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How to Make Portfolios From Brown Paper Bags

I am a K–12 art teacher at a small school district, and I love to cook. Most of my articles are art projects for kids or recipes. Enjoy!

Paper bag art portfolios

Paper bag art portfolios

Making a Portfolio From a Grocery Bag

I really love the usefulness of brown paper bags. When I was in elementary school and high school, we used to make book covers with them. I loved being able to decorate them however I liked. It made the book mine, and I never lost my books.

I use them for crafts and fun projects!

  • I do printmaking with my kids.
  • We make pirate treasure maps on them.
  • In the classroom, I have the students do a cave painting project on them.
  • They can be used to make trees for Halloween decorations by twisting them into position. The possibilities are almost endless!

Here are a few pointers for you:

  • I used duct tape to cover up the staples and reinforce the bottoms of the portfolios.
  • The students used crayons and markers to decorate these with some of their favorite activities. I allowed them to draw something from their summer, something they liked to do, or just decorate their name if they liked.
  • Each student could put their own individuality into the portfolio as long as they included their name!

Let's get started!

What You'll Need

  • Brown paper bag
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Duct tape

Instructions for Brown Bag Portfolios

  1. Use a brown paper bag with a handle. Take scissors and cut down the middle of one side of it.
  2. Following the fold lines of the bag, cut the bottom of the bag off completely.
  3. Straighten out the whole bag and turn it inside out. Fold it back in half on itself so the handles match up and the bag lies flat. Make sure the top of the bag lines up on both sides evenly.
  4. Using a stapler, staple the sides and bottom of the bag, keeping staples about 3-4 inches apart. Also, keep them about a half inch above the bottom of the bag, fairly close to the edge. Try to keep them about evenly spaced.
  5. Using duct tape, cover the bottom of the bag along the length. Take care to cover the staples so that the children's fingers do not get nicked by them. You may need to use a second piece of duct tape. Repeat this on the side with the staples.
  6. Let the kids decorate the portfolio and have fun!

How Did the Portfolios Work?

This year in the classroom, I used brown paper bags to make art portfolios for each student. This was actually our first project of the school year. I prepared the portfolios and handed them out to the kids to decorate. I made one portfolio at home as an example and realized it would be too time-consuming to make them in class.

We place their finished artwork in the portfolios each week. I actually display the art at the end of the day each week (I only work on Wednesdays) and take down the previous week's work for the students to put into their portfolios. The kids will take their art home in these on the last day of the quarter and then bring back the empty portfolios for the next quarter and so on.

The portfolios really work great because students' artwork is sometimes oversized, and fitting it into a backpack is not always an option. Also, having the students prominently write and decorate their names on their portfolios helps me to learn their names better. Only being at the school one day a week makes learning names rather difficult!


Amber White (author) from New Glarus, WI on October 09, 2013:

Sure, that would be great to try! The kids love having their own portfolios.

Amanda Littlejohn on October 09, 2013:

Hey, that's a great idea! I guess you could also staple the cut out sides of a cereal carton inside to protect their precious artworks, too?


Amber White (author) from New Glarus, WI on September 27, 2012:

The students actually just colored the portfolios, will get some pics of those up soon. Some were really creative! I have to find a cheaper duct tape than what my local store offers before I go crazy with all the cool colors now. I would really like to make some projects with duct tape that the kids actually put together, like wallets or something. Thank you for checking out my hub, and I hope it helps you keep your little one's art organized!

Virginia Kearney from United States on September 27, 2012:

Great idea. I actually have a pile of art from one of my kids and was thinking I needed a portfolio to put it into. I'd love to see a picture of a finished one with the duct tape on it--I'm guessing you could use those colorful ones they have now. Voted up and Pinned.

Caren White on September 26, 2012:

What an awesome idea! Very creative. It's also a good chance to talk to kids about reusing and recycling.

Amber White (author) from New Glarus, WI on September 25, 2012:

Thank you! My students keep decorating more on their portfolios (well at least some of them) when they finish the daily art project. They really love them.

Amber White (author) from New Glarus, WI on September 25, 2012:

I hope it is as fun for people to make as it is useful as an art project and art protector! Thanks for checking out my hub!

AnnaCia on September 25, 2012:

Very nice idea.

RTalloni on September 25, 2012:

What a super idea for students, parents, and teachers. To be able to decorate their own art portfolios is icing on the cake!