How to create art from recycled materials

words Al Woods

Finding the materials to create a piece of art, whether that be a collage, sculpture or painting, can be expensive. A way around the additional cost could be to find your materials at home.

This could, in fact, add a new dimension to your piece. For example, if the subject is on the global warming crisis, using recycled materials can only reinforce the message you’re trying to get across.

UK based artist, Jane Perkins’ famous recycled art uses materials you can find in the household, like buttons, beads, plastics toys and old jewellery. Her collection of collages of famous faces, iconic paintings and stunning brooches just goes to show that you can make stunning art out of any material. All you need is a little creativity, time, precision and commitment. Here are just some ways you can create art from recycled materials.

The things you’ve forgotten about

Rummage in your old cupboards and you may find all sorts of gems to get creative with. Old batteries and matchsticks can provide a sturdy base and are easy to stack, while rubber bands can provide texture to any wooden structure. If you find a lot of rubber bands, bind them together to decorate old furniture, over seat covers and back supports of chairs. Those extra buttons you get with most shirts can come in useful for your recycled art ideas. Follow in Jane Perkins’ footsteps and create interesting multi-layered collages.

Get creative in the kitchen

As well as food packaging, the kitchen can be paradise for finding new material to work with. Remember when you were a child and you used to use potatoes as stamps? Use the same idea with household items such as wine corks, dish sponges and even rubber wheels, like the range from Tente, which can be found on most moveable kitchen units. Cut shapes and designs into the rubber to run through paint and use as a homemade, customised roller stamp.

Don’t throw away your plastic

With plastic the opportunities for art are endless as they are easily pliable and can be painted. ‘Bottlecaps, both metal and plastic, are good for creating sturdy structures and adding weight to a project’ says James from Famously, water bottles have previously been used to create thought-provoking sculptures to build awareness for sea pollution. These have been shredded to create light reflecting jellyfish and stacked up high to create giant bottled waves.

Rummage through your wardrobe

Rip up old, unused clothes to create strips of material to weave into tapestry. Using an assortment of materials, like cotton mixed with denim, will give you an interesting texture to play with. Remember that wire hangers can be twisted and turned into magnificent sculptures like the famous Silver Skin, coat hanger gorilla by David Mach.

Using art with art utensils

Creating recycled art crafts really does have no bounds and that’s why you can use the utensils you would usually use to create a project as the project itself. Slice wooden pencils to reveal its colourful core, use paint brushes to illustrate animal fur and turn paint pots into buildings. If you’re an avid magazine collector use the designed pages as collage materials or, if music is your thing, cut CDs and melt or mould vinyl for a dramatic effect.


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