Junk art

When Al told me, a few nights ago, that his teacher wanted him to take some junk to school, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he explained it had something to do with art – and I understood. I’ve collected odd items to use for arts and crafts projects since I was a kid.

At the church I went to as a child, for a while they had a Resource Center full of all sorts of materials to make things. Besides all the usual art supplies, there was a big box of stuff that would ordinarily be considered junk. Paper towel rolls, boxes of all shapes and sizes, styrofoam balls, yarn – and that was just the start. You never knew what treasures you might find in there.

I kept my own resource box at home. I didn’t have room for so much stuff, but I had an assortment of pieces of wood and leather, plastic, yarn, and whatever other odd things I picked up. A white bathroom tile, an interesting looking stone, the rest of a bag of green bits of glass leftover from another craft project. Maybe a spring, a tooth I found on the beach, an odd bit of seashell.

I never did use much from my box. I don’t know what I thought I would do with the chisel that looked like someone had used another chisel on its handle. (I had found it in the dumpster at the nearby junior high school.) I tried not to be as much a packrat as my parents, but I couldn’t bear to discard such potential treasures.

As an adult I’ve tried to be more discriminating in choosing what trash to keep. Most cardboard goes to the recycling center, but I try to keep half a dozen paper towel rolls on hand for craft projects. I have yarn in several colors, but I don’t keep the smaller scraps. Wood dowels are good supplies, but most scrap pieces of wood aren’t worth keeping.

I try to limit myself to items small enough to fit in sandwich bags, but occasionally I save a larger item. The roller from a printer – it could make a great arm for a robot (we made a cardboard box robot for a skit in church one time). A computer mouse, minus the ball and cable – it could be a prop in a play, or the body of a toy car.

This week I added the orange cover from a toner cartridge I had to change in the printer at work. It was supposed to go to Al’s school, for whatever project they needed junk for. But when I stayed home sick two days, it stayed at work. Thursday evening I felt just well enough to go to the family night at school, and finally got to see what the junk was for.

Each family made a “junk sculpture” using a CD as the base, and adding on an assortment of items from the large collection donated by everyone during the week. They were getting to the bottom of the box by the time we got to the art room, so most of the cool stuff had been used already – plastic Disney characters, puppies, birds, flowers, etc. But we did what we could with bits of hardware, puzzle pieces, a button, cardboard birds, a tiny brown monkey, and an empty racquetball container.

I don’t remember which of us suggested we make another one at home, but we quickly agreed. I knew I had lots of materials to work with. Pieces from toys or games that we can’t find the rest of, petals from artificial flowers, plastic letters that wouldn’t stick to the refrigerator because they were missing their magnets, a bag of turned wood pieces that a craft store sold cheaply because they were slightly defective. And lots more.

And the result? Well, you see it here.

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One Response to Junk art

  1. Margaret Packard says:

    And here I thought I was doing the right thing by throwing out petals from artificial flowers and magnetless refrigerator magnets! Now I know to send them to Iowa.

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