Ideas for Recycled Art: Time to Clean Out the Closet

My husband and I have been going through our closets and basement boxes to determine what is useful, what is trash, and what is "junque." The useful stuff we'll keep, give, or sell; the trash we'll toss (or recycle) and the junque we want to upcycle into recycled art projects.

recycled art paper quilt
My recycled art paper quilt study.

Trouble is, when it comes to junk or trash, we don't always agree on which is which. I think it's crazy how Nick saves every nail, screw, washer, and odd electrical part because it is a possible component in one of his "contraptions," his word for recycled metal art. (He also saves everything for use in the giant, neverending recycled art project that is our antique home. That I get.)

I, on the other hand, see every used ticket, receipt, wrinkled piece of wrapping paper, and cancelled stamp as fodder for upcycling. Every toilet paper roll, plastic cap, or disposable cup with an interesting bottom screams "art tool." Nick doesn't mind me using these things; the trouble is, I have closets and bins full of the stuff. And it just keeps coming.

For example, last week I received a new set of Thermofax screens from Lynn Krawczyk packaged in the same wonderful quilted paper she used last time.

The minute I saw it I wanted to make something with it. Working on Cloth Paper Scissors has made me conscious of how to use found fibers to crafty advantage.

For my last little study in turning packing materials into eco-friendly art, I chose to machine stitch, hand stitch, and stamp. The dots on the nonwoven fabric I had found in a new box of shoes made me think of a grid. I sandwiched the paper padding between two pieces of the polka dot material and basically connected the dots using my sewing machine, leaving a gap in the lower middle.

Then I took out my stamps and stamp pad and created a focal point with a daisy stamp and dark brown ink. I used a large dot stamp to make random dots here and there.

I liked the basic composition and I wanted the colors to be relatively monochromatic, but the piece was lacking some emphasis. I went over the stamped images with a brown permanent marker and shaded in the dots a bit with gray pencil.

Finally, I took out my embroidery needle and some cotton floss and stitched around the stamped motifs. I particularly like how the dots came out.

upcycling lightbulbs into bird art
Upcycled Bulbs to Birdees
by Christine Lehto.

To his credit, my husband loves to see me create with the "junque" I collect. He just wishes I would make art from recycled materials more often, so I could thin the herd (or the craft closet).

If you're a recyclable hoarder like I am and are looking for inspiration to use up some of your stash, all you have to do is look through back issues of Cloth Paper Scissors in print or on Collection CDs. Almost every issue has a technique or project that uses recycled materials as components or tools.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Fabric Collage Mail Art by Wen Redmond (found paper and fabric scraps), Jan./Feb. 2011
  • Upcycled Bulbs to Birdees by Christine Lehto (Edison-type light bulbs), March/April 2012
  • From Junk to Funk, Paper & Plastic Purses by Alisa Burke (plastic grocery bags and junk mail), Jan./Feb. 2009
  • Finding Inspiration in a Bingo Parlor by Alexa Lett (found objects and ephemera), Sept./Oct. 2008
  • The Craziest Thing You Ever Stamped With (ear plugs, beets, a fistful of pencils, etc.) Jan./Feb. 2010

I can't wait to get started looking through my Cloth Paper Scissors back issues for more ideas. I'm sure hubby won't mind me spending time in the studio while he uses some of his hoarded hardware on home improvement.

P.S. What's you're favorite recycled art project? Leave a comment below.


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