Saturday, April 17, 2010

Making Art From Industrial Waste

(Note: I forgot to let you know I have a new post up at Offsprung, my favorite "irreverent, inclusive, alternative parenting community." Check it out!)

We've had this thing hanging around the preschool since mid-February:

And like every other preschool, storage space is at a premium so we really can't afford to let large items like this just hang around. It was time to either use it or lose it.

For those of you who missed it, this was part of a donation to our school from the good people at Upcycle Northwest, who have the brilliant business model of reusing and recycling the interesting and useful bi-products of the Seattle area's huge coffee roasting industry. We paved our garden with the over-roasted coffee beans they gave us, and we've used the burlap bags they donated to make our playhouse walls/roof, potato planters, and a sand pit cover, but this large roll of left-over coffee filter paper (with the actual filters stamped out) has just been getting in our way for two months.

We finally made use of it this week.

I've long known that liquid water color and coffee filters are a good combination. It's both fun and beautiful to let the paint slowly spread and blend as the paper absorbs it. We broke out spray bottles full of the stuff, let the kids cut off whatever length of this frilly filter paper they wanted, piled it on lunch trays on our art table and got to work. We also provided cups of paint and brushes for the kids to use once they got tired of accidentally spray painting their own hands and faces when they held the bottles the wrong way or didn't press the spray button with enough vigor to prevent it from just dribbling over their knuckles. (For the record, many of them never got tired of it!)

Even more than regular coffee filters, this industrial grade stuff is sturdy. Unlike regular paper, it's made to get soggy, but otherwise stand up to moisture. No matter how much paint the kids use, it maintains its integrity, merely sloughing off any excess. Not only that, but it dries so quickly that we were able to begin decorating the school with it a half hour later.

That richly colored piece was the work of Finn P. who was
determined to leave "no white."

We took the rest outside to decorate the playground.

The really long pieces were largely the work of Annabelle who, I think, enjoyed
unfurling the paper "all the way out the door" into the hallway as much as she
did the actual painting.

I love knowing that no matter how dewy it gets, or even if it rains, I won't have to later spend hours picking tiny bits of mushy paper pulp from all the surfaces. The paint might wash out, but the paper will survive relatively unscathed, making it easy to remove or even repaint.

Now I'm wondering how many times we can reuse it before we have to send it to the compost. Maybe I will have to come up with permanent storage for this stuff after all . . .

(Hey, I've accidentally written an Earth Day post!)

Bookmark and Share


Unknown said...

Very cool Tom. I like the way it hangs. You guys can make your own party decorations!

As for the Earth Day post, I sort of think of you as the Earth Day poster guy~ think about it-even your playground is filled with recycled materials from ground coverings to play structures to decorative touches. I'm trying to be much more environmentally conscious, but I've got a long way to go! :)

Juliet Robertson said...

This makes me drool!

I know this YouTube video is of older children...but take a look at scrapstore playpods and start working on those elementary schools...

Play for Life said...

Wow Tom it all looks really beautiful ... kind of looks like a psychedelic camouflage net!

We'll be posting ourselves about squirter bottle painting tomorrow ... and like your children we spray painted a few faces too!

:) :)

Kat said...

This looks so cool. I could totally see it hanging on the wall of a restaurant or coffee shop!

Let the Children Play said...

Tom that looks amazing. I bet there were some paint splatters around the room that day (in manner of fly swatter paintings). I love the way it looks all draped around outside - like a wonderland. Your outdoor area is looking more and more inviting as you guys settle into it and the kids get to work creating.

Let the Children Play said...

Oh, I just had a thought - you could strew it all around the ground, maybe in nests, and put your mushrooms all around. That would create a beautiful and funky place for the spores to sprout.

Teacher Tom said...

@Jenny . . . That's a great idea! We'll do it tomorrow.

Teacher Tom said...

@Juliet . . . I love the scrapstore playpods! Everyone should check out the video.

MOM #1 said...

OH, it's so cool and creative. Love it.

Unknown said...

Color and texture. Fantastical : )

Launa Hall said...


Devinder Saini said...

Wow Tom everything looks truly excellent sort of resembles a hallucinogenic cover net!

We'll be posting ourselves about squirted bottle painting tomorrow ... furthermore, similar to your youngsters we shower painted a couple confronts as well! Wiki Mobiles