5 Recycled Art Projects You Have to See to Believe

The things artists create from items most people throw away never cease to amaze me. The Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors is all about transforming items and giving them a new life, and we have some incredible artwork and techniques I’m sure you’ll want to try. But I also thought it would be fun to look back at some past articles and marvel at the creativity. So, I bring you my top recycled art projects (for now) that are sure to amaze and inspire!

Even something as ordinary as bathroom tissue can find new life as a textured, embossed substrate for mixed media. (Art by Donna-Marie Cecere, photo by Sharon White Photography.)

1. Bathroom tissue probably isn’t on most people’s list of most-used art supplies. But Donna-Marie Cecere saw it as the perfect substrate for mixed-media art, combined with spray inks, rubber stamps, threads, beads, and more.

When embellished with inks, beads, and embroidery, no one would know the base of this piece is bathroom tissue. (Art by Donna-Marie Cecere, photo by Sharon White Photography.)

In the article “Tantalizing Tissue: Emboss and Embellish,” in the July/August 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, Donna-Marie shows how the tissue, when layered with watered-down gel medium, can be pressed into a rubber stamp to create a beautiful embossed design. From there, adding color, beads, and stitching results in a standout piece that completely transcends its origins.

2. Most of us have repurposed book pages for any number of mixed-media projects. But Kathy Baker-Addy took recycled books to another level in her article “Books Unfurled” in the 2014 issue of Paper Art. She altered an entire book, covers and all, transforming it into a 3-D sculpture, cutting pages so they spill out in a waterfall of text. The effect is amazing.

Using a craft knife, book pages can be transformed into a dimensional dramatic sculpture. (Art by Kathy Baker-Addy, photo by Sharon White Photography.)

Her recycled art projects look complicated, but are completely doable; she cuts sections of the book at a time, offering tips for making the sculpture symmetrical, and for finishing the book so it can be hung on a wall. Save some volumes from the landfill and give this one a try.

3. Laundry—yes, laundry—inspired Rae Missigman’s Art Lesson Volume 5: Recycled and Re-inked: Bold, Colorful Embellishments. In the lesson she shows how to turn Shout® Brand Color Catcher® sheets into gorgeous embellishments. The sheets are cellulose based and, it turns out, perfect for mixed-media art. Rae discovered that after the sheets have gone through a wash cycle, they’re pliable, super strong, and still ready to soak up lots of color.

Use laundry dye catchers for recycled art projects; they absorb color and can be stitched to make embellishments. (Art and photo by Rae Missigman.)

Acrylic inks are used to give the sheets tons of vibrance, and then the sheets are cut and machine sewn and used as embellishments for canvas bags. After reading this lesson I ran to the store, got some Color Catcher sheets, and started incorporating them into my artwork. My laundry—and my art—have never been the same since.

4. As a flea market connoisseur, I’m often drawn to vintage tins, with their eye-catching graphics and typography. But beyond using the tins to store items, I’m never sure what to do with them. Liesel Lund solved that dilemma with her article “From Tin to Tin-Tastic: Creating Jewelry Components with Tin,” in the March/April 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. She details the process of cutting and repurposing tins, taking all the guesswork out, so they’re easy to work with.

Take advantage of the beautiful patterns on vintage tins and turn them into jewelry. (Art by Liesel Lund, photo by Sharon White Photography.)

Then, it’s onto creating one-of-a-kind jewelry. Liesel offers great ideas for using the tins and the images, and shows step-by-step how to take those finished pieces and add beads, fibers, and more to create layered, dimensional pieces. I especially love her winged bird, with components held together with eyelets. So many possibilities with this one—your imagination is sure to get sparked.

5. Karla Leopold took an interesting approach to choosing recycled textiles for her fabric collage portrait, featured in the article “Princess” in the July/August 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. “By using fabric and clothing scraps,” she writes, “I started with materials that have a history and add an element of storytelling.” What an amazing way to approach recycled art projects.

Fabric collages that start with interesting, textured fabrics become compelling works of mixed-media art. (Art by Karla Leopold, photo by Sharon White Photography.)

Her strategy paid off big time. Using a vintage fabric napkin as a substrate, Karla layered her textiles: scraps of lace, a blouse collar, a tea towel, and more. All with incredible tales to tell. After creating a composition, the pieces are adhered with a liquid adhesive, allowed to dry, then painted. Then, the magic: looking for an image to appear, to tease out of the collage. She saw a figure, then developed that into a beautiful portrait. What will you find?

I hope these recycled art projects, and the ones in the Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, inspire you to create your own unique artwork. Check out our lookbook for a peek at what’s in store in our current issue!

See how a rug mat, book spine, map, cigar box bands and more are turned into a fanciful dress in this blog post!

The Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine is filled with incredible recycled art projects, just waiting for you to put your spin on them!
The Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine is filled with incredible recycled art projects, just waiting for you to put your spin on them!
Follow Rae Missigman’s steps for creating mixed-media canvas bags using recycled laundry dye catchers in Art Lessons Volume 5: Recycled and Re-inked: Bold, Colorful Embellishments.
A vintage book and silverware get new chances at life in the video Upcycled Silverware Hook with Jen Cushman.
Using textiles imbued with meaning, make a book perfect for art journaling, sketching, traveling journaling, and more. Learn how in the video Upcycled Fabric Books with Erin Zamrzla.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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