Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Traveling Bottles Project - Shelf A

If you travel at all you have no doubt encountered, collected, and are now encumbered by an assortment of little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. These small containers given away by hotels as complimentary bathroom amenities tend to accumulate in any traveler's home, much like orphan single socks and Number 2 pencils.

While organizations like Clean the World have tried to come up with creative ways of recycling these little plastic ecological no-nos, here at Stuff You Can't Have an assortment of these tiny containers have been transformed into art as part of the Traveling Bottles Project. Below is Shelf A of the project. More containers will be displayed in coming days.

Bottle One: Broken jewelry, including broken coral necklace found in the sand on a beach in West Africa.
Close-up of Bottle One

Bottle Two: broken jewelry, shattered auto window glass, flamingo feathers collected in the Yucatan

Close-up of Bottle Two

Bottle Three: broken jewelry, nails, tiny rubber frog

Bottle Three: side view

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bang, Bang Shoot 'em Up

I'll be interested to see how airport security reacts to this upcycled clothing concept. The ingredients: a Brynn Walker shirt scored at a thrift store for a few bucks; an appliqué created from a copyright-free image printed onto iron-on printer paper and then ironed onto a fabric remnant.

Seemingly innocent shirt

The slow reveal

Armed (and utterly harmless)

A close-up of the firearm

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Idle Moments, Tangerine Stars

Here is a case where the maker persona just keeps going and going and going...

After eating a small tangerine (maybe a satsuma), I started idly cutting the skin up with an X-Acto knife into little stars. Then I shoved them aside and left them on my work table. I am now finding it almost impossible to eat a tangerine without cutting the skin up into little stars.

Tangerine stars. Note the nice patina on my work table.

The stars dry out in a day or so and begin to look like a cross between stars and dried fall leaves. They still smell lovely when you hold them up to your nose.

Lots of stars
Long ago I realized the art principle that multiples are almost always better, and that is true of tangerine stars. You simply cannot have too many.

More and more stars
I started gluing stars to holiday gift wrapping.

Stars as adornment

The gift smells faintly like an orange

I like the way they look when strewn on my work table along with bits of fallen nature I've found on recent walks. I don't think a centerpiece has to be in the center, or for a special occasion. A little visual delight is all I ask.

I tried stringing some together on a piece of gilded thread.

The best idea so far: tucked into a handmade envelope and mailed off to a two-year-old who just happens to love "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." The perfect greeting card for someone who cannot read. I included parental instructions on the envelope stating that at least one round of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" must be sung before the envelope is opened.

Greeting card for a two-year-old.

I mailed off freshly cut out stars so that they would still be supple and not brittle when going through the mail. What happens to them at the other end, once the wonder is over, is the two-year-old's problem.

For more entertaining things to do with tangerine (and orange and lemon) peels, see Orange, Lemon and Lime Boxes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recycled Envelopes How-To

Here are the how-to instructions for making the envelopes shown in a previous post, DIY Artfully Recycled Envelopes. These copious instructions make this seem complicated; it isn't. This is the quickest, easiest way to crank out a ton of interesting envelopes in a very short time, and the cutting is basically free-hand. Just go through the steps shown below once and you'll have it.

Sample finished product using page from recycled book about weather.

Materials: Used coffee-table books with interesting full-page illustrations, bought at thrift stores for less than $1 each; glue stick; scissors.

Page from book (left), template for envelopes (right)

Start by leafing through your book(s) and ripping out pages you think would create interesting envelopes. Create an envelope template out of a sheet of cardboard, cutting it to the size you would like your envelopes to be. As shown above, this cardboard template (6 inches x 4.5 inches) was created from the cover of one of the thrift store books.

Placing template on page

Place the template on the page, and try to position it over the most interesting portion of the page. This is going to be the front, featured section of your envelope. Make sure to leave at least one inch space on left and right sides of the page (these will be your side flaps), about 1.5 or 2 inches on top (this will be your top flap, sealed after you insert a letter), and enough space on the bottom so that when you fold the page, the edge of the page reaches the top of your template. If you're working with a large page and you end up with the bottom edge of the page overshooting the template, just trim it. You may also trim sides or top as desired. There is no need to measure anything! This is all freehand and eyeball work.

Make sure when page is folded, bottom edge of page reaches top edge of template.
Proceed to fold the page over the template as shown below, as if you were wrapping a package. Again, no need for perfection. The colors and printing on the envelope mean that it's very forgiving visually.

Fold page over template

Now unfold, remove template, and then refold the page the opposite way so that the graphic side is showing. Press seams firmly - you want to be able to see these folds for the next step.

Discard template, refold with graphic side showing

Unfold again and open up sheet with the wrong side facing you. The lines on the page below are drawn only for instructional purposes to show you where and how to cut out the envelope. Again, you don't have to do any measuring or drawing. All of this is done freehand.

Solid lines indicate fold lines; dotted lines indicate cutting lines.

Your fold lines become your eyeball cutting guide (though you probably want to take care not to cut your eyeballs). I find it's quickest and easiest to do each of these four (A through D) as one cut. For example, I start cutting up along the A foldline, and when I reach the horizontal fold line, I just pivot the scissors slightly on the diagonal and complete the cut. I want to stress again that there is no need for perfection, no need for the diagonal cut angles to perfectly match, no need for any measuring or drawing. Just cut.

Showing the cut-aways

Now you're ready to glue your envelope together, which involves simply gluing the two side flaps. When I'm doing a lot of glue stick work, I use an old mail order catalog as the working surface. That allows you to slop glue over the edges of the piece you are gluing. When the work surface becomes fouled with glue, just flip the page of the catalog and use the next page as a fresh work surface.

Gluing the side flaps

Make sure you cover the outer edge of the flap with glue, and glue to within a quarter inch or so of the fold.

Gluing a side flap

Flip your envelope over, fold each of the side flaps inward, and bring the bottom section up and on top of the side flaps. Press and smooth with your hand.

Fold bottom up and press down on top of side flaps

Finished envelope front

Finished envelope back

When you are ready to use your envelope, just glue down the top flap after you've inserted your letter or card. Obviously, you are going to need to also make and glue down a mailing label because writing an address directly onto the graphic envelope would be illegible. I like a torn paper effect for the labels. You can cut your labels into any shape you like. Here, I've printed out my return address on my printer (spacing the copy so that I get 8-up on an 8.5x11 page and then tearing them out). You could just hand write the return address.

Address labels, printed and torn out

Final product with label and stamp

These instructions are necessarily tedious to show you all of the steps. Once you get the system down (which should take about one practice envelope), you can churn these out really, really quickly. While fun for use in your own mailings, they can also make a nice gift when grouped in stacks of five or ten and tied with a ribbon. Adding a label with the recipient's return address would be a thoughtful touch.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DIY Artfully Recyled Envelopes

Great for mailing letters or greetings, great to bundle in packs of five or ten and give as a gift. All of the envelopes below were made from pages recycled from books found at thrift stores for less than $1.00. The weight of paper used for picture or photo books is perfect for envelopes. All of the envelopes below are 6 inches x 4.5 inches.

Envelopes made from a Japanese how-to-draw book

Close-up of envelope made from Japanese how-to-draw book

Back of envelope

Envelopes made from book on games around the world

Close-up of envelope made from book on games around the world

Back of envelope

Envelopes from Japanese book about World War II

Close-up of envelope from Japanese WWII book

These are just a sampling—you can get tons of envelopes from a well-selected book. You can also crank these out really quickly once you get the swing of it. For a how-to tutorial on making recycled envelopes the quick and easy way, see Recycled Envelopes How-To.

Meanwhile, in case you were wondering just how you make an address legible when the envelope is so colorful:

Mailing labels with torn edge

Make mailing labels and glue-stick them onto the envelope. You can use recycled paper for these also by using the blank side of printouts from your computer that you've put in your recycle pile. And of course you do have a printer paper recycle pile don't you? Here, I arranged and printed my address six-up on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of recycled paper, and then tore them out in the shape of labels. I like the torn edge effect, but you could also just cut them out.

Envelope with torn paper mailing label glued on.

And the final question: Do these make it through the mail? Why yes they do, with regular postage, no problem.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Seashell Wreath

Remember all of those seashells you've collected on vacations around the world? Maybe you've put them in glass jars or in a bowl or, like my sister, stored them in boxes out in the garage. Tis the season to grab a glue gun, get out all of those shells, and get rid of your guilt for taking them off the beach and far from home.

Elaborate seashell wreaths can retail for $200 and up. Or you can assemble one in about two hours (less if you have a good mind for puzzles). For the base, you can use styrofoam wrapped with ribbon or muslin (glue the ribbon or muslin to the styrofoam), a wicker wreath base, or a straw wreath base. Here, I've used a straw wreath base about sixteen inches in diameter that cost less than $2 at a craft store.

Wielding your glue gun, start by gluing down your largest shells at spaced intervals around the wreath. Then glue down medium-size shells about half-way between the large shells. Then fill in with smaller shells. The whole thing rapidly becomes a puzzle project. I've glued down some smaller shells on top of a gap in two other shells. I've glued some really tiny shells and shark's teeth inside some of the larger scallop shells. Just keep rotating the wreath, filling in gaps, and facing more and more tricky challenges until you're done.

Here the wreath is hung on the wall. It could also be placed flat on a table with candles of varying heights arranged inside the wreath and used as a centerpiece. You could glue the wreath down onto a circular mirror of the same size.

Or, if you like found art installations and are an O'Henry fan, you could take a hike down a beach on Christmas day with your wreath and place it on the sand for some lucky wanderer to find. They'll be telling stories about their seashell Christmas wreath for the rest of their lives.

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