibles, and with good reason. These chibi-style pop culture figures are absolutely adorable, and with already over 1,000 in circulation, Funko shows no signs of slowing its rollout of new figures seemingly every other day. That means even if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Funko, you can still get started on your own collection without getting into a bidding war with other collectors.
In general, there are two kinds of Funko Pop! collectors. There are those who buy them, leave them in the box, set them on a shelf, and lightly dust them every other day, and then there are the kind like me who just think they’re cute decorations for an office or bedroom. Since I’m not overly concerned with, nor particularly optimistic about, the long-term monetary value of these toys, I have no problem unboxing them and setting them about. Not only do they add joy to my work environment, I get the satisfaction of watching the first type of Funko fan twitch when they see them out of the box.
Unfortunately, at ten bucks a Pop!, adding a new character or two (or 10 or 20) is no small investment. That’s why for my pop culture figure needs, I tend to go with CubeeCraft instead.
CubeeCraft are 3D papercraft that you print, cut, fold, and assemble yourself. First created by Chris Beaumont, these little paper figures not only make fantastic decorations for the little geek in your house, they are a great family craft project. With varying degrees of difficulty, from being able to use a simple pair of scissors to some requiring a very fine craft knife, there are CubeeCrafts suitable for any age. And just like Funko, Chris and the guest artists who create the CubeeCrafts are constantly churning out new designs, both originals and pop culture icons.
Last year, my family attended the Denver Mini Maker Faire where we set up our own CubeeCraft table. Kids were able to stop by, request a template from the hundreds available on the website, and have it printed out on demand. We partnered with a local printer service provider, Lewan Associates, who provided a high-speed color laser printer for the event. Over a two-day span, there was never a time when there wasn’t at least one or two people at the table, and at times they were lined up three deep. All told, we printed out nearly 1,000 CubeeCraft for attendees ranging from 3 or 4-year-olds up to teens and adults.
— Randy Slavey (@randyslavey) June 14, 2015
You don’t oversee hundreds of kids making papercraft without learning a few tips and tricks. Here are the biggest lessons we took away:
Glue is not the enemy
There is a belief among some in the papercraft world that glue is cheating, that a true papercrafter should be able to assemble a full-sized Iron Throne capable of actually holding a human adult, using only cuts and folds. While I can admire the talent involved in this type of craft, don’t allow yourself to be limited by your skills, or lack thereof, with a craft knife. Beginners will inevitably cut off a tab, make a slot too wide, or not fold perfectly on the line. If the choice is between scrapping 15 minutes of cutting and folding or putting a drop of glue on a tab, don’t be afraid to go with the glue. Also, if you’re going to be carrying around your fragile papercraft for an entire day at the Maker Faire and you don’t want to be spending all day putting tabs back into slots, glue is a godsend.
Have a sharp knife and a good cutting mat
Some of the projects require very tiny cuts where a sharp craft knife is essential. However, what you’re cutting on is just as important as what you’re cutting with. Cutting mats are not there just to protect your table. They allow the blade to sink in slightly, making cuts smoother and less likely to “jump” outside of the lines. You can pick up cutting mats from Amazon or your local craft store. My favorite is the 24″x36″ monstrosity my kids got me for Father’s Day. It has both a light and a dark side, allowing maximum contrast for both light and dark paper.
Know your child’s temperament
Some kids want to struggle, fail, start over, and finally succeed in creating their own 3D masterpiece…and some kids just want a cute figure to put on their shelf. Encourage your kids to keep trying if they are struggling, and not to be afraid to start over if they mess up. We learn from our failures. That said, cutting and folding paper can be a tedious activity for some kids. Don’t be afraid to help them out if they’re ready to give up. You may have a little one who enjoys folding and gluing but has trouble with cutting. It’s OK to cut out the CubeeCraft for them ahead of time, and even score the fold lines. The important thing is that you are spending time together and engaging their motor skills and creativity.
Beyond the template
Eventually, your kids may decide they want to design their own CubeeCraft characters. Maybe they want Grandma and Grandpa CubeeCrafts, or maybe your husband wants CubeeCrafts of his favorite obscure ’80s cartoon. The CubeeCraft website has a blank template that you can modify in Photoshop or print out and decorate using pencils, pens, or markers. Designing CubeeCraft not only exercises a kid’s imagination, but understanding how to unfold a three dimensional object has a strong visual spatial aspect that can help them when they’re ready to move on to more advanced papercraft using 3D modeling software such as Sketch Up and unfolding software like Pepakura Designer.
In addition to the nearly 500 projects available at CubeeCraft.com, many artists have created their own designs and host them elsewhere. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on CubeeCraft.com, just Google “cubeecraft [character name]”. Happy crafting!