Reuse in Action

A little over halfway through the Spare Parts 30 day Instagram challenge Art in 5 Project and the trash -aka- treasures are starting to pile up in a corner of our dining room. I have a few ideas on what we will make with these treasures but we will wait until we have the full 30 days’ worth of materials to finalize the plan.

Practice makes perfect? Perhaps! This challenge has encouraged us to incorporate a few new habits, recycling and reusing, but it also provided a starting point to many conversations about mindfulness. Collecting trash for an art purpose has resulted in a change; we now have to think about what the object is, previous and future purpose, the color, shape and how it can be transformed, suddenly trash is a treasure.

Trash becomes something of value, the value art brings into the space it occupies.

Project #1

This past week, we made STUFF! A friend from graduate school, Daniel a local educator working on his PhD in curriculum and education, came by with two creative dilemmas and requested our assistance. The first was an easy fix, he had two images he needed framed for an exhibition at the San Antonio Library’s Central Branch. Luckily I have a bin full of frames that have accumulated over the years, collecting dust in a dark corner of the garage…we found two identical ones, cleaned them and within minutes he had two beautiful images ready for display. I think this is common, we buy frames, and one day, redecorate and the old frames get tossed aside. My advice, keep the frames for later use or give them away, and this is why…think outside the FRAME! Frames are not just for pictures or paintings…they can be modified to display all kinds of “things” we squirrel away because they are meaningful to us or maybe just because they are beautiful but yet they stay in some drawer unappreciated.









Difficultly level: EASY

Materials: 2 old frames, 2 pictures printed to size 8 x 10 at a local corner store

Time: less than 15 minutes

Project #2

The second project involved a sardine jar filled with beautiful tiny shells all the way from Saudi Arabia. Daniel wanted some kind of solution to display the delicate shells. Intended for his prints, he found some very inexpensive frames at a local Goodwill for a little over a $1 each. We were not able to use them for his prints, however…light bulb #2…we could use one for his shells! I took apart one of the frames, put the glass aside, kept the matte that was included. Next he painted the frame with black acrylic paint for a contemporary look. I found some left-over quality heavy weight cream colored paper I have had for hmm, I don’t know TEN years, I cut it to the size and attached it to the cardboard backing included with the frame with some double sided tape and reinforced it with packing tape along the edges. When the frame was dry we put it back together with the matte and the backing (no glass). My daughter then started the arrangement of the shells, once we agreed on a design I hot glued them to the heavy weight paper and DONE! A new work of art, highlighting the beauty of nature in less than an hour, and it cost less than $2. My daughter and I actually made a variation of this years ago with a framed mirror, except the shells were glued directly to the frame rather than on the inside, another great reuse project for old frames to display those lovely shells we can’t NOT collect at every beach adventure.

Difficulty level: EASY

Materials: Old frame (remove glass), matte (optional), heavy weight paper (or cardstock), double sided tape or any quality tape, black acrylic paint, a brush, glue gun, sea shells

Time: less than 1 hour


Difficulty level: EASY

Materials: Old frame (remove glass), matte (optional), heavy weight paper (or cardstock), double sided tape or any quality tape, black acrylic paint, a brush, glue gun, found sea shells

Time: less than 1 hour

Project #3

Mia was assigned to make an “artifact” as part of a project for school; the project is about an imagined “ideal society.” As part of the narrative of her world, she imagined the society made use of a sacred bowl for ritualistic practices. The bowl had to look old and sacred, she named it the “palms of nature.” She decided to incorporate hands/palms into the design, while maintaining a naturalistic palette. It was a group assignment so one of the other students provided a lovely wooden flower shaped bowl, the catch…we could not “change” the bowl or damage it in anyway as it was an object still in use. Because we have been talking about reuse pretty much every day due to the challenge I suggested she create a molded insert with used paper towels, mod podge glue and some paint; (insert proud momma sigh here) and she figured out how to make the bowl and the result was amazing! She took several paper towels and carefully soaked them in water, making them stick together. To protect the original bowl from damage, she wrapped it with plastic film. An old trick I shared to make paper products look “old” is staining them with tea bags…so that is exactly what she did, she stained the paper towels with some used tea bags and molded the wet mass into the shape of the protected bowl. Once the paper towels were dry and somewhat firm she reinforced the new paper bowl with mod podge glue. Once it was dry she was able to incorporate tiny magazine cut outs of hands and brought the design together with some paint, with a final coat of mod podge glue to bring it all together. The result, a very genuine looking artifact from an idealized society! NO wooden bowls were harmed in the making of this project, after the presentation, the bowl may return to its previous use and we have a creative, old looking bowl for decoration.

Difficulty level: Easy/Moderate

Materials: Used paper towels, mod podge glue, plastic film, bowl (as mold), magazine cutouts (optional), tea bags, acrylic paint.

Time: 2-4 hours including drying time

Overall it was a very creative REUSE week in our home. There were practices, like frame reuse, we forgot about and after being presented with a dilemma, we were able to reinvigorate that simple solution to make new and exciting art. Over the years we have made all kinds of things for school projects, but making a conscious effort to use what we have rather than running out to the store to buy new materials or new objects saved us money AND it was a creative mindful solution that did not add waste to our community. The lesson I reiterated with my daughter was about creative solutions is the concept of taking care of the things we do have and finding new ways to use them rather than reaching for the quick fix that may well end up in the back of the garage collecting dust or in an anchovy jar hidden from view and appreciation. Art is all around us, we just have to find it and give it a place in our world.



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