Category Archives: Recycling/repurposing

Bean Bag Book

Bean bag book

Recently I spent a day traveling. By mid-day I had eaten nothing but the  17 peanuts that the airline offered me, so during a 3 hour layover I set out to find something resembling actual food and ended up with a pretty darn good food court Mexican lunch of a tasty bean and chicken burrito and some reasonably  good chips and salsa.

Detail of bean bag book

Detail of bean bag book

Bean bag book detail

Bean bag book back0001

As I was about to crumple up and toss the paper bag in which my lunch had been served, I saw the polite admonition on the bag to recycle, and instead tucked it between the pages of The Interestings, my travel book of choice that day.

Back at home yesterday I pulled the brown bag from my carry-on and started piddling with it, and by afternoon I had turned the take-out bag into a spur -of- the-moment  journal. I added only odds and ends already in my stash: some blank brown kraft paper pages, a bamboo chopstick, some black rubber bands, a date stamp just for fun, and some color accents from an old gouache paint set of my dad’s.

I’m giving a book-making class a month or so from now. While this one wasn’t completely perfect, I may use it as an example of how to create a nifty little book out of just a few odds and ends.

 

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Don we now our winter apparel

It’s that time of year. After a lovely run of warm fall weather (interrupted by that freakish October snowstorm), the thermostat is creeping down and my collar is creeping up. Time for winter duds. This is me, right this minute, sitting in front of the kitchen fire working at my computer:

Warm hands, warm heart, right?

But I took a look at my kitchen Buddha last night and decided he looked a little chilly, still in his summer robes, bare shouldered and all. I couldn’t do much about the shoulders, but I could at least give him a more seasonal backdrop. So I switched out the playful pink he was wearing in his little nook (an antique sewing machine drawer in which he fits perfectly) backed by a rather frivolous pink and dotty paste paper I made last spring–here, see:

For this more seasonal attire. This is part of a gelatin monoprint I made a few weeks ago. As we slip out of our fall Ango season into the quieter days of winter, it seemed to suit him better. And, you know, since he doesn’t have any mittens . . .

Here’s a little closeup:

By the way, I made this print at an art party you can see more about at my Floating Ink’s Wandering School of Art facebook page.  Be sure to take a look at the photos from that fabulous night.

And stay warm.

Tea bowls on a tea bag

Tea bowls on teabag by floating ink
Tea bowls on teabag, a photo by floating ink on Flickr.

Remember the old riddle? You throw away the outside, cook the inside, then eat the outside and throw away the inside? At least, I think that’s how it went. The answer, of course–corn.

My newest art project has a similar bent. You throw away the outside (the tea bag wrapper), cook the inside (steeping the tea bag), put aside the inside (the now wet tea bag), and throw away the inside.

I’ve been having a wonderful time rescuing tea bags, hanging them to dry (on my art clothesline across the kitchen fireplace), then unfolding them, dumping out the shreds of tea inside (do dry first, and throwing out the old tea afterwards so that you get the most color out of the leaves and onto the fabric bag), then saving the tea bag paper for printing projects. And, yes, I can already hear some of you saying “Throw out the used tea leaves? Never!” I suppose they’d be good for dying and could also just be composted.

To gaze even further into my own navel, I’ve chosen to start with a print of–you guessed it–tea bowls.  A similar print ended up being incorporated into the encaustic painting I showed back in September. If you look at the larger version on my flickr page. at the top edge just to the left of the green ribbon, you can see (upside down) the tea bowl image printed on a tea bag. And again–faintly, almost directly below it, but right side up.

I’m also sort of digging this rabbit–he’s one of my favorite hand-carved stamps of all time and I’ve used him in many projects.

I’m going to continue to play with this tea bag paper–making a photocopy directly onto the tea bag is in the works, with a success rate (success being defined as not totally gumming up the copier) of about 35% so far.  I’m also piddling with some different kinds of tea, different tea bag fabrics and paper (I’ve got a little collection of silk tea bags I’m eager to try), and different lengths of time leaving the bags in contact with the paper.

Compare the tea bowl image at the top of this post, for instance, with the one below left (which stayed scrunched up with the wet tea leaves in it for almost a week), and take a look at the right-hand image, too–I’ve got some ideas for using the teabags cut up, too. If nothing else, it gives me lots of excuses to drink plenty of tea!

That thing that I made you that you don’t know what it is–I don’t know what it is either, but isn’t it awesome?

About this time last year I bought a gigantic plastic storage container at Goodwill. It was filled to the brim with those wonderful plain wooden building blocks for kids.  The old school kind that last forever. Rectangles, squares, cylinders, arches, and those cool wedge-of-cheese shaped blocks. I stowed them in the way-back of my 14 year old Subaru wagon, and didn’t really think of them again until the fates decided about 6 weeks ago that the Subaru’s time had come (I can’t complain: it hit the 250,000 thousand mile mark in June and had never, but never let me down). But it had to be cleaned out in preparation for moving to its new home, and the blocks came to light again and started nagging at me.

And then I needed a present for someone special.  And this was born:

Inspired by a number of different projects, I pulled together various tools and decorated papers–monoprinted, stamped, brush painted, watercolored and so on.  You can actually get a better look at the kind of things that ended up papering the block in these shots. I quite like the little green bit of paper with the fish and tadpoles on it–it has a wonderful (IIDSSM) 3-D look to it, but I assure you, it’s perfectly flat.

And these–the stamp of the little person in the hat was made for another project, but it makes a credible appearance here, I think.

On this block printed strip, which ended up on the front of the bridge, a recently carved fish stamp and a poem by Issa:

fish frolicking
on foot…
chrysanthemums

I assembled it all with Golden semigloss gel, let it dry (hurrying it along a bit with a heat gun) then covered the whole with a layer of natural colored encaustic medium.  Then I sat watching Top Gear (British version, of course) while I buffed all the surfaces to a nice low-level gloss, kissed it goodbye, and packed it for shipping to the birthday girl.

It’s called Chrysanthemum bridge, but I  still don’t know what it us. Maybe she will.

No, it’s not the Acropolis

It’s my latest score from the Goodwill store. Over the weekend I prowled through their craft supplies and found 6 (SIX!) boxes of rubber stamps.  For a total of $6. The crafting kind. But, alas, the prefab, determined kind. I am never, though, going to use the rubber parts of these stamps. Cutesy designs. Way toooo cutesy for my taste.

Not that I’m 100% opposed to premade rubber stamps. I have a few. I might use them someday. But what I like best, of course, are my own creations–images of my choice carved out of some wonderful carving medium or another. Love these. Have hundreds of them. But what I don’t have–mostly–are wooden blocks to mount them on. You know, so you have something to hold onto while you’re stamping.

And the previous owner of these stamps, bless her (I’m assuming “her”) never mounted the rubber parts to the wooden block handles that came with them, so I can use them to back my stamps. Woo hoo!

Now, where’s my glue?

My not so hidden agenda sort of tutorial

Last June my computer had a little snit and ate my calendar. For the second time. Not all of it–I could still access most of the years on it, but not all. But that was it. I could no longer trust it. I still keep a calendar on my computer, but my main computer is kept on stone tablets now. I sat down the day after the Palm betrayed me and made a paper agenda. It has served me well.

On Saturday of this past weekend, though, I realized I’d come to the last page of my year, which, just because of what happened when, now runs from mid-June to mid-June. Time was up. I spent the rest of the weekend making a new one. I started with this:

And took these steps. More pictures here than words, and I apologize for the fact that the shadow of my head is in some of the photos–it was a dark stormy weekend and the lighting was just weird.

Soft Kut from Dick Blick:

The carved block and the printed page:

After flirting briefly with hand-cutting and block printing the name of each month and each numerical date, I came to my senses and wrote them in by hand with Sharpie markers matching the color of the ink I’d used on each page:

Cutting scraps (they look like the homemade noodles First Child and I made a couple of weeks ago). I’m so cheap that I spent a ridiculous amount of time pawing at and trying to figure out how to reconstitute and reuse these. Common sense prevailed and they went into the trash, but it took a while and was fairly wrenching. Seriously, think there’s gotta be a use for these somewhere:

A little cover decoration was in order:

And then, maybe, a little color:

Second child likes the black and white prints better. I left a few like that. And I don’t know why I printed so many, but it’s just as easy to do a run of quite a few prints and I’m already thinking up some good uses for them (stay tuned).

I’m always seriously in love with the blocks from which I print. Would it be weird to mount and hang them somewhere? They’d have to be accessible for repeated use. I also have among my treasures some woodcut (actual wood) blocks that my dad carved many years ago. Some of them were commissioned for the covers of a magazine for which he was the art director back in the 60s and 70s. My sister has some of them, too. Hmm . . . I might actually have to print some of them in the near future.

For now, though, these are just mine.  And this, finally, is my new calendar, complete with its own sunflowery cover, its nice tabs (scavenged from some monoprints that didn’t completely work out), and its important back pocket (everything should have pockets). I’m happy to have a nice place to keep track of what day it is.

Lightning quick gift bag repurposing: bag to book

{Wheee! This one got featured in the Whipup newsletter–#3–last week. Thanks, Kathreen!}

My husband suffers from a terrible fear of gift wrapping. Leaving out the gory details, suffice it to say that on his first day of work in his first after school job in a department store in high school, he had to gift wrap a set of football shoulder pads. They were not in a box.

He has never recovered. Because of this, he (thinks he) has dibs on all the holiday gift bags that come into this house. He hoards them so that, come a birthday or holiday, all he has to do is drop in a gift, tuck a piece of tissue on top of it, then go and pour himself a stiff drink to help dispel the horror.

So one of my after Christmas tasks is to gather up and store any nice gift bags that came our way. I was particularly taken with a kraft paper bag decorated with red and white snowflakes, and wanted to save it. Alas, Crispin had gotten into it after the present opening (it had originally contained some homemade goodies) and the bottom corner had a distinct bite mark. Still, I was loathe to throw it away. So last night I did a quick-and-dirty repurpose and now present to you . . . ta daaa:

Gift bag to handmade notebooks (2 thereof) in 5 quick steps

This is the quickest project ever. Gather your gift bag, a pair of scissors, a tapestry needle and some embroidery thread, and some cast-off papers to fill the notebooks with. Plop yourself down on the family room floor and just . . . wing it. I didn’t even measure anything, and eyeballed all the cuts.

Lay your bag on the floor and check it for tears or stains. My bag was great in the middle, a little torn at the bottom and, because it had paper twist handles that had been reinforced with a sort of lumpy bit of reinforcing paper, I decided to discard the section with the handles.

Take your scissors and free the usable middle section:

Stand this section up in front of you. See how each side makes a little letter M?

 

Cut down the middle of each M so you have two pieces. Each piece will make one notebook–you can probably see them already:

Fold the first one in half with the decorative side out. The flaps on the sides will make the notebook a little sturdier. Repeat with the other piece of the bag:

From the scrap paper, cut pages a little smaller than the size of the open notebook–10 or 12 pieces should be about right, though if your bag is bigger than the one I used you can add more. Fold them in half and nestle the spine of this little sheaf of papers into the spine of the notebook. Use the needle and a length of embroidery thread (or whatever floats your boat) to stitch the papers in place. Use your scissors to trim the thread ends and neaten any pages that need some attention.

Et voila! Here are my two. One has used printer paper as filler (so, yeah, half of the sheets have been typed on), and the other has plain paper bag paper to match the cover.

Total cost? Zippo. Total time? Maybe 20 minutes, and that’s only because my kids asked me to stop rustling papers during Futurama and I could only make cuts during commercials. And don’t you feel virtuous for recycling?