Recycled Paper Making: The Basics

My seventh grade art classes recently made recycled paper in class.  This is a great project that allows students to make some interesting choices, learn how to reuse simple items, and let out some energy at the same time.  Read on for a fun project that takes only a few supplies and provides loads of fun. 
A large bag of shredded paper has so many possibilities.  I have asked the main office and counseling office to save shredded paper for me – they always have the fun colors of paper.  

Large mouth juice bottles are the best way to start your recycled paper project.  Add shredded paper until the bottle is ¾ of the way full of paper.

Fill the bottle just over half way with warm water.

Place cap on bottle, tightly.  Find a partner and shake vigorously.  

Meanwhile, make sure that a workspace and supplies are ready.  I spread out thick layers of denim fabric to help soak up water.

Screens made from simple wooden frames screwed together with screen stapled on the side are all I use.  Eric and I put a whole class set together in a matter of a few hours.  These are placed over buckets that just fit the screen.  In a class of about 15, I used three screens and it seemed to work out that there was always a screen available.

I keep plenty of bottles and extra caps available.  That way, if a student needs more time the next class period, he/she can simply use masking tape and a marker to label his or her bottle.

This is the bottle and its contents after about 10 minutes of shaking.  The paper starts to break down into paper pulp quite quickly.  The partners work well because the triceps may start to get a little tired – especially if the bottle is fuller.

If you like, you can speed up the process with a blender.  I have a few donated old blenders, but I have found that the cheap brand new ones actually work the best.

To blend, you can pour the contents of the bottle into the blender to smooth out the paper pulp or you can start from scratch.  Add paper and warm water.  

Cover tightly.  I keep plenty of rags and a few Sham Wows around to mop up spills.  I used this time to teach a little science to the kiddos about water and electricity not mixing.  Blend until smooth.

To change the color of the paper, you can use a variety of methods – dye, colored paper, or plants.  Here, I used black construction paper.  This is a great time to revisit the color wheel and the mixing of colors.  We revisit the color wheel and I always remind my students that if you mix all the colors of shredded paper together you will get mud.  Still, there are always a few who complain about their ‘vomit’ paper.

Embellishments are another fun way to make recycled paper more interesting.  A few things to add but maybe not all at once: glitter, foil, candy wrappers, bits of flowers or herbs, small beads, or cut up ribbon or string.  Here, I added strips of aluminum foil with the paper pulp.

I requested my colleagues save foil chocolate wrappers for me – a great time to ask is before Christmas, Halloween or Valentine’s Day.  I was always delighted to find baggies of foil wrappers in my box – I am sure some colleagues think I am quite the pack rat!  When we start making paper the kids inevitable want to know if I like chocolate.  🙂

After your paper is blended into a smooth pulp, pour it into a screen set up in one of the bins.  Gently press some of the water out into the bucket below.  Be careful not to press too hard, or your screen could come detached from the frame.

Press out as much remaining water as possible on a flat surface, such as the denim fabric, felt, or newspaper.

Transfer the screen to the denim.  Actually, I have found that sections of felt or newspaper work even better because you can then transfer them to drying racks to finish drying.  Or you can move them around to create more space for those still blending. 
Quickly, flip the screen over, so that the screen faces up.  Then, gently tap the paper off the screen and onto the fabric, felt, or newspaper.  

Press even more water out.

This would be a good time to say that making your stamp before you start your paper making is smart planning.  Create embossing stamps out of Styrofoam.  I like to rescue clean trays from the cafeteria to repurpose into stamping materials.  These two stamps were simply drawn with ballpoint pen and then cut with scissors.  I pressed them into the top of the wet paper.

 A simple, yet interesting, relief stamp can be made from multiple layers of Styrofoam, such as this smiling face.  Cut out the shapes, glue, and allow to dry before pressing into the wet paper.

I have found that the stamps work best if the stamps are placed on the fabric and then the paper is turned on top of the stamps.  This way, you can press the paper onto the stamps and create a better impression.

One of my more favorite embellishments can be found in your kitchen.  Onion peels – yellow or red can be added to paper pulp for an interesting dye technique.

 When initially blended, the color appear quite faint.

 Once the paper is fully dry, the onion color shows up much more vibrantly.  These are two examples of the the embossing stamps once dry.

The possibilities for recycled paper projects are endless.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Paint them for more depth.
  • Use recycled paper in place of plaster or clay for hand prints.
  • Turn them into greeting cards.
  • Make recycled jewelry. 
  • Make recycled paper bowls.
  • Turn two sheets into the front and back of a book.
  • Use the paper pulp as a sculpting material, make a 3D object, and then brush with watered down glue to hold it together.  

Check back soon for more projects involving recycled paper.

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Sewn Paper Cards

These are a few more of the sewn paper cards I have been working on lately.  I have so many projects, they are coming out of my ears – I can’t get them on paper fast enough.  The infrequent art project posts on here are only because I have too many going at once to get them finished enough to document for the blog.  Not to mention a all the other distractions in life: work, daycare prep, making meals, keeping a house clean and organized for showings, packing, and the move.

The move to Iowa has been in the back corners of my mind for months now.  We leave NC for Iowa in two months – surreal – I won’t deny that I am nervous and scared out of my mind.  Changes are, and always have been, difficult for me – I am still to this day amazed that I chose to pick up and move myself to a state I had never been to, a job I didn’t know if I would love, to place where I knew no one.  Now, after years of saying how much I want to be back in Iowa, I am realizing how much I will miss Greensboro and the state of North Carolina.  I have grown to love this place and we made it our home.

Despite my fears of the unknown, I am getting more excited though as we look at places to live in Iowa, discuss Greta’s birthday in Iowa, the new job possibilities for Eric, applying for teaching positions all over the Des Moines area, and the old friends we will get to spend more time with.  It also helps that we have two excellent people who have committed their time to helping us get back to Iowa and know that with their help I can stay upbeat.

To help me focus on the positives of this move, I made a book for Eric and me to use on nights out.  Each page has a different restaurant from the Des Moines area – in an effort to get us to try new places and maybe just maybe find my new Sticks & Stones and become a regular.  I have a few good leads on a place to call ours.

I saw this idea from Sara of the Spotted Fox, on Pinterest and knew it would be a perfect way to find new places in our new old city of Des Moines.

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DIY Glitter Wand

I had a glitter wand when I was a kid and I remembering playing with it all the time.  It was tubular and filled with pink, purple and glow-in-the-dark glitter.  I fondly remember holding it up to my eyes to make the room appear pink.  I used to flip it end over end to watch the glitter slowly slide around inside.  One time a friend was over, and I remember us charging it in the light and then taking it inside my closet to watch it glow, only  to find we were locked inside the closet with no way out!  We lived in an older house, and the closets did not have doorknobs on the inside.  My friend and I, terrified, began to cry.  Our cries caught the attention of my younger sister, and we convinced her to go and find my dad who was outside, except she forgot her task along the way and was distracted by watering plants.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity, my dad asked what the other two kids were up to.  He discovered sobbing, snotty little girls inside a closet.  
I wanted to make Greta a version of my wand, sans glow-in-the-dark matter to avoid a repeat closet episode.   With all her sick time this past week, we needed a reason to get out of the house on this rainy and gloomy morning.  
So, we headed over to A.C. Moore.  Sadly, they lost their lease and are in the process of selling everything at at discount.  This is both good and bad.  Good for the cheap prices and bad because I will miss A.C. Moore.   I have always preferred them to Michael’s.  
Greta was a big help in the store – clearly she figured out how to bargain shop – $.25 wooden spoon and $1 foam construction hat.  Big spender!  
I found some glitter, silver pom poms, and giraffe confetti for her glitter wand.  I really and truly do hate glitter unless it is contained, so, this project took me out of my art & craft comfort zone.  Notice I chose large glitter, none of that horrid tiny, dust-like glitter.  It is fairy puke – pretty but not fun to clean up.  The things one will do for her child…
I put the glitter, poms, and confetti into a clean soda pop bottle and then filled it almost to the top with water.  I made sure to leave some space at the top so that there would be a couple air bubbles.  Then I glued the lid shut with Gorilla Glue, let it dry, and handed it over to Greta.  Her initial reaction was of intense staring.  

 She then turned it over a few times, watching carefully as the glitter slid around inside.

 Then she shook it violently, stopping every now and then to watch how the glitter settled.

Finally, growing tired, she handed it over to me, where she proceeded to drum on the side of the bottle. This was a huge hit for Greta and continues to be throughout this week.  Just remember, as with any toy with smaller parts, always use with caution and supervise play.  
I could see this being a neat paper weight on a desk or even a calming object for older children.  I am certain it would be a hit with my middle school students as well – I may have to test it out on them tomorrow.  
Check out Discount School Supply for great deals on glitter, pom poms, confetti, and more!
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Rainy Day Play: Shadows

Yesterday evening the sky darkened with thunderheads.  And then…
it poured!  
Hopefully the rain the will stave off what looks to be a really early fall.  Greta found this leaf outside yesterday, and from this you’d think it were already October!
The forecast is showing rain off and on the rest of the week  So, I pulled out some ideas from my art classroom project files.  Hopefully this will give me some new ideas for fall in the classroom and help to entertain Greta and me inside this week.  
This morning I dug out my shadow art book and brushed up on my shadow hand puppetry.  This book has simple to complicated puppet ideas.  There are sections on sound effects and even creating backgrounds.  
This stuff is harder than I remember!  
I used an easy set up for shadow puppets.  First, I set up a sheet in her room, which is the darkest room in the house.  Then I set up a simple desk lamp.  Be careful using one of these lamps, as some can get quite hot to the touch.  

For younger kids, using toys is an easy way to create shadows.  

Greta enjoyed making her bunny jack-in-the-box make shadows.  Her attention span was short-lived, due to Thor interrupting with peek-a-boo.  
For older kids you have more options due to ability.  My middle schoolers love the shadow art unit and generally the entire class goes nuts and creates things far more creative than even the art teacher could imagine.  This puppet was made form a paper bag, cardboard pieces, Styrofoam, markers, hole puncher, tape, glue, and paper towel tubes.  Anything in a recycling bin is fair game for the shadow art unit. 
We use the classroom projector and screen to test the shadows.  My only instructions to the students are that the end product must be an interesting shadow and that is what will be photographed.  Students spend two to three 45-minute class periods working on their shadow art.  The overhead is always on for  a test drive.  Since students are so engrossed in their work, I photograph everyone’s art as they finish.  On the last day, we look through all the shadows created.  They love to see their own work as well as others’ work on the screen.  
This was made with a Styrofoam tray, hole puncher, scissors, and pencil.  
Some of the materials used. 
Shadow art examples by middle schoolers. 

Cartwright Design inspires me

I have decided that I need to learn a new skill. Something I have always wanted to do is learn how to weld. Well, I did some research and found that getting all the supplies would not be as expensive as I previously thought. I talked to my hubby about this new interest and he said he would love to learn with me.

I was inspired by this artist Matt Cartwright and his recycled artwork. All of his work is so beautiful and right up my alley.