How to: Make a Musical Maraca at Home

On June 6 and 7, almost 6,000 visitors attended Jazz n’ Families Fun Days, the Phillips’s annual family festival in partnership with DC Jazz Festival. Families decorated maracas, listened to live jazz music, played instruments, and joined gallery tours. In preparation for this big event, Phillips Education staff spent the last couple months collecting thousands of water bottles and toilet-paper rolls for the Family Fun art project – musical maracas! Check out these before and after photographs showing the innovative and creative ways visitors transformed recyclable materials into instruments that were as artistic as they were musical.



View from above the mass of recycled water bottles during preparation for Jazz n’ Families Fun Days. Photo: Hayley Prihoda


The expansive assortment of recyclable goods collected by the staff. Photo: Hayley Prihoda















Young visitors showing off their wonderful creations! Photo credit: Joshua Navarro

Young visitors showing off their wonderful creations. Photo: Joshua Navarro

Visitors of all ages enjoyed creating their musical maracas in our art studio. Photo credit: Joshua Navarro

Visitors of all ages enjoyed creating their musical maracas in our art studio. Photo: Joshua Navarro

















You can make a musical maraca at home with your family! This project is fun, engaging, and accessible for all ages.

Select your favorite color beads for your maraca! Photo: Joshua Navarro

Select your favorite color beads for your maraca. Photo: Joshua Navarro



  • Toilet paper rolls or water bottles (you can use both, or one or the other)
  • Beads or any dried food in your kitchen pantry, such as beans, pasta, or rice.
  • Decorative materials (colorful duct tape, tissue paper, scrapbook paper, pipe-cleaners, etc.)


  • 4 and up (possible for younger ages with adult supervision)


  • 30 minutes – 1 hour







There are two easy ways to construct your musical maraca.

Option 1

Step 1: Clean, rinse and dry plastic water bottle. Any size bottle will work!

Step 2: Select beads or dried food for the inside (beads/food may be visible so think about the colors you want to choose)

Step 3: Pour beads/dried food into the water bottle

  • Tip: Use a piece of paper as a funnel to make this process easier and cleaner
  • Tip: Fill up halfway to allow room for beads to shake

Step 4: Close water bottle cap

Step 5: Decorate the outside of your maraca!

To further extend your project, create two maracas and attach a toilet paper roll in between to form a handle. Duct tape is recommended.

(Option 1 examples) Two decorative water bottle maracas. Photo: Hayley Prihoda

(Option 1 examples) Photo: Hayley Prihoda

A large maraca with a toilet paper handle. Photo: Hayley Prihoda

(Option 1 extended example) Photo: Hayley Prihoda












(Option 2 examples) A triangular maraca made out of a toilet paper roll (on left) and a rain stick made out of a paper towel roll (on right). Photo: Hayley Prihoda

(Option 2 examples) A triangular maraca made out of a toilet paper roll (on left) and a rain stick made out of a paper towel roll (on right). Photo: Hayley Prihoda

Option 2

Step 1: Select a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll

  • Tip: A toilet paper roll will create a hand-held maraca; a paper towel roll will create a rain stick

Step 2: Pinch one end together and seal by stapling

Step 3:  Pour beads/dried food into the tube

Step 4: Close other end with staples

  • Tip: You can either pinch the edges together in the same direction as the other end or in the opposite direction to create a triangle shape (see photograph below)

Step 5: Decorate the outside of your maraca!



Re-purposing materials is a great way to save money, think creatively and reduce waste! Here are a few more ideas for reusing your recyclable goods this summer:

Check back soon as we begin our Phillips-at-Home Summer Series, bringing our collection to you through art-making activities inspired by our artworks!

Hayley Prihoda, K12 Education Intern 



Pin To Win: Dream Home of Realities Contest


Neo-Impressionist painters relied on the use of the surreal grounded in reality to create scenes of mystical, dreamlike beauty. Their use of vibrant colors helped them capture a certain mood and tone. The Phillips Collection wants to know what vibrant colors and textures you would use to decorate your dream home! Enter our Dream Home of Realities Pinterest contest for a chance to win a grand prize that might make the walls of your dream home become a reality.

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • $500 worth of Farrow & Ball gift vouchers
  • A Farrow & Ball color consultation: a personal in-home color consultation with a trained Color Consultant from the new Farrow & Ball DC showroom in Friendship Heights. The Color Consultant will consider the light in the space, the shape of the room and architectural details, as well as the overall look you are trying to create before recommending a color scheme using Farrow & Ball paints and wallpapers.


1) Follow The Phillips Collection on Pinterest.

2) Create your own “Dream Home of Realities Contest” Pinterest board! Curate a board for your dream home inspired by scenes, colors, and textures in Neo-Impressionism and the Dream of Realities: Painting, Poetry, Music. Think about palette, lighting, mood—when you think of where you’d love to live, what do you see? To qualify for the grand prize, boards must include at least 4 pins from the Phillips’s Neo-Impressionism board and at least 4 pins from Farrow & Ball’s many home inspiration boards, but what you include is up to you—get creative! See our inspiration board here to get those creative pins flowing:

pinterest inspiration board

3) E-mail a link to your completed board to with subject line “Dream Home of Realities Submission” to be officially entered into the contest.

The winner will be selected and contacted by January 16, 2015. We’re excited to be #NeoImpressed by your creativity!


Images: (1) Paul Signac, Place des Lices, Saint-Tropez, Opus 242, 1893. Oil on canvas, 25 3/4 x 32 1/4 in. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Acquired through the generosity of the Sarah Mellon Scaife Family. Photograph © 2014 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (2) Georges Seurat, Seascape at Port-en-Bessin, Normandy, 1888. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 32 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the W. Averell Harriman Foundation in memory of Marie N. Harriman, 1972.9.21 (3) Maximilien Luce, The Louvre at the Pont du Carrousel at Night, 1890. Oil on canvas, 25 x 32 in. Private Collection (4) Theo van Rysselberghe, Canal in Flanders (Gloomy Weather), 1894. Oil on canvas, 23 3/4 x 31 1/2 in. Private collection

What is a Cyanotype?

Cyanotypes of feathers made by Amanda Jirón-Murphy.

Cyanotypes of feathers made by Amanda Jirón-Murphy.

We’ve been talking cyanotypes here with Snapshot in the galleries. The show features a few photographs of that process by Henri Rivière and last week we held a workshop. So what is a cyanotype?

Cyanotype is a 170 year old photographic printing process that produces prints in a distinctive dark greenish-blue. The word cyan comes from the Greek, meaning  “dark blue substance.”

The process was invented by Sir John Herschel, a brilliant astronomer and scientist, in 1842. (His father was the astronomer Sir William Herschel, who discovered the planet Uranus. Interestingly, Uranus, due to mostly methane gas in its atmosphere, appears cyan blue.)

However, Herschel did not use cyanotype for photography, but for reproducing notes. It was a family friend, the botanist Anna Atkins, who used the cyanotype printing process in 1843 to create an album of algae specimens. She created the images by placing objects directly on photosensitive paper; this process is called a photogram (unless you are Man Ray, in which case you call it a rayograph). She is regarded as the first female photographer.

Compared to other photographic printing processes, cyanotype is easy and inexpensive. No darkroom is needed, instead it uses the power of the sun and iron salt solutions rather than the silver salt solution of black and white photography. Ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide are combined, and exposure to UV light creates ferric ferrocyanide, also known as Prussian Blue (named for the color of the Prussian military uniforms.) The cyanotype process was also used to create copies of technical and architectural plans, and these copies were called blueprints; even though the cyanotype process is no longer used, any construction document or detailed plan is still referred to as a blueprint.

Although most of today’s digital cameras have settings like “black and white,” “sepia,” and “blue,” the “blue” is clearly not a cyanotype. Mixing up your own home alchemy is not recommended, since the chemicals are, as chemist and photographer Mike Ware writes, “toxic if ingested . . . and it will obviously stain skin, wood, clothes, textiles, household pets and any other absorbent surfaces.” However, there are easier ways to work your own cyan magic.

You could do-it-yourself. Even Martha Stewart has instructions online that make me want to Do It Now!

Or you can buy ready-to-print supplies online.

Or, for instant gratification, our Museum Shop carries a Sunography kit, containing six pieces of 5″x7″ coated-on-both-sides archival paper. You don’t have to use a whole sheet but can cut it to make smaller images. All you need is your inspired creativity and our friend the Sun.

Finally, here’s how to care for your cyanotypes.

And remember, if you make a photogram, you can always rename it after yourself, just like Man Ray.

Ianthe Gergel, Museum Assistant