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Easy Dragon Craft with Gelatin Printing

2024 is the Year of the Dragon. Here is the kids' craft activity I did for a local library.

Almost every school holidays, I provide kids' craft activities at local libraries involving some sort of easy printmaking. Children who sign up for these are generally primary school aged kids. For this Summer break (in Australia, this is the Christmas-New Years 6 week school holiday), I did an activity to make a dragon.

A dragon made of paper with gelatin printed pattern on body

With my focus on spreading the fun of printmaking to kids, I always make sure to have a printmaking element in my school holiday workshops. One downside of printmaking is that it can take time. With limited time available for a free library activity, I aim for maximum of 1 1/2 hours. Since 2024 is the year of the Dragon, I decided to do a dragon making activity, using the head from Red Ted Art. The body is a criss-cross concertina fold of strips of paper, the tail is made of streamers. I gave the kids hands and feet as optional additions. I used heavier weight copy paper (160gsm - normal copy paper is 80gsm). I recommend using the "card stock" weight of paper for this activity.

Many paper dragon cut outs from Red Ted Art template, ready for the library workshop

First we made stamps using foam and pencil. Considering the environmental impact, I would love to avoid using foam, but for workshops with time limitations and for younger kids, I have not yet found a better alternative.

A foam sheet stamp indented with pencil marks

My home made Jelly Plate (recipe) can be reconstituted over and over in a pot, so for this workshop of 15 children, I cut them smaller to be used as stamp pads. I often use watercolor, but for this, I tried Tintex Poster Paint. Acrylic paint is not recommended as once it starts to dry on the foam, it can clog up and hard to wash off. Watercolor or gouache can be easily washed off the foam stamps, but too much water in paint may not print too well.

For the library activity of 16 kids, we used brushes, but at home, a roller / brayer can be a fun tool to use.

In this activity, the jelly plate is used as a stamp pad. Apply the paint on the jelly plate, put the foam on top and stamp it on paper. If it is hard to peel the foam off the plate, tape can be added on the foam to work as a handle.

When the paint is dry, fold 2 strips of paper (add more to lengthen) in criss-cross concertina / accordion to make the dragon body. This folding was the hardest bit to do for the kids.

Attach the head, legs, and streamers as a tail, then done!

A finished paper dragon

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