30 minute figures : experimenting and generating ideas

quick figure experiments created with paper and fabric

Play generates ideas. And constraints make things interesting, they send you in new directions and bypass inhibitions. Find 30 minutes to play. Make a space, gather materials, scraps, paper, cardboard fabric, whatever is around, and tools – a glue stick, tape, paint, the basics. Make an appointment with yourself to show up and set a timer for thirty minutes.

Or even better do it with friends, everybody can contribute materials and that adds a nice element of surprise. In fact you could make it a snail mail challenge if no willing experimenters are nearby, send each other a collection of supplies. The assignment is to make a figure. Any kind of figure. Or more than one. You get extra credit for making more than one.

In idea generation volume matters.


This 30 minute challenge was the warm up exercise for my experimenting with dolls class at Squam in September and it was one of my favorite teaching experiences ever. Watching people engage deeply and freely with their imaginations and embrace real play is fascinating.

figures created from paper and fabric in a thirty minute challenge

Before I experiment on students I experiment on myself. I did several 30 minute figure making sessions. I found that my ideas became more interesting to me as they became less complicated. In fact the thing I liked best was made in about 10 minutes. I also found that my brain really did warm up, my focus got deeper and ideas became more fluid.

paper and fabric figure experiments

cardboard, paper and fabric cat figure experiment

This little cat was a complete surprise. I started wrapping a strip of black fabric around a piece of cardboard, not really headed anywhere and all of a sudden this mysterious little fellow turned up. I love him and I’m curious about him, where is he going? Who are those flowers for? What else is in the funny green room?

If you give it a try I’d love to see – use #30minutefigures on instagram or email a photo to info at ann wood handmade dot com.



  1. Carol Macy

    Ann, as I told you at Squam, this was one of the most mind opening , creative classes I have ever taken!! Can’t wait to allow myself time to creatively explore this way again soon! You are an amazing teacher! Thank you

  2. very cool! love it… great thing to do with those scraps!

    thank you so much

  3. strickfrollein

    … that really sounds good! I think, you will not have the time to discuss with the inner critic – just do and see what comes out 🙂 I‘ll definitely try!
    Thank you

  4. Ann, I am thrilled to see some of my (and my Sister’s) creations featured on ” Ann Wood’s blog”!! You are such a creative artist, a fabulous teacher and a warm human being. Thank you for being so willing to share all of that. So pleased to have spend some time with you! Ginny

  5. Patricia Alexander

    Ann, you amaze me! I love how your sweet creative mind works. I’m going to try this. Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas! ♥️

  6. So wished I could have come this year to take one of your classes. Your creativity and your art continue to inspire me.

  7. This looks like a wonderfully-creative thing to try! However, my “block” always seems to be that I am afraid of using something – a special scrap, a trinket, a button – for example, due to a fear of not having more items for future use!

  8. Sarah Jackson

    Where do you get the lovely French and Swiss lace? Do you know what that sells for the really pretty stuff?

    You are incredibly talented! You remind me of a dear friend that taught herself to paint. Her paintings in rural Northwest Florida in the 1970’s sold for at least $500 and up. Her art was amazing. Your blog is amazing.

    • Thanks so much Sarah! I got a bunch of lace in France a couple years ago – a box of scrap pieces at a flea market. And I buy ruined antique clothes and salvage the lace and fabric.

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