About Recycling and Art

by Laurie Bellet

Be thoughtful about “recycling” materials into projects. When art materials are glued to an otherwise recyclable item, the item, unless it has product permanence, can no longer be recycled! In other words, paper towel rolls are likely better recycled than used in a Jewish art context. That said, here are my favorite ways to truly recycle and repurpose in the Art Room.

Dried out markers: Collect dry markers (and ask others in your school to do the same.). With a needle nose pliers, remove the end cap and withdraw the wick from the marker barrel. Soak the wicks in a container of water and add some rubbing alcohol. The result is liquid watercolor paint!

Auto Safety Glass: You can get this from auto body shops. Safety glass is super for mosaics. Use ordinary white glue and place it over a paper collage or a calendar/magazine picture. The glue will dry clear leaving you with a dramatic cut glass appearance. It is the perfect supply for Kristallnacht activities. Safety glass is smooth and is unlikely to cut a student. Neverthless, this supply is safest with older students.

CD’s: These make terrific Sukkah decorations. Add collage items with Tacky Glue. Use year after year! A CD can be used as an “alternative canvas.” Prime it with white Gesso and it becomes a surface that can take any kind of art media. Use it for small activities that call for a circular template.

Towels: Cut large towels into washcloth sizes and encourage students to use these rather than paper towels for wiping down tables and mopping up spills. While they can also be used to dry hands, it is likely best to stick with paper towels during cold and flu season.

Laminating Film: There is always about 1 foot surplus at the beginning of each laminating job. Save this to color with Sharpies or paint for “faux” stained glass. Laminating film is a wonderful device for Hebrew writing practice. Just place it over the text to be practiced and trace the letters with dry erase markers.

Baby Food Jars and Baby Wipe Containers are good for all sorts of storage. Baby food jars are especially fine for storing Tacky Glue. If you have lots of Tacky Glue squeeze bottles that are less than 1/2 full, remove the top (if the top is glued closed, carefully slice it off with a craft knife.), and pour the remaining glue into a baby food jar. Place plastic wrap over the top of the baby food jar, before replacing the lid, to insure it will open easily the next time you need it.

Greeting Cards, Calendars, Buttons, Fabrics, Yarns are fabulous for collages, weavings and textile activities.

Cash Register Rolls (empty) make great mezuzah cases. Frequently, a store in your neighborhood will happily save these plastic treasure for you. Wrap the plastic roll in masking tape to create a surface that is receptive to paint and glue.

Bowling Pins: These make great dolls for immigrant and history studies! (Cover the bowling pins with Gesso to make the surface useable with tempera paint and white glue.)

Many communities have businesses that trade in surplus and stuff for “creative reuse.” You can also use the catalog from American Science and Surplus. Remember it is only a repurposed bargain if you actually use the stuff!