Start Art with Everyday Stuff

Creating art works can be an amazing way to recycle. There’s a great interest in becoming “makers” these days. Why not recycle, that is repurpose, remake, and reuse, by envisioning old stuff in new ways? Playing with materials will allow you and children in your classroom or home to design artworks or to stage your own exhibitions. We hope that your scroll through the images here will rev up your creative thinking and allow you to make something of interest to you, and, possibly, to others as well!

Maybe it’s been the coincidence of seeing all the back-to-school sales on pencils combined with Tara Donovan’s work Colony of Pencils that made us think about how many ordinary things can become extraordinary art.

Donovan, Tara-Detail of Colony 2004

Tara Donovan, Colony, 2002

What to do with those old pencil stubs? You might consider keeping all them in an art drawer — at kid level for ease of use. In addition to pencils, what about rulers, erasers, or bottle corks?

Plastic cups, buttons, and tape are some of the completely ordinary things Donovan transformed into thought-provoking art.

Tara Donovan, Cups

Tara Donovan, Cups

Donovan, Tara - detail, Nebulous, 2002 (cellulose adhesive tape)

Tara Donovan, Bluffs, 2005

Tara Donovan, Bluffs, 2005

Tara Donovan, Bluffs, 2005

Tara Donovan, Bluffs, 2005

What you could do with straws, rubber bands, toothpicks, paperclips, or hundreds of other things? Take the invitation to bigger thinking!

Don’t throw those leftover birthday candles away – repurpose them a la Donald Lipski.

In the spirit of Haim Steinbach, create a display of things with like colors or shapes.

Wouldn’t it be fun for your child/students to think about toys (or the display of art works) from an aesthetic point of view? Let your child be the curator… and change your home exhibitions frequently. Talk about how your young curator made choices and the decisions that led to his/her final arrangement.

Martin Creed, # 370 110 Balls, 2004

How many different kinds of balls do you have at home? Martin Creed created an installation of 110– each one was a different size or color. He wanted people to walk through the balls, so there really was no constant arrangement as the balls moved every time someone passed through the space. Balls are especially fun because of their movement; what other things do you have multiples of in your house? Some possibilities might be shells, books, time pieces, or animals (stuffed, metal, glass). As a curator, you get to make choices. Be sure to take photos of your creations; it will be fun to look back at your collection over the year.

We think that being a curator might stimulate greater interest in what you and your students, grandchildren or children see in the world around us. Check out displays in stores, for instance. Notice how groupings, colors, and shapes all play roles in attracting interest. These observations, maybe even subliminally, will take root to inform inspire your own displays.

All parts of the brain need exercise. Taking the chance to be creative and generate innovative ideas might be just the exercise needed! Clearly, raw materials for our creative use are lurking around the house and in the classroom! Your creativity may even have an unexpected benefit of clearing some of the clutter that often seems to collect.

We hope you’ll give it a try! We’d love to see your results. How about tweeting a photo of your work to MaryPalmer@artsnkids?

Mary and Susan

Images: (left to right)

Top row: Tara Donovan, details, Colony, 2004 (pencils)

Second row: Tara Donovan, detail, Untitled, 2006 (plastic cups), and detail of Nebulous, 2002 (tape)

Third Row: Tara Donovan, Bluffs, 2005 and detail, Bluffs (buttons)

Fourth Row: Donald Lipski, Untitled No. C-019, 1991

Fifth Row: Haim Steinbach, tonkong rubbermaid II-1, 2007

Sixth Row: Haim Steinbach, Untitled (baseball player, Snoopy, train-engine), 1975

Seventh Row: Martin Creed, #370, 110 Balls, 2004

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