Tag Archives: upcycle

Pack Rats and Upcycling

Old watch part, broken charm, vintage stamping.

I was given an illustration of a pack rat awhile back done by an artist and graphic designer I admire. It was meant kindly, but I was really insulted (by the giver, not the artist). It was a mean looking rat with a horde of junk.

 

Is that me?

 

I save a lot of stuff, and some of it I should probably get rid of, but a large extent I think there’s inspiration to be found in clutter. You never know what will be the perfect bit to finish off a project.

 

Small plastic fruit from a Christmas cracker? Perfect for the pirate doll I made so she doesn’t get scurvy. (True story.)

 

We won’t get into keys and watches and the old *stuff* that make excellent bases for steampunk projects. (My Wells watch is one of my favorites. Two broken watches and a piece of velvet too small to sew with.) I’ve made chainmail from wire scraps (the low/high point being micromail I made using scraps from my wirework wrapped around a doll making needle so the rings would be small enough) and charms made by hanging small bits and bobs off of said chainmail. I’ve jazzed up old hats by making flower fascinators out of ribbons, old buttons and broken earrings… 

 

 

Denim from no longer usable jeans and an old button.

People upcycle the most wonderful things. I’m such a sucker for the melted and reshaped crayonsOne artist makes fantastic classic jewelery from the security lining of envelopes.

 

Give pack rats some credit!

 

So, continuing with the Poetry month theme, here’s one of my favorite poems.

 

Yes, it’s a children’s poem, but I still love it. And really I really feel like Hector some days. (Especially with his twists of wire, I’ve bags of different metals that are still long enough for binding wraps!) Shel Silverstein’s Hector the Collector:

 

          Hector the Collector

          Collected bits of string,

          Collected dolls with broken heads

          And rusty bells that would not ring.

          Bent-up nails and ice-cream sticks,

          Twists of wires, worn-out tires,

          Paper bags and broken bricks.

          Old chipped vases, half shoelaces,

          Gatlin’ guns that wouldn’t shoot,

          Leaky boasts that wouldn’t float

          And stopped-up horns that wouldn’t toot.

          Butter knives that had no handles,

          Copper keys that fit no locks

          Rings that were too small for fingers,

          Dried-up leaves and patched-up socks.

          Worn-out belts that had no buckles,

          ‘Lectric trains that had no tracks,

          Airplane models, broken bottles,

          Three-legged chairs and cups with cracks.

          Hector the Collector

          Loved these things with all his soul–

          Loved them more then shining diamonds,

          Loved them more then glistenin’ gold.

          Hector called to all the people,

          “Come and share my treasure trunk!”

          And all the silly sightless people

          Came and looked … and called it junk.

 

 

What’s your take on *stuff*? Too much, too little, are you a save or a thrower? (Or hopefully at least a donater, let’s try to fill our landfills as slowly as possible.)

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Who Goes There?

I’ve always liked owls and the variety of portrayals of them. They can be beautiful and deadly, fluffed up and cute, Victorian or tribalsuper modern or very folksy. I’m glad they’re sort of in style now, because it means I have a better chance of finding them to nab for design elements before they go out of style again!

Although too many seem to have rhinestones this time around…) I haven’t found any stampings I like yet, but I did find some cute wrapping paper with owls that pop more than the Arthur Rackham version I love but have yet to make into  a pendant I’m entirely please with.

 

My mother used to have a blue and purple retro print style poster with the rhyme

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

For a long time I didn’t know it was considered a traditional nursery rhyme (I don’t think she did either). It’s original meaning was probably intended as a ‘children should be seen and not heard’ kind of thing.

I like the more general and less harsh idea of it being a reminder that sometimes we need to just shut up and listen to others and look around… It’s one we all need some days!

Some good old-fashioned nonsense with great imagery, Edward Lear‘s The Owl and the Pussy-cat:

 

I

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

    In a beautiful pea green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

    Wrapped up in a five pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,

    And sang to a small guitar,

‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,

      What a beautiful Pussy you are,

          You are,

          You are!

What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

II

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!

    How charmingly sweet you sing!

O let us be married! too long we have tarried:

    But what shall we do for a ring?’

They sailed away, for a year and a day,

    To the land where the Bong-tree grows

And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood

    With a ring at the end of his nose,

          His nose,

          His nose,

With a ring at the end of his nose.

 

III

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling

    Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’

So they took it away, and were married next day

    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

    They danced by the light of the moon,

          The moon,

          The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

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Upcycled Tees

I don’t know how I managed to own so many T-shirts. I wore them all through high school, but have hated the neckline for ages. Therefore I’ve a fair number of no longer worn shirts. Some are in perfect shape, some have been worn during painting or woodworking experiments. I tried to be brave and give away a lot of the ones in good shape, but some I just liked too much. The paint spattered ones would count as rags to anyone but me.

This was another of those times where the internet can really be useful. I found what felt like 1001 options for making fancier outfits, underclothes, bathingsuits (!) and children’s clothing out of T-shirts… Oh, and one for a cute cool weather scarf.

Some projects were a little simpler. I thought turning old T-shirts into shopping bags was a great idea, and it’s especially appropriate given that a lot of my beloved paint stained T-shirts were environmental themed shirts in the first place. I also love the fact that this means they’re completely washable, unlike a lot of the bags markets sell as reusable bags.

I also found a fantastic tutorial on changing the neckline of a T-shirt, which might help me remodel some of the shirts I would love to still be able to wear. (Like my history geek shirts and the rock geek shirts I want to be able to buy!)

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Features

A mixed media upcycle artist on etsy, Anyonesguess has put together a Playing With Fire treasury of fire colored pieces with upcycled elements. I’m thrilled my plein air set is in such good company. Possibly one of the coolest (mostly practical) clocks ever and some other great saves! I was also featured by Tabor Arts in Upcycling recycling rebels with a (great) cause).

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Happy Earth Day

 

It’s Earth Day, and hard to think of anything that hasn’t been said (and oft ignored) a million times or more. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We learn the three Rs in school, and then everything else seems to bury them. At the simplest, just be mindful of what you use, try to limit the amount of trash you make, and clean up your mess as you go. Picking an altoids tin off the top of the trash like I did this afternoon is optional. (Mind you, I thought everyone bought altoids for both mints and tin…) I scrubbed it up and it’ll make a great mini paint set to keep in my car! Take a look at etsy, a world of inspiration for small tin projects. As well as plenty of other upcycled treasures.

If you’re feeling creative and need some inspiration on how to reuse or upcycle the things in your life, there are plenty of places to go for inspiration. DeviantArt is having a Trash to Treasure contest that runs through mid-May. My finished submission is a plein air watercolor set. It’s an old velamints tin (love those candies, haven’t seen them in ages!) that I painted and decorated with polymer clay that has a paint pan made from the plastic bubbles from a gum pack, a watercolor pen from a kid’s paint pen, and a denim folder that fits both set and water brush plus a sketchbook and other pens or pencils.

I used a slight fire theme to tie the elements together. The polymer clay design on the tin was something I made while watching Henry V and the “Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend/The brightest heaven of invention” line snagged me. So I opted for a subtle muse of fire vein running through the design. Fire also connects to the myths of the phoenix and rebirth, so it seemed to work doubly, even if my original inspiration was a little on the arcane side.

I’m also hoping to make a denim slipper set, I’ve been meaning to try it out ever since I ran across the tutorial. Seems like a nice idea for a holiday gift.

The New York Times recently ran an article about how there are so many threatened species that the Fish and Wildlife Service can’t cope with the number of petitions and are themselves petitioning the government to limit the number of requests that can be submitted. Limiting the number of officially endangered species doesn’t limit anything, all it does is give threatened species even less of a chance than ever. I understand that paperwork can be brutal, but simply ignoring issues and underlying causes… yeah.

The cartoon of the classic Seuss book, The Lorax. One of my favorite children’s books. Listen to the Lorax and back away from the thneed…

BBC & Discovery Channel’s South Pacific was an excellent and beautifully photographed series. Oddly enough there are multiple versions with multiple narrators, apparently they were concerned that the British accent would put off American audiences. I’m partial to the BBC version.

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