Reuse, Repurpose, Reimagine

From Marker to Mezuzah

Laurie Bellet

At Oakland Hebrew Day School, we welcome you with mezuzot that are colorful and unique. They are painted, tiled, molded, jeweled and created from materials that were once cast-offs from another life.

The mezuzah artist begins by selecting a base—perhaps mat board donated from a frame store, a piece of scrap wood, or a sample swatch of laminate surface. (Donated by home improvement stores, these are the favorite choice because they come with a hole in the top!). The next step is to select a container for the Klaf. For this purpose we have a box of test tubes (contributed by a local science based corporation). But, our favorites, by far, are the leftover barrels of dried out markers!

All schools have an excess of dried out markers. At OHDS, all those dried markers come to my Art Studio where students first use them to make watercolor paints. Before a marker gets to go into the mezuzah supply box, a student removes the end cap with a needle nosed pliers. Next he or she uses the pliers to remove the colored wick inside. The wick goes straight into a quart size juice container along with other wicks of the same color. The wicks soak in water and we add a capful of rubbing alcohol, to impede spoilage. (We have not purchased watercolor paints for years!) You can either remove the point of the marker and replace the cover, or leave the point on, with the cover intact. Save the little caps in the event that students want to use them to securely enclose the Klaf.

To glue the tube onto the backing, simply wrap it in masking tape. If you want to keep the test tube transparent, place a thin strip of masking tape on the back. The masking tape serves as a surface that is receptive to glue and paint. Either Tacky Glue or Carpenter’s Glue will hold the pieces tight together. If you are painting the pieces, paint them separately first. Let everything dry securely before you continue working.

Remind the children frequently, that their work is kadosh. They need to slow down, plan, and work with extra care. Model Magic, white or in colors, is a wonderful material to mold around the mezuzah. It can be pressed, pinched and rolled. Model Magic takes paint very well either when it is still pliable or after it has dried. It is best to use acrylic paint for this activity to be permanent. After the paint is completely dry, cover the mezuzah with an even coat of Mod Podge to protect the materials. When the mezuzah is dry, the artist can use Tacky Glue to add extras such as gems, beads, or other permanent embellishments.

Another way to enhance a mezuzah is to decoupage it with decorative papers using Mod Podge. Wrapping paper, scrapbook paper and origami paper are particularly good for this purpose.

Like any other art experience, please do the activity yourself in advance of presenting it to the class. This gives you the time to work out every detail, plan which materials you will offer, how you will teach the lesson, how you will provide materials and how you will proceed with clean-up.

….Dried out markers never looked so good!

Eco-Art tip: Art Studios are places with frequent spills and messes. Keep a stock of old towels and wash cloths available instead of using paper towels.