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Making crafts from recycled materials
"Using recycled or found materials forces us to think a little harder about the process of art-making," says Patrice Stanley, an accomplished artist and art educator who teaches both privately and for a number of organizations and school boards throughout the Greater Toronto Area.
"Art-making is mostly about problem-solving, so using found materials becomes more challenging and therefore more creative. In some cases, when you buy art materials, the uses are spelled out, cookie-cutter." Ideally, she says, using a combination of both bought and found objects is best.
Stocking up for simple kids' crafts
So what supplies should you have on hand and which should you purchase? According to Stanley, a well-stocked art box includes white glue, glue sticks, scissors, pencils, erasers, coloured pencils, markers, a basic paint set (at least the primary colours in acrylic or tempera), paintbrushes, an X-acto knife, aglue gun and construction paper. You could also add bristol board, black Sharpies or felt-tip pens (thick and fine), as well as scrapbooking paper.
Items to collect around the house are endless, but a good start includes recyclables, such as paper towel and toilet paper rolls, newspapers, magazines, boxes, packing materials, egg and milk cartons, and plastic containers. Some useful kitchen goodies are food colouring, salt, flour, foil, wax paper and plastic wrap. Add to those fabric, buttons, wire, tissue and wrapping paper, old cards, and gift boxes and bags.
1. Shadow-box: One of Stanley's favourite projects to make with items found around the house is an "all-about-me shadow box." "It's super fun and easy, and kids love it," she says. Paint the outside of a solid gift box (lid not required), then cover the inside with wallpaper, wrapping paper, photos, knickknacks, mementos, little toys – anything that says a lot about a person – and affix them in place with hot glue (mom's job). Hang it on the wall or sit it upon a desk or dresser.
2. Outdoor paint: Fill an empty honey or mustard container with water and food colouring, then "paint" the snow in your backyard.
3. Rocket power: Tape two toilet paper rolls on either side of a plastic soda bottle and wrap the entire thing in foil. Add embellishments like orange tissue paper to the bottom of the toilet paper rolls, or add the bottom of a yogurt container for a window and a couple of buttons for the astronauts' faces.
4. Totem pole: Collect boxes of similar widths. Using papier-mache (newspaper, flour and water), design a face on the top of each box. When dry, paint the boxes in bright colours, then stack one on top of the other to create a totem pole.
5. Holiday cards: Cut similarly themed (red and green for Christmas, pastels for Easter, orange and black for Halloween) pieces of tissue paper, wrapping paper, fabric, old cards, magazines or gift bags into various small shapes. Glue them haphazardly or mosaic-style onto card stock for one-of-a-kind mailings.
6. All wrapped up: Lay out long sheets of packing paper – or scrap paper for smaller gifts – then paint a sheet of bubble wrap (bubble side up) in various colours and lay it over the paper, press and lift. Make other designs with corks, cookie cutters, tin cans and plastic bottle caps.
7. What's in a name?: Cut the letters of a child's name out of stiff cardboard, then wrap then in complementary fabric, wallpaper or wrapping paper. Secure each letter to a wide length of ribbon with tape then string the banner across a bedroom wall.
8. Bright light: Glue pieces of torn or cut tissue paper onto a clean glass jar with a wide opening and layer them as you go. When the jar is covered to your liking, use Mod Podge over the entire outer surface. (Mod Podge is an all-in-one glue, sealer and varnish available at craft stores.) Place a candle inside for a colourful glow.
Think twice before tossing your recyclables. One person's trash is another's treasure, after all. And what a brilliantly imaginative treasure it may turn out to be.