Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Recycled Shopping Bags

Inspired by an article by Alisa Burke in one of my favorite magazines- Cloth Paper Scissors, I spent two days making little clutches or wallets from plastic shopping bags saved for this purpose. It is a project I had wanted to do with the after school Art Club, but never got around to. Since I wanted to make a gift for the mural painters, what better way than to try out the how-to article, learn a new recycled art process, and give personalized art!

If you want to look up the article, it is in Issue 22, Jan/Feb of 2009. It is all about making plastic “fabric” by ironing/melting plastic shopping bags together, then turning them into artful handbags. Please look it up and buy the magazine if you love doing art while recycling. My process was altered by several factors. I wanted to use some special bags I had been saving (either because of the places they came from or the designs and colors). I had particular people in mind for the outcome of the creation, so my layers of plastic ironed between two sheets of paper were designed with their particular interests or styles in mind. I only had a couple of days to make eight gifts, so I had to leave off some steps I would have loved to do.

I did not get as elaborate as the photos in the article but I did learn a few things not mentioned in it. I found that parchment paper works best unless you want your plastic to melt to the paper (leaving a layer of paper embedded into your plastic fabric). The first two layered batches taught me that lesson. However, it is a nice way to allow for watercolor painting the finished plastic as the paint sticks nicely to the texture of paper left in the top layer. I also learned that other things like pressed flowers can be laminated between the upper layers to give added interest, but if you go too deep into the layers the objects lose visual impact.

I loved cutting out words and remaking messages; cutting shapes out of brightly colored plastic bags; making designs while playing with different melting temperatures to get nice effects. I would have loved to add more paper items and embellishments as the article showed, but time was a constraint as I wanted to mail these little gifts off this first week off from school.

It was a simple project full of fun and experimenting. I hope the kids get a little summer inspiration from it and try it out at home. One word of caution: 1) always have good ventilation when melting wax or plastic (NEVER let it get to the smoking stage and NEVER EVER inhale the steam from it); 2) always protect your iron and ironing surface from the melting plastic with a good oversized layer of paper under the stack and over the stack (parchment paper is best); and 3) be careful not to burn yourself with the iron or by touching the plastic too soon after ironing.

I will definitely make more and explore the other possibilities in the article. If you would like to see the original plastic fabric sheet for each of these wallets and the back and inside photos, go to my facebook page at this link http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1800011058#!/photo.php?pid=407659&id=1800011058

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Catch-up Time

     When an artist works outside the studio it is hard to keep a rhythm in studio creations. As a teaching artist, I am also all over the place with my creative style, medium of choice, and art forms. If I still have any followers, you deserve to know what I have been up to and why it has been so long since I posted here on my nearly-forgotten blog.
     This year (June of 2009 to June of 2010) I have taken a series of course weeks and weekends at John Campbell Folk School and one Saturday workshop at Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association- all accumulating to a total of 256 hours training in enameling, calligraphy, watercolors, metal works, machine quilting/embroidery, polymer clay, encaustic painting/collage, book arts, and the art of puppetry. From the variety of class choices it is no wonder that I am not nailed down to a particular interest. This is partially because I teach. My job requires that I have a broad understanding of the creative avenues that could: 1) be used in the classroom to help promote hands-on learning opportunities; and 2) be used in after school clubs to give middle and high school students creative outlets to explore and adapt as hobbies or career choices.
     An example of how this training is utilized can be best noted in the weekend course in Coptic Binding (book arts) at JCFS taught by Annie Fain. Approximately 20 of the after school art club members each made a Coptic bound book using old book covers and folded art paper, which they used as a sketchbook and a place to insert artworks throughout the year. Next the art history class made a smaller version to use for recording a master artist research project. Several other classes used my help to make Coptic bound books to use in other lessons. Then near Christmas, several students came to me to show them how to make these special books for gifts for family members. All total, over 100 Coptic bound books were made by students as a result of that one weekend course! Not to mention that my own family received some of my own as art gifts also.
     In addition to learning and teaching I have coordinated, managed and attended many art-related fieldtrips and events this year with students and teachers. Some of these include studying architecture and design while touring the Biltmore Estate in NC; learning about Leonardo Da Vinci at the High Museum of Art; seeing the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe put into puppetry arts at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta; presenting (with three students and another teacher) our programs at the annual Appalachian Studies Association conference in Dahlonega, GA; attending (with five students and another teacher) the national annual Arts Advocacy Day presented by Americans for the Arts in Washington, DC; producing (with the help of our Learning Center TEACH Team) a multi-arts experience ART ROCKS event at school for the community featuring: a literary arts showcase, visual arts exhibit and contest, drama and multimedia arts presentation, and a jazz and rock music concert; then led/mentored a group of seven advanced art students in painting a public mural for the community; and finally with a partner arts teacher taught a three week summer arts camp (including a three day visiting artist residency) to finish the school year off.
     So now, I look at my long deserted studio and wonder- what do I do now?