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

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