Casting the past: How to make cheap, easy moulds and casts

Casts, copies, the real and the replica. Image: Annalice Creighton / ANMM.

Casts, copies, the real and the replica. Image: Annalice creighton / ANMM.

Casting and mould making are simultaneously the stuff of specialised artistic and scientific endeavours and the backbone of mass production. From fountain heads and amulets to the haunting plaster figures that are now synonymous with this ill-fated city, this month’s craft spot is inspired by the use of casting and moulds in ancient times to create the artefacts featured in our new exhibition Escape from Pompeii.

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Swashbuckling Science

Science is awesome. Image: Annalice Creighton / ANMM.

Science is awesome. Image: Annalice Creighton / ANMM.

Do you know a toddler who is bonkers for bubbles, mad about messy play, sweet on ships, or wild about water in all its shapes and forms? We thought we would use our monthly craft spot this August to share our top 5 maritime-y science-y activities for early learners as a way to celebrate National Science Week.

While in-depth discussions about the intricacies of animal adaptations, laws of motion and gravity or the molecular changes involved in a chemical reaction may be years away, enjoying science play and simple experiments with young children is still a fun and easy opportunity to foster their curiosity and problem solving skills.

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How to make a mini planetarium

Star light, star bright, first constellation I see tonight...

Star light, star bright, first constellation I see tonight…

There’s almost no end to the fun that can be had when kids have torches in their hands. Shadow play, bedroom projections, reading under the covers after lights out, spooky face stories, or… a handheld miniature planetarium.

This month we’ve been inspired by current exhibitions Ships Clocks and Stars, as well as our upcoming school holiday program, to make a nifty little star gazer out of some everyday items for our kids craft spot. This mini-planetarium is perfect for projecting under the covers, onto bedroom walls or with evening story time. More than just a toy, it’s also a great way to learn to identify constellations in the night sky.

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Flying home: How to make a zoetrope

Spinning, swirling, flapping, flying, a single line, a blur of blue, a flickering image, a zoetrope.

Spinning, swirling, flapping, flying, a single line, a blur of blue, a flickering image, a zoetrope.

For this month’s craft spot we were inspired by the subjects of acclaimed author and artist Jeannie Baker’s new book Circle, showcased in an exhibition of her collages opening this Thursday. Circle follows the journey of the Bar-tailed Godwit bird, an at-risk species of shorebird that undertakes the longest unbroken migration of any animal, flying from their breeding grounds in Alaska to Australia and New Zealand.

Here we’ve created a paper craft zoetrope of flying Godwit birds. Originally developed as a simple animation toy in the 19th century, the zoetrope relies on the persistence of vision to create the illusion of movement, making it perfect to display these beautiful creatures on their journey “flying on and on, for nine nights and nine days, flying without rest” ( Jeannie Baker, Circle).

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Cook and Banks: Charting the rumoured great Southern Land

This lithographed is based on the drawings by Louisa Mundy, the wife of Colonel Godfrey Mundy. It was published in Colonel Mundy's 'Our Antipodes' in 1852. This work depicts Government House, Sydney, sitting high on a hill overlooking Farm Cove and Sydney Harbour. Image: ANMM Collection 00000889.

This lithographed is based on the drawings by Louisa Mundy, the wife of Colonel Godfrey Mundy. It was published in Colonel Mundy’s ‘Our Antipodes’ in 1852. This work depicts Government House, Sydney, sitting high on a hill overlooking Farm Cove and Sydney Harbour. Image: ANMM Collection 00000889.

To celebrate the Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney 200th anniversary, the Australian National Maritime Museum and Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney will offering a joint video conference for year 3 and 4 students History and Science.

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Pieces of Eight and a Parrot Pinata

finsihed piñata

It’s almost unavoidable, if you have small children in your world, at some point they will probably ask for a pirate party. There’s something irresistible about those tricorn wearing terrible thugs that no amount of education on the truly Horrible Histories of Pirates can overcome.

I once made the mistake of festooning a 3 year old’s pirate birthday with my favourite  skull and cross bones cardboard bunting and the adorable Pete the repeat parrot, not anticipating the swashbuckling scoundrel-like behaviour that would ensue once the face paint eye patches and paper pirate hats began to encourage a little too much role play.

Needless to say Pete was minus a head and an arm after being thrown off the “pirate ship” (read cubby house/swing/ nearby tree) a few times. Never to flap his awkward mechanical arms and chirp again.

This month’s craft spot is inspired by our Horrible Histories Pirates exhibition ( after all Golden age Pirates really did have parrots and other exotic animals, stolen ones of course, to fetch a pretty penny) and pirate parties, and pirate-like toddler behaviour perhaps. It’s a parrot piñata- something you beat up to steal all its goodies, sounds like piratical mischief to me. Fringing onto an adhesive base is also a great craft for with older toddlers and young children as it’s easy, glue free and a good opportunity to practice some fine motor skills with layering, tearing, cutting and collage.

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How to make…a buttercream battleship or delicious destroyer cake

There are many things that come to mind when you think of a warship. Big guns, secret missions, white uniforms, badges, officers, ranks, commands and coded ciphers. Buttercream frosting? Not so much.

This month’s craft spot is inspired by none other than our new Action Stations experience, just launched. In much the same way (and not the same way at all) as how Action Stations is all about making the experience of our navy vessels more surprising, immersive and delicious, making an edible delectable destroyer or battleship cake embraces a little something of the surprising (a sweet and squishy rendition of a mean machine), the immersive (you enjoy its appearance, eat it up and experience all the goodness it has to offer) and the delicious — of course. And perhaps it’s also a good way to celebrate and salute to all things navy and nautical, just as we are doing every Family Fun Sunday this month.

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Golden doubloon spice cookies for peckish pirates

10 finished cookies

Yo, yo ho, a pirates life for me! A bottle of rum, a cargo of spice, eat up me hearties yo ho!

This month we’ve been inspired to cook up a little something special for the craft spot to mark the auspicious International Talk Like a Pirate Day and give a nod to historical golden age piracy as we prepare for our summer Pirates exhibition.

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How to create…lighthouse story shadow puppets

shadow play

There’s just something about lighthouses that inspires a good story. Those charming beacons, perched atop cliffs, wrapped in red and white stripes, beaming out into the wild and wonderful wide-open sea for all the ships to see.

It’s nearly International Lighthouse and Lightships weekend and to celebrate we have a day of family fun and a little bit of lighthouse inspired kids craft for you to enjoy.

Shadow puppets are a cinch to make and a whole lot of fun to use. The creative storytelling possibilities are endless. It may be a haunted lighthouse on a lonely hill, an old light keeper on a stormy night, a happy lightship on a merry adventure with his pelican friend or a timeworn tale of sandwich stealing seagulls.

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How to make a no-sew Steampunk Soctopus Softie

Down in the bottom of the deep blue sea, there are strange and wonderful things. Fish that glow in the dark or squirt bellyfuls of slime, one metre wide jellies and snaggle-toothed fearsome slithering things. This month we’ve been inspired by our Voyage to the Deep exhibition to craft a mischievous deep sea creature of our own — an octopus — that is hands-down the easiest soft sculpture craft you could make.

finished sock octopus softie

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How to make an easy deep sea diver costume

What might there be at the bottom of the sea? Oceans galore for you to explore; A shipwreck’s sunken treasure, a fearsome colossal squid, a stealthy submarine or a deep sea diver, out to explore the ocean’s floor.


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Captain Nemo’s Nautilus

production still captain memos nautilus

Music swells, lights dim, a sonar pulse pops and a whirring engine rumbles.

“Full speed ahead 50 knots at 100 revolutions per second”.

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Get ready to play!

ANMM-MiniMariners-2Things are coming together nicely for our new under 5s children’s play space – Mini Mariners Play. The space is based on the themes of by the seashore / under the sea selected based on popularity with this age group, suitability to the context of the new space, and usefulness for extending our core programs for this audience.

As mentioned in my previous post, this space has been developed to meet the needs of our youngest learners, using a mixture of visual, tactile and audio activations to inspire little ones (and their carers) to actively engage with the themes.

Most of the activities and exhibits have now been installed and today we road-tested the space with some young members. The verdict? They loved it and can’t wait to come back and play for real!

Mini Mariners Play opens on 9 December.



Make your own marine creatures

Since September 2014, museum staff and visitors have been working with Ghost Nets Australia to create a large coral bombora (or ‘bommie’) sculpture out of ghost nets and marine debris. This collaborative art project aims to raise awareness of threats to marine ecosystems from fishing industries, discarded rubbish and marine debris. All the ghost net and marine debris materials being used for this project have been collected by Mapoon Land and Sea Rangers and volunteers from the Mapoon beaches in Cape York, Queensland.

The ghost nets bommie in progress, including creatures made from discarded thongs, rope, nets and other marine debris.

Close up of the ghost nets bommie in progress, including creatures made from discarded thongs, rope, ghost nets and other marine debris. Photo by Michelle Mortimer.

The sculpture will be on show in our summer exhibition Voyage to the Deep: Underwater Adventures as part of the seafloor environment.

We are continuing to add to the bommie sculpture over the coming months, and encourage our visitors on site and online to contribute their own creative sea creature sculptures to bring the reef to life. All ages are welcome to contribute!

A fish made from recycled fishing nets.

A fish made from ghost nets and marine debris. Photo by Ester Sarkadi-Clarke

Collect your materials

As you can see from the photos of the scupltural ghost net bommie and marine creatures so far, it is made of found materials collected from beaches: nets, rope, bottles, thongs and other discarded objects. We suggest that your creatures are also made of marine debris and recycled materials, or other materials from bushland or parks if you are not near to the coast (remember to clean the recycled materials before using them).

Get inspired

Coral made from rope and fishing debris.

Coral made from rope and fishing debris. Photo by Ester Sarkadi-Clarke.

Think about what types of marine flora or fauna you can create from found objects—there are infinite numbers of creative ideas. Some examples so far include rope-wrapped coral, plastic bottle fish, or starfish made of thongs.

For ideas and downloadable instructions for creating your marine creatures, head to the ‘kids craft’ section of our Voyage to the Deep website.

You can also take a look at our Flickr album to see some of our creatures so far and to follow the progress of the reef as it continues to grow.

Share your work

Share your creation with us to have it added to the sculpture. You can visit the museum in person to bring in what you have made or come along to one of our summer Ghost Nets Weaving Workshops.

If you can’t make it to the museum, you can still contribute! Email a photo of your marine creatures to and we’ll add it to our virtual ghost net reef on Flickr. Please include details of the marine life that you were inspired by, and the found materials you used to make your creations. You can also post creations via mail to the museum:

Australian National Maritime Museum
2 Murray Street
Darling Harbour
Sydney, NSW 2000

We look forward to seeing what you make!

– Ester Sarkadi-Clarke, Ghost Nets Project Intern

You can contribute to the ghost nets bommie before Voyage to the Deep opens on 9 December 2014, and throughout the duration of the exhibition until 27 April 2015.

Read more about ghost nets and this bommie project on the blog post Creating art from ghost nets, and find out more about the important work of Ghost Nets Australia on the Ghost Nets Australia website.

This project is proudly supported by Blackmores.

Creating art from ghost nets

When I first heard about Ghost Nets Australia and its work collecting discarded marine and fishing waste and human-made debris, I was intrigued. As I learnt more about the organisation’s inspiring, creative and innovative environmental projects, I began to appreciate the deeper complexity and change-making effect of their work.

Turtle caught in ghost nets

This turtle was found barely alive during patrol by Dhimurru Rangers. Photo by Jane Dermer. Courtesy Ghost Nets Australia.

Ghost Nets Australia is a multi-faceted organisation dedicated to rescuing and protecting marine environments from ghost nets—fishing nets which are lost at sea and collect marine organisms as they float in the oceans and wash onto shores. Working with Indigenous Ranger Groups and volunteers, Ghost Nets Australia collects massive amounts of discarded ghost nets and marine debris from coastal areas, creating art from it, educating people, collaborating with communities, collecting data and bringing about lasting change.

Ranger freeing a turtle from ghost nets

Senior Nanum Wungthim Ranger, Phillip Mango cutting free a juvenile Hawksbill turtle. Photo by Matt Gillis. Courtesy Ghost Nets Australia.

Ghost nets are a major threat to marine fauna and flora. Marine debris such as thongs, plastic bottles and cans are also collected. Most ghost nets come from discarded fishing vessels from the Indonesian region and Arafura Sea, and the majority are from from trawl fisheries and gill nets. The data collected by Ghost Nets Australia shows that most nets are found in the far north of Australia, especially the Gulf of Carpentaria where 90% of the nets are found. The Gulf of Carpentaria is one of the last remaining ecosystems for endangered marine and coastal species such as six of the world’s seven marine turtle species, dugongs and sawfish. Ghost Nets Australia prioritises rescuing turtles, which represent 80% of marine life caught in the nets, with over 300 turtles rescued so far. Since 2004, over 13,000 nets have been removed from Australian beaches and estuaries.

Ghost Nets Australia and the Ghost Nets Art Project aims to transform the destructive ghost nets and marine debris materials into artworks. A major part of this work is community collaboration and community workshops, predominantly held where ghost nets are found. This not only benefits the environment, but has wider positive effects for communities and for educational purposes.

Sue Ryan from Ghost Nets Australia

Sue Ryan, Director of the Ghost Nets Australia Art Project, working on the initial structure of the bommie at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The museum is excited to be working with the Ghost Nets Australia on a collaborative sculpture of a coral reef ‘bommie’, or coral outcrop, which will be part of our upcoming exhibition Voyage to the Deep: Underwater Adventures. In September, we hosted a week-long workshop with visiting artist Karen Hethey and Ghost Nets Art Project Director Sue Ryan, who helped create the structure of the bommie. The sculpture recreates the seafloor environment and coral reef ecosystem, using collected ghost nets and marine debris, all stitched together using fishing line.

Making marine creatures for the bommie sculpture

Artist Karen Hethey working on marine creatures made of thongs and marine debris for the bommie at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The sculpture is an ongoing project. Staff, volunteers and museum visitors have assisted over the past few months, adding coral made of ropes, marine creatures made of thongs, fish made of bottles, ropes and ghost nets. Members of the public are also invited to contribute.

Bommie sculture in progress at the museum

Progress: museum staff and visitors contributing to the bommie sculpture.

Ghost Nets Australia’s projects educate on a wide-reaching scale, and this has ongoing positive impacts on the environment, local communities, and has a significant role in influencing lasting change for present and future generations.

See the bommie at Voyage to the Deep, open from 9 December 2014 to 27 April 2015. Read more about ghost nets on the Ghost Nets Australia website.

To learn how to make your own marine creatures for our ghost net bommie, stay tuned for part two of this blog.

Ester Sarkadi-Clarke, Ghost Nets Project Intern