In the studio: Free for the taking

Published by Lori Pickert on November 22, 2007 at 01:24 PM


As we discussed with clean recyclables, once you have begun to acquire items for your studio, you will develop a practiced eye.

You don't have to shop only in the arts and crafts aisle of your local department store.

Every time a piece of paper passes through your hands, think — is this something the kids could use? Tissue paper, bits of wrapping paper, cardboard inserts, the silver disc that seals your new tin of coffee.


When you open a new package, whether it's cookies or a kitchen appliance, take a second look at those pieces that hold everything inside for shipping. Whether it's hard plastic or soft foam, if it's clean with no sharp edges, if it has an interesting texture, set it aside.

In your office, think about file folders, binder clips, address labels, envelopes, tags, graph paper.

In your kitchen, think about paper plates, styrofoam bowls, plastic spoons, silver cupcake wrappers, leftover holiday napkins, empty spice tins.

In your garage, think about large flat washers, nuts, bolts, plastic garden pots, twine, empty spools.

At work, look at the things that are regularly thrown away. (Or at your friend's workplace. Or at the stores you frequent.) We've collected empty film canisters, bottle tops, cardboard squares, shredded paper, "mat middles" from the local framing place. ("Mat middles" are the squares of mat board that are left when a mat is cut — great for drawing, painting, or constructing.) We've been given plastic lids, linoleum squares, jewelry boxes, packing peanuts.


It doesn't take many helpers to get a good supply of materials coming in — a couple friends, some grandparents, and you're well on your way to a stocked studio. Once people have an idea of what you're looking for, they will delight in bringing you odd bits and treasures.

These things you gather aren't only pieces of future constructions (bird eyes, alligator tails, robot arms, race-car wheels) but also things to cut up and collage and even exciting new things to paint with or paint on.

Any type of fabric (old sheets, cut-up burlap, etc.) can be an intriguing new surface to paint on at the easel, as well as any sort of odd paper or cardboard or even wood. Old plastic kitchen tools, fake plastic credit cards that come in junk mail, old plastic coils, etc., make great painting tools. Anything with an interesting texture can be pressed into clay or playdough.

Only your imagination limits the things you can bring into the studio, and once you've limbered up those thinking muscles, you'll be surprised by how much raw creative material is sitting around, just waiting for you to pick it up.



Comment by molly on November 22, 2007 at 05:13 PM

I thought of you (and my kids as artists) last night when my husband brought home new rubber feet for all our folding chairs - they came in cool clear packages which will make awesome handcrafted ornaments (or whatever else my children decide to do with them). My mom works for an engineering firm and keeps us supplied with large sheets of white paper. I have loved all of your ideas and recommendations this past week and I can't wait to set up our studio (when the family room cabinets are done and ready to hold supplies). Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Comment by Molly on November 23, 2007 at 02:52 AM

Lori: happy thanksgiving! You are the ultimate thifter, i think. You know, this repurposing is not just for kids. I'm making a little photo album out of a clementine crate. I love little books, but hate to spend $7-15 on the book shell itself and it just has more personality this way. - Molly

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 23, 2007 at 03:20 AM

happy thanksgiving! :^)

it's gotten to the point where i critically examine everything at the art store .. is this something i can make or get for free? and honestly we get enjoyment out of examining our trash, lol, looking at it and talking about whether it's worth saving and what we could do with it. :^P

"ultimate thrifter" is a title i would be *proud* to wear. lol. and i agree totally, it's not just for the short set. i can't wait to see your photo album when it's done. i will share some of my grown-up versions of these things, too!

hope you both have a wonderful weekend!

Comment by karin on November 23, 2007 at 02:46 PM

I think, it's very important to reuse the materials that are around you in a creative way, I like doing this for myself and with Oskar.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 23, 2007 at 03:30 PM

before you even make something new, there is a whole area of creativity just in looking at the world around you, reinterpreting "garbage", inventing new uses, imagining new identities.

Comment by estea on November 23, 2007 at 06:27 PM

you know what's fun? all the stuffing pulled out of old cassette tapes. coolest hair ever. or fake smoke spirals.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 23, 2007 at 06:55 PM

you know when you said "cassette tape" i was thinking of my "journey's greatest hits" in the tape deck of my car.

Comment by estea on November 23, 2007 at 11:13 PM



steve perry is my boyfriend.

i secretly download Boston and Foreigner into the nano when snarky husband isn't looking. (cause he was all The Cure, and Depeche, and those eyeliner art school dropouts trying to be cool. as if)

this is way off topic.


Comment by Lori Pickert on November 24, 2007 at 12:03 AM

journey is never off topic.

Comment by estea on November 24, 2007 at 01:12 AM

don't stop believin

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 24, 2007 at 01:17 AM

hold on to the feelin'

Comment by molly on November 25, 2007 at 07:55 PM

i can't stop bookmarking all your posts....they are so good.

(if you don't mind me breaking in on all the journey talk...) ha!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 26, 2007 at 12:33 AM


you are so sweet -- thank you!

i kind of want to have a journey party now. we can all come as our favorite journey-related character.

Comment by Shannon J on April 1, 2009 at 01:03 PM

I'm new here. Maybe bad to introduce myself on an old post. I have been SO excited to see this blog as there is so little Reggio community out there. This is just what I needed! But with this Journey talk I wonder, well, I was all The Cure, minus the eye liner. Sigh. Do you think we can work this out? Shall I just pretend and buy myself a Journey t-shirt? Oh yuck. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 1, 2009 at 01:24 PM

i’m sorry, but no one who disses journey can be part of our community.

see, you *could* have just said the cure, and i would have immediately referenced say anything and the boom box, but you had to go all negative.

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