Introduction: Magical Magnetic Storyboard

About: the Wonderful Idea Company is a design studio for the playful exploration of ideas in art, science and technology

This guide will show you how to make a "magical magnetic storyboard", a playful art and science installation for your kitchen. This project lets you tell stories on your refrigerator and collaborate with your friends, family and housemates. It can be used by artists and writers looking to stimulate their creativity as well as by kids and adults at home who need a fun way to pass the time during quarantine.

The magnetic storyboard was co-developed by WICO guest artist Thailan When who took inspiration from her own artistic practice to create a new tool that anyone can use to experiment with found images, try out collage techniques and exercise their imagination.

This year our team of artists and collaborators had planned to work with Lodestar Community Charter School in Oakland to develop a set of mini-exhibits to be used in schools, libraries and small museums. Due to the impact of covid-19, which stopped us from testing with students in person, we shifted focus and adapted these projects for kids and adults to try at home.

This guide is a still a rough draft! We'll keep working to develop this playful tool for exploration so that it can be used in museums, classrooms, maker spaces and at home. Feel free to remix the idea and please let us know what you come up with.


AmazonBasics Thermal Laminator Machine

Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches, 8.9 x 11.4-Inches, 5 mil thick, 50-Pack

Metal Magnetic Push Pins or Clear Crystal Color Magnetic Push Pins

Good scissors

Magazines, picture books, catalogs or other sources of interesting photos and text

Natural objects collected from your backyard or neighborhood

Step 1: Cut Out Your Images

Find some books or magazines with photos of interesting characters, objects, symbols and scenery that will contribute to your magnetic storyboard. Look for magazines related to your interests and go ahead and mash up different topics like cooking and rock climbing or technology and animals. These images will build a plot and setting for your stories. It's fun to blend reality with fantasy in your collection of images.

As well, if you're looking for something specific to add to the collage, you can print pictures from the internet. GO ahead and add in photos of yourself and your family/friends to create a personal touch for the storyboard

When you have a good selection of photos, carefully cut out the images with your scissors, leaving as little blank spaces around the edges as possible.

Step 2: Laminate Your Photo Collection

Open a laminating pouch and set your images inside, making sure that you leave a little bit of space between each of the pictures. Do this with each one of your sheets with the photos arranged so that they are all ready for the laminator at the same time.

Turn on your laminator and wait for it to warm up (the green light will eventually turn on which indicates that you are good to go). Feed the sheet into the opening of the laminator and let the machine do the work to seal the layers together. Repeat with all of your sheets.

Grab a cup of tea and cut the photos out of the lamination plastic a second time, leaving about a quarter inch of the clear plastic around the edges.

Step 3: Arrange the Elements Using Magnets

Get your magnets and attach the pictures to your fridge or magnetic board so that you can see all of the elements.

We like using the stackable metal magnets which allow you to add dimension to your creations so that you can make more interesting juxtapositions of characters and settings.

if you're worried about your kids swallowing magnets, you can glue the magnets to the back of the images using a hot glue gun or super glue.

Step 4: Explore Laminating Natural Materials

For an experimental touch to your project, explore laminating leaves, flowers and other natural objects.

We've found that flat objects like petals, thin leaves and flower parts work well. You can also press and dry natural objects between the pages a thick book or under a heavy flat surface.

Be careful with extra juicy natural objects that may leak inside the inner workings of your lamination machine. As well, you may have to experiment a bit with different materials to find which ones look best after running through the laminator. And be careful about using thicker materials that might jam up the machine.

Once you have the collection of cut out plant parts, you can experiment with making some Arcimboldo inspired faces out of the colorful elements or other playful arrangements.

Step 5: Homemade Poetry Wall

Another direction that you can take this experimentation with the laminator is finding words and letters from magazines or packaging and go through the cutting, laminating and cutting process.

In this way you can create a DIY magnetic poetry set. You can customize the words, experiment with different combinations and share you poetic creations. For these pieces, think about the color, shape and size as elements in the creative process that have just as much importance as the meaning of the words.

Step 6: Collaborate With Your Family and Friends

Now that you have your collection of images on the magnetic surface, experiment with different activities and ways of collaborating with others. Here are a few of our favorite suggestions:

Go to the fridge, close your eyes select pieces at random. Make a story using only the pieces that you picked out blindly.

Play with size and scale and make a story that combines objects of usual sizes together.

Construct a "choose your own adventure game" where each person playing picks between two potential images to add to the narrative.

Make a combination of words and pictures to create a mood board for an imagined museum, business or food truck.

This project can connect to a wide variety of topics in school or libraries. Learners can imaginatively illustrate scientific or history concepts, develop language arts skills by creating stories and build an artistic practice in the medium of collage.

We are excited to see what people do with this project and what new ideas get shared by tinkerers who are exploring these tools and materials. Please share your investigations and experiments with us and let us know if you have questions or comments about this guide.


Prototyping time and R&D with Lodestar Charter School students for this project was made possible through the generous support of Cognizant “Making the Future” grant.