de Youngsters Studio: Pirate Paper Inspired by Peter Coffin

By Raphael Noz, senior teaching artist

October 29, 2020

De Youngsters Pirate Paper

Situated just outside the museum, Peter Coffin's Untitled from 2009 strikes a defiant pirate pose. With Halloween upon us, what better time to look closely and think about how a costume can tell a story?


  • Fresh coffee grounds
  • Water (to mix with coffee grounds)
  • Wide, flat dish (big enough to hold the paper)
  • Sheet of paper
  • Clips to hold paper while drying
  • Markers or pencil for writing or drawing

Questions to Consider

  • We assume pirates lead lives full of wild adventures.
  • What adventures left this pirate with two of everything? (Note the parrots, eye patches, swords, hooks, and peg legs.)
  • What’s the pirate’s name?
  • Did the pirate get a nickname from his adventures?
  • What do you think is in the barrel?
  • Will you make a treasure map, riddle, or pirate story on your pirate paper?
  • How long do you think it will take to turn the paper brown?
  • What tool will you use to write or draw on your paper?


1. Pour fresh coffee grounds and water into the dish and stir gently. The water should look brown.

2. Dip the sheet of paper into water, rolling up paper ends if that fits better. Try a couple of different papers to see which works best.

3. Let paper soak for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

4. When the paper is sufficiently “dirty,” hang it up with clips to dry.

5. On your dry paper, use markers or a pencil to write a story or riddle or draw a treasure map!

Extra Tips

Practice your writing on scratch paper before writing on your pirate paper. Roll up and wrap the paper with a ribbon for that extra pirate look.


After creating your paper, consider the following questions:

  1. Was it hard to wait for your paper to be ready?
  2. Does creating your own paper make you more careful about how you use it?
  3. Does the look of the paper influence what you put on it?

Writing a story

  • When developing your pirate story, think about the following:
  • Who are your central characters?
  • Can you describe these characters in as much detail as Peter Coffin shows us with his pirate?
  • Where does the adventure take place—aboard ship or on land?
  • Does your story include any mythical animals?
  • What’s the purpose of your story?
  • Is it a thrilling tale or does it teach a lesson?

Use these sentence starters to get your quill started.

  • Finding myself the youngest member of the crew, I quickly learned . . .
  • Land ho, me hearties, and raise the flags because . . .
  • We had just cleared the last treasures from the wreck as the ship sank below the ocean surface when . . .


For a story or poem: how about dressing up like a pirate and having someone record you reading your story or poem in your best pirate voice? For a map or riddle: perhaps you could share your map or riddle with a sibling or friend so they can find a special treasure treat!

We would love to see what you make too, so please tag us on any social platform using the hashtag #deyoungsters or email

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