Tag Archives: upcycling

Made From Scraps: Mini Accordion Books

Many years ago, as one of my Mail Art projects, I used to fold two-inch wide pieces of paper into little accordion books and decorate them with rubber stamps and pieces of paper that I cut out from incoming Mail Art and decorated envelopes. I carved a rubber stamp with a little graphic of a Mail Box and the words “Bits of Mail” to stamp on the little book covers. Before sending them out, I dated and numbered them on the back. I saved one example for my archives and made a few color copies to use later as collage inspirations. While I was getting the color copies made, it came up in conversation with the copy center worker that one of the black and white machines had red toner in it. I made a lot of copies with the red toner because I knew I’d find uses for the copies later!

One of my original mini accordion books from 1998 with some color and red ink copies I made at the time for future collage work.
One of my original mini accordion books from 1998 with some color and red ink copies I made at the time for future collage work.

Some of my old collage papers along with my Mail Archives had been in storage unseen for 20 years or more. I’ve been getting some of them out lately as I move stuff. With fresh eyes, I’m getting some new ideas and inspiration for improving old ideas. I decided to take these old copies and make new versions of the mini accordion books.

First I cut up the copies that weren’t already in strips into two inch wide pieces, the same size as the originals. Then I folded them and glued one red ink copy to one color copy back to back to make longer books.

Old copies with color ink and red ink cut into two-inch strips, folded and glued to make mini accordion books.
Old copies with color ink and red ink cut into two-inch strips, folded and glued to make mini accordion books.

I had a large paper crafting stash by 1998 already because I started making collages in 1985 in my first college design class and I’ve been collecting interesting papers for collages ever since. In the intervening years, there are a lot more paper crafting supplies available and some of them are a lot more to my taste than what was available in the late 1990s. Back in the day I would have said I was a “weird” stamper not a “cute” stamper. I also enjoy sophisticated antique imagery and have a lot of papers from two of my favorite brands, Tim Holtz and 7 Gypsies, in my stash. I decided that the Tim Holtz idea-ology Correspondence paper pad was a good fit for this project and I glued some of the postal themed textures onto a selection of the blank pages of my books. The dominant colors in this series are red white and blue which looks good with the red toner ink on some of my papers and the postal motifs fit the “Bits of Mail” theme.

Next I went through I box of paper scraps that I keep for teaching a card class that I run from time to time on how to make greeting cards from little scraps, rubber stamps and stencils. I took out a selection of papers that I thought would make good backgrounds and glued them in a random fashion to every other page, leaving some blank.

Mini accordion books ready for adding content.
Mini accordion books ready for adding content.

There is an old trick that I learned in drawing class long ago to help get unstuck if you are facing a blank piece of paper with no ideas – draw a quick frame around your drawing area before you start. This helps because it’s less daunting to start drawing on a paper that you’ve made some marks on than a blank surface. I get the same creative boost from using scrap papers for perhaps a similar reason – there is already some content there, however sparse and random, and that is often all I need to get me going in a creative direction.

The little accordion books I’ve made are pictured above ready to add content. What kind of content would that be? There are lots of things I could do with these little books. I could write, draw, stamp or paste in words and/or images to make a finished artistic statement. I could use them as a storage and display folio for tiny works of art such as postage stamps, faux postage stamps or tiny photos and images. I could send them off into the Mail Art network as an “add and pass on” project. What would you make?

tiny books made by various artistsFor additional inspiration, here are some samples of tiny books made by other people that I’ve received through the mail over the years. People of any age and ability level can make tiny books. Why not try one?

Fun With Silk Flowers

Painting silk daisies with Color Wash paint by Tattered Angels.
Painting silk daisies with Color Wash paint by Tattered Angels.

Recently I went to Leftovers, Etc., a teachers resource recycling center, to stock up on donated silk flowers to upcycle. There were several items I wanted to make for my upcoming wedding so I bought up what donated silk flowers I could find in my color scheme of white, navy, lime green, and red/coral. I purchased extra white flowers so that I could experiment with painting some of them lime green. I added some flowers from JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts to supplement the supplies available at Leftovers, Etc.

Painting faux flowers with Color Wash paint by Tattered Angels

Painting some of the silk flowers and faux flower clusters made with little white stryrofoam balls was easy. I pushed the stems into chunks of scrap styrofoam from product packaging then made a 50/50 mix of Tattered Angels Color Wash Paint in the colors of Lime Cordial and Lemonade. I painted this mixture onto the faux flowers that I wanted to turn lime green. The results were fantastic – the paint is designed to tint and stain surfaces and it flowed and wicked it’s way into and over the faux flowers in a way which tended to give a natural appearance. That effect really shows up well on the lapel flowers below – I didn’t have to do anything special to get the paint to pool at the tips of the faux rosebud petals and give extra depth to the color application. If you enjoy silk flower arranging Color Wash paints can give you lots of additional creative options.

Lapel flowers - I made six of these.
Lapel flowers – I made six of these.
Finished flower girl head wreath and basket
Finished flower girl head wreath and basket.
Small wreath with upcycled flowers and foliage and purchased lovebird ornaments.
Small wreath with upcycled flowers and foliage and purchased lovebird ornaments.

These floral accessories are only a sampling of the items I’m making for my wedding. It’s going to be a real DIY event! A good friend of mine even made my dress and the ties for the male members of the wedding party (I’m not practiced enough at machine sewing yet to do those myself). As the wedding approaches and for some time afterward probably, I’ll be posting the finished DIY projects on my wedding Pinterest board – check it out!

Link to Pinterest board – Wedding

Tutorial – Make a Shadow Box From An Old Drawer

Make a Shadow Box From An Old Drawer

It’s a lot of fun to salvage an old drawer and turn it into an attractive and functional shadow box. Last week I taught a class at Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves to show people some creative possibilities for old drawers and give them some ideas for displaying memorabilia. The day after the class we published a tutorial and some video of the class so you can try the project at home.

Read more on the Schnarr’s blog

Come see me at the Fall Art Walk in Old Webster – October 6-15, 2017

Old Webster Fall Art Walk

Stamping and Printing with Found Objects

I hope you can visit Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves Missouri between October 6 and 15th to see my display for the Old Webster Art Walk!

The theme of my show will be things made from recycled materials. If you’re into upcycling and repurposing, you’ll get a lot of ideas! On Saturday October 7 and 14th, I’ll also be doing a demo in the store from 12-4 pm. On the 7th, see how to make art prints with recycled and found materials. On the 14th, I’ll show you how to make fun fall greeting cards.

Come join us for a self-guided tour of many different area businesses in Webster Groves, all with a different artist and art display. For more information: https://oldwebsterartwalk.com/

Upcycled Tool Belt

A friend of mine gave me two unused canvas tool belts that advertise a hardware store that I don’t work for. I decided to cover up the advertisement and create a more robust belt loop by sewing on some recycled upholstery material. I used recycled trim, a recycled belt and some thread to make something that turned out really comfortable to wear. I’ll test the functionality today when I wear it to hold my hand tools while I work on the garden at a client’s house. Going to work is a lot more fun when you can express your personality with your tools!

Fun at Perennial – a place, not a plant

Mary with two of her jewelry display boards that she built
Mary with two of her jewelry display boards that she built

Perennial is a non-profit community workshop and store with the mission of building a creative culture of sustainability and turning discarded items into valuable resources. As an artist and craftsperson who already is enthusiastic about using recycled materials, I was delighted when my friend Mary (pictured at top left) invited me to meet her there and try out one of the community workshop sessions.

I met Mary at a Creative Arts Fellowship last year and got to know her better at some subsequent events. Mary’s art and mine have a lot in common – we both like upcyling materials and taking apart old jewelry to make new. I enjoyed teaching a class with Mary recently at one of her Women’s Upcycled Jewelry Jams. I’m looking forward to more opportunities for Mary and I to collaborate. A gifted artist and teacher, Mary creates under the name Sanctified Studios.

I knew I’d love Perennial after being in there for about two minutes! Seeing all the nice work space, supplies and tools was exciting but what really sold me was the console stereo! Clearly my retro-loving, thrift-shopping, dumpster-diving self was going to feel comfortable here.

Look at all those wonderful woodworking tools!
Look at all those wonderful woodworking tools!

At my first work session I cut up some wood for an upcoming class I’m going to be teaching on building garden pollinator houses. Then I put together a wood tray that I’ll be finishing and writing about later.

You can become a member of Perennial to access the work space and use the tools when they hold open sessions. Different levels of membership also give you discounts on classes and other events. Perennial accepts donations of materials. You can trade or purchase some of the materials for what you think is a fair market value. They also make craft kits that are for sale in the shop.

Some of the supply stash on the left and the sewing area on the right.
Some of the supply stash on the left and the sewing area on the right.

Art and crafting can often be lonely activities. Working around other artists is really healthy for social interaction and for the stimulation of being around new ideas. I’m looking forward to many happy times while I enjoy my new membership!

On my work table right now: cuff bracelet prototypes

I’ve been working on some prototypes for cuff bracelets made from upcycled fabric, ribbon and faux leather. I’ve had a lot of fun stitching ribbon to tubes made of fabric and pieces of faux leather. I’m embellishing some with beads and buttons. My next step will be working out how to finish the backs and attach snap fasteners. So much fun!

Cuff Bracelet Prototypes
Cuff Bracelet Prototypes

Kitchen Backsplash Project Part III – Filling in the Tile “Murals”

Frame of salvaged tiles filled with handmade tiles, salvaged tiles and purchased tiles.
Frame of salvaged tiles filled with handmade tiles, salvaged tiles and purchased tiles.

It’s a good thing I make detailed notes as I work, because this kitchen backsplash project underwent a two and a half year hiatus! I didn’t really plan to neglect the project for that long, but in 2013 and 2014 I did a lot of art and craft shows and my studio space and time was necessarily diverted to that pursuit rather than home improvement projects. In 2015 I’m doing fewer shows and determined to finish some of what I started earlier!

Read more:
Kitchen Backsplash Project Part III – Filling in the Tile “Murals”

Make a Garden Sign Out of a Recycled Produce Crate

Make a Garden Sign Out of a Recycled Produce Crate
Make a Garden Sign Out of a Recycled Produce Crate

In a previous article I described stenciling with paint on a wood garden sign. That works great if you don’t want a lot of small words but I found myself in need of some new garden signs that would require a lot of text on them. I decided to find a way to computer generate the text and put it on a weatherproof sign. In the past I had purchased produce from a co-op and had saved a couple of the thin wood crates thinking they would be useful for garden markers of some kind. I decided to make small signs from this wood and print out my text on clear acetate and attach that to the signs with brads.

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