DIY homework caddies

Professional organiser Harmony Seiter has provided a step-by-step guide to creating an at-home homework station.

A homework caddy is great for small spaces, multi-purpose spaces, and for kids who love to do their homework on the floor or away from a desk or table.

• Find a caddy or a tray you like.
o You can find caddies of all shapes and sizes in many sections of a retailer (such as baby, bathroom, kitchen)
o You may need to add other containers to separate supplies

Watch the video here.

• Your needs will vary depending on the age of your kids.
o Primary grades may need crayons, scissors, glue sticks, pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers, colored pencils, a ruler, tape, paper, and possibly subject folders.
o Middle schoolers and high schoolers may need a calculator, pens, pencils, highlighters, pencil sharpener, erasers, stapler or paper clips, paper, glue sticks, loose leaf paper, sticky notes, tape, and subject folders.

• Place your homework caddy in an easy to reach spot for your student. It’s easily mobile, but make sure it`s brought to the same spot at the end of the day so homework time is always easy to manage.

Whether you keep it in your dedicated office or your kitchen pantry, a homework station will give your student all the tools she needs to successfully finish the day’s assignments.



The ultimate hobby machine

Say goodbye to unnecessary cords and create more space to work on your projects with the ultimate DIY machine from Cricut. The machine is hailed as all you need for craft hobbies like scrapbooking. The machine retails at approximately $300 (R3 800).

There are so many ways you can create with Cricut Explore Air. Design with the 50 000 images, projects, and fonts in the Cricut Image Library, or upload your own images and fonts for free.

Make party invitations, decorations and favours. Create seasonal home décor or personalise wedding gifts. Add embellishments to your favorite photo memories.

Cut what you want
Upload and cut your own images and fonts free; works with .svg, .jpg, .png, .bmp, .gif, and .dxf files
Cut or write fonts already installed on your computer
Buy images starting at $0.99

Design and cut with the iPad app
Design here, there, and everywhere! Cricut Design Space app for iPad works seamlessly with the Cricut Explore Air machine. Design on your iPad and send the project to cut, wirelessly. The free, easy-to-use Cricut Design Space software system gives you access to all of your images and projects from any compatible computer or iPad. It’s cloud-based, so your projects are always synced across all your devices.

What can I make?
Make all your birthday and party invitations, banners, decorations, and favors. Create distinctive seasonal home décor or personalise DIY wedding gifts with a quick monogram for that perfect touch. Add embellishments to your favorite photo memories. And give Family Game Night the ultimate make-over with fresh and fun games month after month. Don’t forget those last-minute school science fair projects, book reports, or the ‘All About Me’ poster. Satisfy all your DIY crafting needs, whether you use the Cricut Explore Air as a vinyl cutter, die cut machine, or fabric cutting machine.

What can I cut?
The Cricut Explore Air cuts a wide variety of materials, including paper, cardstock, vinyl, iron-on, poster board and fabric for DIY projects. Upload your own images or choose from the Cricut Image Library – the only limit is your imagination.

No settings required
Forget the complicated materials settings. Now you can get the perfect cut on nearly any material, just turn the Smart Set dial. You can even create custom settings for different materials.

Clean cuts, big or small
The Cricut Explore Air features patent-pending Cut Smart technology. Cut all sorts of shapes with exceptional precision in sizes ranging from ¼ to 11½ inch wide x 23½ inches tall.

Cut and write in just one step
The Cricut Explore Air machine can cut a card and then write a personalised message exactly where you want. It can also cut a box and score the fold lines in one step.

Art by eraser

Artist Milind Nayak is presenting his graphite-on-paper for the first time at the Modernists of Bangalore exhibition, currently on at Art Houz.

He thinks the black-and-whites are hard to sell. But he makes art for himself, not for others. So it doesn’t matter to him if not many like his works.

“I always used to draw, bind the sheets and keep the books,” he says, talking of his love for art. “These works are independent of colour. They are my biggest treasure.”

Only recently did he feel it was time to show some of the display he had made in 2008.

Nayak has worked with graphite sticks and an eraser. “Graphite is the purest form of carbon. It has got a sheen that other materials don’t. I got addicted to it,” he says.
But he has created these pieces using the eraser more than graphite.

He adds, “I draw first, and then begin working with the eraser until I get what I want.”

Nayak is inspired by nature. The vivid hues in his work speak of his audacious flirtation with the colour palette and the enjoyment he derives from it.

He constantly tries to reinvent his technique, and has experimented with different media, like watercolour, oil, oil pastels, graphite, photography and digital printing.

He says he has been in and out of the art movement. He took a break between 1983 and 1999.

“I quit to support my family,” he says. “I did photography. I learnt a lot from the process. I am not into the ideological format. I stand alone, paint alone. I was going bald. So I thought it was time to come back.”

Nayak is among the few artists across the world who have seriously explored oil pastels as a medium. One of his most cherished experiences is working with a palette knife.
The artist explains that the elusiveness, force and intimacy that entail ‘painting’ with a knife are unlike those of working with a brush.

In such works, Nayak tried to move away from formal representation and step closer to abstraction. He did not, however, dispense entirely with the formal structure.

He says, “The knife technique evolved with the need to remove colour. I used it for erasing. It creates more tones and adds grace.”

Nayak likes to live and paint dangerously. “You can’t be static throughout life. You need to evolve,” he says.

Nayak was born in Udupi in 1954, and is a self-taught artist. Over the last 15 years, he has established himself firmly on the country’s visual art scene.

He says the only artist who has impressed him is his mentor G S Shenoy.

“He taught me that to become a good artist, you need to be a good human first,” he says. “I owe all my works to him. We were good friends even though I was 16 years his junior. When I took a break, he was very angry with me.”

He has had over 35 solo exhibitions, including three in USA. He has also participated in several group exhibitions in India and abroad.

By Akhila Damodaran for

The Japanese are inventors at heart. Below are some of the useful items of stationery they have invented over the years.

Waterproof memo pads

According to researchers, this paper is so strong that even when wet it won’t rip when you touch it. If you use a waterproof pen, the ink won’t run, and you can even write on it using a pencil while it’s underwater. You can use it while you’re at waterfront spots like beaches or even daily in the kitchen near a sink, but it’s also priceless during times of disaster.

Static electricity sticky board

This static board allow you to easily clean your desk by sorting through and posting your most important notes.

Erasable pen

This pen uses a special ink that gets erased using the frictional heat between the paper and the rubber eraser. It erases so completely the paper looks like you’ve painted it white. Another one if its special points is that the eraser doesn’t shed.

Staple-less stapler

According to the original paper factory that created it, you can use this stapler to bind papers together without using staples. Because of that, it can be used safely by children and it’s also ecologically friendly because it doesn’t require staples to be made.

Personal information stamp

There are many documents that have personal information on them that most people don’t want anyone else to see. If you shred them one by one your information is secure but the garbage piles up and it also takes a lot of time. Instead of that, this roller stamp will come in handy. The design printed on the stamp will completely mask any personal information you use it on.

Utility tape that doesn’t use glue

This tape was developed to make use of its special construction. Both sides of the tape will stick to itself but not to anything else. It’s something you can use in all facets of your everyday life.

Castanet scissors

With these scissors, you just have to lightly grip the wooden part in order to cut. Elderly people with weak grip strength can use it, and since the blades are covered, children can safely use them too. It can be used to cut out detailed designs. Though it’s surreal that the sound of castanets rings through the room every time you make a cut, that is also a very Japanese design experience.

Two-twist pencil sharpener

This pencil sharpener is made to sharpen the pencil once you turn it left and right. Since it’s not necessary to rotate it either, you also don’t have to keep taking the pencil out to check its sharpness.

Super-thin labels

As you can see, these labels are so thin you can use them in the smallest of spaces without hesitation. Since they are also made of semi-translucent paper, you can use them on top of text in order to highlight it will still being able to read it.

Stand-alone pencil case

Everyone has had the experience of being unable to find the pen, eraser, ruler, etc. that they need in the middle of all the stuff they have in their pencil case. With this pencil case, sa you can see it stands up and makes it very easy to find what you need when you need it.


Maria de Los Angeles, an artist from the United States, has created a number of dresses from paper. The dresses serve as a medium to speak about the history of colonialism, migration and those without a home.

What is this dress?
I made it out of paper. I call it “the family dress” — on the front is a portrait of me with my nieces. The idea was for the dress to look European, but also speak to the history of colonialism. It’s about migration and being ungrounded. I have another dress that I wore to the fashion exhibit at the Met that had phrases on it like DEPORT ME and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). I’ve been making dresses like this for the past two months for a show I’m having in June at Front Art Space. I was thinking that art, when it looks political, people don’t want to engage with it. But a beautiful dress? I’m curious if a dress can make people engage.

“The idea was for the dress to look European, but also speak to the history of colonialism.”
~ Maria de Los Angeles, artist

artist paper dress 1

Where are you from?
I was born in Michoacán, which is in the south of Mexico. I’m the oldest of eight, and my siblings and I were smuggled across the border in a van when I was 11 — they pretended we were someone else’s kids, and we were given Tylenol so we’d be asleep during the border crossing. We were brought to Los Angeles, to our aunt’s apartment with these brown rugs, and our first meal was pineapple pizza, which I hated. Something about the sweet pineapple with the tomatoes. I remember thinking it was just wrong.

By Alexis Swerdloff for
Photo credits: Bobby Doherty

Handwritten notes: remember them? Such communication may have taken a digital drubbing but there are still some of us out there – and you know who you are – who get excited about stationery, whether it’s a worn leather notebook, a clean sheet of recycled paper or a set of sharp-pointed pencils.

And these people will no doubt be happy to know their fancy is being catered to by Printer & Co, which has opened its first pop-up shop, in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong.

Printer & Co is all about reviving the art of traditional writing – and the decorum that accompanied it. The store features two open spaces: one focusing on paper and art and craft supplies; the other filled with signature collections – handcrafted notecards, journals, gift tags and the like – including those for children and “his and her” sets.

Furthermore, the company is spreading the word with a series of workshops on the long-lost arts of handwriting, calligraphy and composing thank-you notes.

“As the quest for productivity demands an increasingly rapid pace of life, we cannot help feeling nostalgia for bygone, slow-living days when the handwritten note was a faithfully observed part of social life,” the company says.

The company is offering in-store workshops on calligraphy, writing thank you notes and word mosaics.

“This collaboration goes beyond a shopping experience. We are bringing our philosophy of slow living, authentic connection and mindful consumption to life through a series of workshops inviting local calligraphers, certified play therapists and leading creative writers,” the company says. “We hope to revive the sense of well-being in each and every person in touch with Printer & Co.”

By Kylie Knott for

Ask a Japanese person what mizuhiki is, and you’ll get responses referring to the intricately twisted cord decoration found on traditional, celebratory gift-envelopes found in Japan.

That answer isn’t wrong, since the cords are the most commonly seen form of this unique style of art, but mizuhiki is certainly far more than that.

Mizuhiki is an old, traditional art form first introduced to Japan from Sui dynasty China during the Asuka era (550-710 A.D.), and is used for far more than making decorative cords for envelopes. The works of art made today using the historic method of tightly wound, starched, and colored rice paper are nothing short of gorgeous.

Hiromi Nagasawa, who was originally a graphic artist from Tokyo, is now making original mizuhiki for wedding and engagement gifts, and has her own store in Fukuoka Prefecture. Her works have rightly gained a lot of attention for their intricacy and sheer beauty.

While these pieces don’t quite hold the same importance in ceremonial gift-giving as they once did, they are still highly valued works of art.

By Meg Murphy for

One morning last month a man sat down at his computer and ordered $4 000 worth of pencils designed to look like John Steinbeck’s favorite, the Blackwing 24.

“It’s probably the most iconic pencil ever made in America,” says Caroline Weaver, whose shop on New York’s Lower East Side, C.W. Pencil Enterprise, took the order of 1 920 pencils.

C.W. carries more than 200 types of pencils, including the Blackwing (also favored by Walt Disney), as well as a dozen erasers and sharpeners, and zero mechanicals.

“Mechanical pencils, they don’t smell like anything. The lead is so small you can get no line variation out of it,” says Weaver, 25. “Though it is a little bit of work to use a wood-cased pencil, most people appreciate that. There’s a physical connection you can draw between how often you have to sharpen your pencil and how much work you’ve done.”

The shop was bustling on a recent Thursday afternoon as Weaver made rapid-fire sales to a hodgepodge of tourists, designers, and high school students. Three Spaniards approached the cash register, unsure which of their coins amounted to the 87 cents they needed to buy a miniature pencil. Weaver solved the problem and carefully packaged their purchase in a custom envelope, tying her signature bow around it.

Her devotion is reflected in a tattoo on her forearm of a black Ticonderoga from the early 2000s that her mother, an interior designer trained in technical drawing, created. “I had her sharpen it three times,” Weaver says, “because a pencil sharpened and used three times is the perfect length.”

The hipster movement and Steampunk aesthetic have brought back a number of other traditional products. Restoration Hardware fashions 20th-century trunks into $2 495 bookshelves. Tin ceilings popular in the late 1800s are being reproduced in plastic. And vinyl, done in long ago by the cassette tape, has been resurrected. Pencils, unlike trunks, still serve a day-to-day function for students, designers, and contractors, as well as note takers predisposed to changing their minds.

Hipsters don’t pay the bills at C.W., though. While most of Weaver’s customers are millennials, she says, the big spenders are the roughly 15 percent who are over 50. The shop’s top five customers, who spend between $3 000 and $4 000 a year, are all over 40.

The average sale at C.W. is about $50 online, $25 in the store. Weaver typically charges twice her wholesale cost. She declines to disclose total costs or revenue but says the business turns a profit.

The pencil industry boasts a lively collector’s market, and Weaver says that, as far as she knows, C.W. is the only brick-and-mortar store catering to this demographic. Despite some nice buzz (here, here, and here, for example), she faces competition from,, and resellers on EBay, and tries to distinguish C.W. with the in-store experience. She’s familiar with every pencil she sells, as well as with those she can’t get her hands on; many are no longer in production. Bantering, that Thursday, with a collector from out of town, she sold him and his wife about $100 of merchandise and recommended a pencil podcast.

Weaver grew up in a small town in Ohio, went on to study art at London’s Goldsmiths, and traveled the world picking up new pencils along the way (such as a mint green set of three she acquired in Japan, her favorite at the moment). She risked personal funds of $80 000 to build up inventory, create the online store, and pay advance rent. Weaver launched the website in November 2014, found a retail space of roughly 200 square feet renting for $1 900 a month, and opened the doors in March of last year.

“I didn’t want it to be in a shopping neighborhood,” she says of the store, on Forsyth Street, above a restaurant, Birds & Bubbles, that specialises in champagne and fried chicken. “I didn’t want anything too polished. I like the idea that this shop kind of has to be discovered, that people seeking it out would be brought to a neighborhood that they might not usually come to.”

Since C.W. opened, the block has filled up with other quirky businesses. A 14-year-old neighbor stops by regularly to purchase pencils for her exams at the exacting Bronx High School of Science. She gets a neighborhood discount, reflecting her frequency as a client and Weaver’s management style.

Demand is sometimes more than Weaver and her staff of four (all millennials) can manage, she says.

“I have had a couple people offer to invest in the business, and I’ve declined. I’m not good at finance things. It really terrifies me, so even if it’s unwise, as long as I can keep it as simple as possible, I feel safer,” she says.

She and Caitlin Elgin, deputy pencil lady1, closed the shop for a week in February to travel to Germany, where they found a manufacturer for their cases and, as a bonus, a pencil with plain graphite on one end and neon yellow for highlighting on the other.

Those unable to travel to the store get a taste of Weaver’s personality from her online shop, her Instagram page, which has more than 94,000 followers, and her pencil-of-the-month club. Weaver, who had long dreamed of being such a club member herself, launched the program without any marketing beyond an offer on her website. It promises one pencil a month for a year for $80. Within about five months, she had 700 subscribers.

“We always try to pick pencils people don’t really know about, which is quite a task. It’s one of my favourite things, but all that packing and all that prep work takes us the entire month to do,” says Weaver, who says she had to stop accepting subscribers. She could probably afford to hire an employee dedicated to expanding the club but has a hard time justifying it and, in general, doesn’t see herself building an empire.

“I never want it to be where I can’t be here, or have too many locations to worry about,” she says. “I didn’t start this because I want to be a business lady. I started it because I really wanted to sell people pencils.”

By Polly Mosendz for

Former pupils of a long-closed school shared their memories when they were invited back to the building.

The former Anthill Common Board School, which later became Denmead School, closed in 1972 and was taken over by Denmead Community Association.

Recently the main hall had a major refurbishment and a number of items from the school were discovered under the floorboards.

Former pupils were invited back to have a look at them and the work that has been done on the hall. Some of them stayed in the village, others – won scholarships for masters and left. This event turned out to be a reunion.

Penny Lehmann, 69, remembers her time at the school fondly.

Among the relics discovered when the floor was dug up to treat subsidence, in the School Lane building, were hundreds of old wooden rulers.

Penny, of Yew Tree Gardens, came up with the idea of making a collage with them.

She says: “I went here when it was Denmead School. I remember walking from the village green and stopping in the village shop along the way to buy sherbert lollies. In the summer we’d sit under the apple trees.

“It was a surprise to find the rulers – there were so many of them. I cleaned them all up and thought they would look good in the shape of the building but it didn’t work. I think the school name is very effective.”


One of Penny’s classmates was Dave Cox, who went on to become the village blacksmith.

The 69-year-old, of Anmore Road, has strong memories of the teachers and having to use the cold, basic outside toilets.

Maurice Hibberd, 94, was the oldest former pupil at yesterday’s event. He said: ‘I remember being asked to do the headmaster’s garden.

‘This place has changed an awful lot since then.’

Manager Bob Bainbridge MBE invited the community in to find out about groups who use the centre.

“I found pyramids of rulers – it was probably a game to drop them between the cracks in the floorboards. There were thimbles, a horse’s tooth and a little horseshoe too,” he says.


If you want to bring your sketches and notes into the 21st century with a smart pen or a digital pen, or already have one and want an update, this list will help you find the best pen for you.

We’ve already brought you the best styluses for Android and the best styluses for iPhone. Now, you can get the best of the buzz of instantly transferring everything you write or draw on paper to your phone too.

No matter how quick your thumbs or good your enunciation for Siri is, we often revert to handwriting when it comes to quick note-taking or sketching. Many of us do our best creative thinking with a pen in their hand and evidence says that handwriting helps you remember content.

Far from banishing handwriting to the past, the digital world has reinvigorated the ancient practice. Styluses are an increasingly good match for real pens and, in some areas, overtake them – for example, in the ease with which you can switch from a ‘pencil’ to, say, ‘charcoal’.

And smart pens take the technology one step further: you can now write or sketch as you normally would on paper, and it will be instantly digitised. No longer will you have to type up or photograph analogue sketches or notes. You can combine the flexibility and control of a pen with the communication and shareablity that comes with digital information.

Most smart pens (apart from Wacom’s Bamboo Spark, but we’ll come to that later) work via an almost invisible grid of tiny dots on the paper – which is why you often need special paper as well as a special pen. A camera within the pen tracks where the ink is in relation to those dots – and transfers that information to an app with Bluetooth.

As it is so early for the technology, smart pens differ widely in quality. Here, we’ve scoured all that’s on offer to find the best smart pens for designers and artists.

Neo smartpen N2

Neo smartpen have prioritised getting as close to a normal pen as possible – and not a cheap, sponsored biro, but a comfortable-to-use, luxury experience. It is light (less than 0.8 ounces), thin (less than 12mm) and the length of a normal pen (at just over 15cm). Plus, made of aluminium and stainless steel, it is probably one of the most durable pens you will ever own.

Cool features include writing and drawing in 8 different colours with 3 different thickness options, recognising pen pressure in 256 steps, storing up to 1 000 pages of handwritten notes on the pen itself, being able to transcribe hand-written notes and its compatibility with standard ink refills. In the Neo Notes app, you can organise your pages, sync with services such as Google drive and Evernote, and customise your notes and drawings.

So, the gorgeous design out the way – it did win a 2015 iF Design Award – and easy use, how well does the Neo smartpen actually work? Mainly well. Use continuous pressure and you should be okay, but light strokes don’t always register. Simple doodles and notes will usually transfer brilliantly, but intricate drawings and designs are less likely to be transferred accurately. It could be perfect for your early doodles and ideas though.

This pen retails at around R2 500.

Moleskine Smart Writing set

Moleskine’s new writing set offers the shape and feel of their mind-blowingly popular classic notebooks – and now the brand is firmly in the twenty-first century. Just like its competitors, you can edit notes, transcribe handwritten notes into digital text and share your notes and sketches.

Its standout features, though, are writing colour options, page detection (write on any page and the pen will know which one) and that the pen also takes standard refills. Just like the notebook, the pen is beautifully built – with an aluminium body. Moleskine’s pen’s features (such as storage up to a 1,000 pages) overlap with the Neo smartpen – unsurprisingly, as they Moleskine’s was made using Neo smartpen tech

Buy the whole set for around R4 100.

Wacom Bamboo Spark

Wacom’s Bamboo Spark’s coolest feature is that it can be used with any paper due to a transmitter inside its pen and a receiver within the folio that comes with it.

Within the app (to which you can transfer pages in only a few seconds via Bluetooth), you can ‘rewind’ your drawing line-by-line and export at any point. Though the case only holds 100 pages (unlike Moleskine’s and Neo smartpen’s 1,000), you can easily store pages to the cloud, and share through the typical platforms. Unlike competitors such as the Moleskine Smart Writing Set and the Neo smartpen, you can’t refill with standard cartridges.

You might have come on here expecting the Inkling –but the Bamboo Spark is Wacom’s second, better attempt at a smart pen, and makes the Inkling pretty irrevelant. You can check our hands-on review to find out why the Bamboo Spark is better.

Buy the device for around R2 300

Livescribe 3

The Livescribe 3 might take some getting used to, as it’s thicker than normal pens – but it’s definitely worth getting to know it, as it works with precision and ease. Just like its competitors, the Livescribe 3 offers transcribing, sharing and organising notes – but the app also lets you record sound while scribbling.

Not only does it have great write-ups when it comes down to actually using the pen, but the Livescribe 3 might save you some money as it doesn’t necessarily require special paper: you can print Livescribe’s variety of paper if you have a 600dpi (or higher) inkjet printer. However, you can’t use standard ink cartridges with it – only Livescribe ones.

Buy the Livescribe 3 from around R2 700.


BLCK INK is newer to the game – and, as a result, is less tested and known. If its marketing videos – which are unique in that they concentrate on art, rather than note-taking – are anything to go by, this is the best pen for drawing and can produce truly beautiful results with greater precision and accuracy. It offers much the same features as other pens on the list, such as sharing and instant transfer, but we’re hoping it lives up to its promise of transferring drawings to such quality that they look just as good on your phone as they do on paper.

By Mimi Launder by



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