~Old English Proverb~
One of the things I have become increasingly mindful of lately is the amount of trash I have left over after an art project is finished. While I do have a couple of ideas in place that I regularly implement to cut down on what is actually thrown out, I still have quite a few leftover bits to contend with. The other day I was in a cleaning frenzy trying to get the studio back in order. During the process I kept tossing everything that needed to be thrown out into one heap on the counter rather than in the trash bin. It turned out to be a magical "aHa!" artful moment.
With everything back in place and all the tidying up finished I turned my attention to the trash and suddenly saw studio stash! With a few simple supplies: wallpaper paste, gesso, heavy and medium matte gel, modeling paste, paint brush, pallet knife, and my fingers, I set out to recycle every one of those cast offs, up-cycling them from trash to studio stash!
My trash heap was composed of a large cardboard mailer that I had received a gift from a friend in as well as some random piece of cardboard cut from a box.
Two lunch sized paper bags, one brown and one white, from recent flea market purchases. A miscellaneous mash of various fibers and odd fabric scraps.
Two sleeves and surged seams from a t-shirt I cut up for a project. Various paper scraps: crumpled wax paper, bits of handmade paper, a stray coffee filter, a piece of brown pinstriped wrapping paper from my birthday gift, etc.
There were also boxes, one from a recent Amazon book purchase and one from an Etsy purchase.
Normally I would have been fed up and finished at this point and just tossed the random items out and called it a day, but, I have started to challenge myself to see how I can reduce the amount of things I actually throw out and to see exactly how creative I can get with all my leftovers. I can blame my current craze on Beth (Gathering Dust). She gave out one of my all time favorite tips for using up scrap paper bits and that is what got my mind whirling about how to use up other studio leftovers.
Keep a piece of blank card stock and a glue stick handy as you paper craft. As you are working or at the end of your project randomly glue all those snippets of paper onto the piece of card stock in an overlapping collage like fashion. It will look like a hot mess but do not despair! Use a paper punch, stencil, or free form cut out tag shapes. You will have some super amazing tag bases to embellish!
In addition to Beth's tip, I keep a pretty bowl near my workspace. It is my leftover bowl. As I work on a project I might select various items that are either accepted or rejected to include in a piece. I may snip this or tear away that.
Everything related to that project gets tossed into the bowl, originally I did this to curb what was going onto my work surface, to be sorted and put away later. I began to see additional projects with the rejects and leftover snippets. I use a simple piece of muslin and layer all those paper and fabric bits onto the surface and then stitch them into backgrounds for later use either by hand or using my sewing machine incorporating decorative stitching. Here are a few recent examples:
I also keep a couple of small vintage sewing machine parts tins beside my sewing machine. As I clip away excess threads I put them in the tins, one for neutral threads and one for colored threads.
I used these thread snippets to create fiber art embellishments for enhancing larger projects. Some examples are my fiber birds, small background or accent embellishments:
So, my scraps have evolved from simple tag bases, to fiber/paper backgrounds, fiber embellishments, and now to artist "canvas". Here is how I used my haphazard heap, all of these are in their rawest form but ready for paint, wax, or collage...
Etsy box lid, 1/2 crumpled white paper bag, and matte gel medium...
(Super simple even looks like a regular textured canvas)
Etsy box bottom, crumpled brown paper bag, and matte gel medium...
(Yes, I am leaving the rumpled edges as they are)
Cardboard box piece, 1/2 crumpled white paper bag, matte gel medium, modeling paste...
(I love the irregular random shape of this one)
Cardboard box piece, modeling paste, surged t-shirt seams...
(A fun textural background all ready for paint and embellishment or might be added to a larger piece, but I think I feel an encaustic moment coming on with this one)
Cardboard box piece, twisted paper strips, various fibers, crumpled wax paper, fabric and paper scraps, wallpaper paste, gesso...
(TIP: I often use wallpaper paste on large pieces to adhere things. It is very cost effective and I have found it to hold up well. Have you ever tried to strip wall paper off a wall? Need I say more ;c)
WARNING: The only thing you need to know about using the wallpaper paste is that it can sometime yellow over time, since I often want an aged antique look to my work the extra age does not bother me.
Amazon book box, t-shirt sleeves, fabric strips, gesso, modeling paste...
(This made a thick really sturdy textural "canvas" to be used as is or layered over with thin artist tissue or paints.)
Large cardboard mailer, paper and fabric scraps, fibers, coffee filter, handmade paper scraps, crumpled wax paper, pin stripe gift wrap, wallpaper paste, heavy matte gel medium, gesso...
(I glued these things on randomly with the intention of applying gesso over the whole thing for just a textural background but changed my mind after hitting the surface with a dry brush of gesso. It kind of came out looking like a piece of abstract art. Pretty cool!)
Some of these need to be weighted and flattened or backed for extra stability and then they are ready to use as stand in "canvas"! I have another stack of thick square boxes ready to cover with plaster wrap as soon as I have time and my heap with be depleted!
Right now, with the level of attention dedicated to my mother's care, I don't have much studio time to spare so I am focusing my energies on little creative snippets like turning trash into studio stash, storing up for future projects. I may also use some of these "canvas" as art kit bases to place in my defunct Etsy shop in the future.
I would love to hear any up-cycling tips you have for your project left overs!