5 Upcycling Ideas for Your Trash & Stash

I’m willing to bet that you could agree with at least one of the following statements:

I have too much stuff.

I can’t afford all the art materials I’d like.

I want to make art in a way that has less impact on the environment.

upcycled art puppy collage by sue pelletier
How much is that doggy in the painting? Free! Sue Pelletier upcycled found corrugated cardboard into a collage canine.
(Featured in CPS March/April 2014)

Personally, I’m in for all three. So I’ve come up with a list of upcycling ideas that will help you address these statements in one way or another.

1. Search out found fabrics. New fabric is awful pretty, but the cost can add up. Instead, look for found fabrics in your closet (I’m talking to you, bridesmaid dress) or your environment. Example: Burlap is all the rage in upcycled crafts and home dec right now. It’s a perfect neutral for backgrounds, you can stitch through it easily, and it’s cheap. Ask your local coffee shop or grocer if they’ll let you take their empty burlap bean bags off their hands for free or a small fee. You get yardage and the burlap stays out of the landfill. (You can also find cheap burlap coffee sacks on the Internet. Many have great graphics.)

2. Upcycle containers. Cans, plastic containers, and jars can hold your art supplies, paint water–even flowers for your studio (or still-life). Pretty them up with a ribbon, fabric, or paint pens and you have a unique way to hold everything.

3. Upcycled art backgrounds are as close as your sewing machine. Stitch together  fabric and paper scraps to make a patchwork. You’ll have instant texture! You can also reuse small pieces of felt to make little pouches, embellishments, or jewelry. If you have a needle-felting machine, upcycle fabric scraps into a new piece of felted fabric.

4. All a-board. Cardboard boxes and paper packing provide infinite recycled art opportunities. Smooth out Kraft paper packaging to use as a drop cloth or cut up the paper and make book or journal pages. Use corrugated paper as a stamp or as an element in assemblage and collage. Cardboard and chip board boxes can be painted and decorated in upcycled craft projects or cut up and used as substrates or book covers.

5. Make upcycled art tools. Not only can you make art from recycled materials, but found objects (aka “trash”) like bottle caps, foam meat or veggie trays (washed), and plastic bubble packaging make terrific stamps and mark-making tools. The plastic fork from your take-out lunch? Keep it for drawing lines in paint. The plastic container it came in? Wash it out and use it to store art supplies.

Whether you want to make more eco-friendly art or just want to whittle down your stash without throwing it out, you’ll find a barrel full of upcyling ideas in upcoming issues of Cloth Paper Scissors. With a subscription to Cloth Paper Scissors, you won’t miss out.

P.S. What would you do with a stack or roll of corrugated cardboard? Leave your idea below.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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