Thrifty Tuesday Art Tips – Recycling Egg Cartons, Cardboard Inserts and Flat Styrofoam

This week there are 32 ideas for recycling egg cartons, cardboard inserts and flat Styrofoam pieces into your art… plus a project using one of my favourite techniques when I am in a quirky mood or my art muse has gone on vacation - “The Ugly Duckling into a Beautiful Swan” background collage technique!

Compiled tips, including some from yours truly, submitted to the September 2008 Brainstorming Recycling Contest. Thanks to Terry Howard, Martha B., Leslie, Donna Zamora, Susan Marie, Kelsey Jones Evans, Stephen du Toit, Moon Willow, Christine Bell, Pam Yee, Pam Crawford, Donna Hall, and Alicia Edwards.

Save those egg cartons and

  1. use styrofoam cartons as disposable mixing pots for dye, paint, perfect pearls, glue, etc.
  2. use as plant starters for seeds/seedlings
  3. use for sorting and storing buttons. beads, brads, charms, small jewelry bits, sequins, vintage game pieces, grommets
  4. use them for drying blown out eggs that you will be painting and/or using for mosaics
  5. soak cardboard cartons in water until they turn to mush and make stiff pasteboard covers for books or other papier mache creations
  6. use to sort and store stickers and alphabet letters.
  7. use Styrofoam cartons to make extra ice cubes when you need them
  8. use Styrofoam cartons as a watercolour palette
  9. fill with wood chips, cover with beeswax or melted down candle stub wax and use as fireplace, bonfire or grill fire starters.

Save those cardboard inserts and

  1. use the heavier cardboard for book covers
  2. place in an envelope as a stiffener when mailing art for swaps, etc.
  3. use the lighter cardboard to create templates for patterns, luggage type tags, small drawings, notes, file folders, dividers, postcard backs, bookmarks
  4. lightly score them in half and make a funnel. Use to catch glitter, embossing powder, etc. and return to the bottle or jar
  5. use to reinforce altered books and art
  6. make small boxes, frames, backing material for your art.
  7. use corrugated cardboard for adding texture to shrines, roofs on houses, etc.
  8. strip parts of the outer layer of paper from one side of the cardboard and use as background for collages, etc.. Can also be painted/collaged for super textured books covers.
  9. Wine box inserts can be used to organize your drawers
  10. Use lightweight cardboard to create chunky book pages
  11. Gesso both sides and paint on them to make art postcards, ATCs, Moo Cards, inchies
  12. Make shims for diecut machines

The Ugly Duckling into a Beautiful Swan Painted Collage Technique/Project

Here’s a neat project for an interesting, highly textured background or collage using a heavier cardboard insert! I call this my “Ugly Duckling into a Beautiful Swan” Technique and you’ll soon see why.

Gesso the cardboard. Glue bits of string, yarn, cheesecloth, dryer sheets that have been shrunk with a heat gun, fabric leaves, play sand, bits of torn paper, cardboard and anything you can find that might be useful in your waste paper basket onto the gessoed cardboard! If you have a sewing wastebasket,,, go through it and pull out bits of knotted up thread, cut material bits, bits of fabric, serger threads or anything you find that is flat! Glue it down on your substrate. Let it dry for at least 24 hours.

Does it look as ugly as sin LOL? Great… that means it will be beautiful when you get done with it!

When dry, paint over it using some of your favourite colours in a haphazard manner. Use a comb to add even more texture in the paint. Just have fun using color and letting your free spirit guide you!

One of my favourite pieces of art was created just like this! I liked it so much that I had it framed. The art gallery that framed it actually valued it at about $900.00! It is unusually gorgeous, sits above my piano as inspiration and no, I won’t sell it,,,,

Where's the picture of this masterpiece LOL? Well, I took one but it didn't turn out very well because it is now behind glass and the texture/metallic paint doesn't really show up in the photo! Sorry....

Save those flat styrofoam pieces

  1. cut to size, place in a container and use it to stick paint brushes in to keep them upright.
  2. carve, paint and make into “adobe” miniature houses
  3. make Styrofoam cutouts to paint or cover with paper or fabric and embellish for books, cards and art
  4. you can use the soft, pliable Styrofoam packing material sheets much little cotton batting (wadding) in mixed media art because it can be quilted, glued, sewn to create a puffy effect and used as stuffing.
  5. draw a design with an empty ballpoint pen or cut out designs for instant, textured printing blocks
  6. Use as a backing for small wall hangings or in assemblages
  7. Use blocks of Styrofoam as a holder for things you want to dry, i.e. beads you have painted and stuck on a pin, waxed leaves on picks, etc.. Just stick the pin or picks into the styrofoam and they will stay upright!
  8. Use as a filler in plant pots to make them lighter. You can also use syrofoam egg cartons or peanuts as well. Just fill the bottom of the pot with styrofoam to the level you want, cut the flat styrofoam piece to fit the pot, place on top. Add the plant dirt and plant.
  9. Use the flat styrofoam pieces to build light weight extensions or create frames
  10. Emboss them with your Cuttlebug, Sizzix machine Diecut or punch them to create embellishments.
  11. Thicker (1/4 inch) flat Styrofoam can be used in much the same way as foam core board to make small shadow boxes or to reinforce larger niches. This kind of Styrofoam was used to make the window wall in the French Bistro shrine in the Sept. 26th blog posting.

Have fun this week with your art... See you Friday!