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Tips for using recycled material in your Global Canvas display

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

We know many of you are in the process of planning or creating your Global Canvas, children’s art competition, artwork displays in-line with this year’s theme, so here are some top tips.

One of the judging criteria is the use of recycled materials in your whimsical and wonderful displays because, at DSWF, we know that the humble ice-cream stick is transformed from trash to treasure in the hands of a budding Picasso.

Recycled materials, like kitchen rolls and old milk cartons, are a free and cheap source of creativity. The use of bubble wrap or empty cereal boxes not only show ingenuity and resourcefulness, but we feel, also teaches children the importance of decision making and the impacts our choices have on the environment.

So, we thought your group might like some tips and ideas for using reclaimed items in your art displays.

What are recycled materials?

Milk bottles, cereal boxes, baked bean tin cans, egg cartons, plastic yoghurt containers, bubble wrap, cardboard boxes, out-of-date newspapers, scratched CDs and even pressed flowers can be salvaged for your colourful artwork displays.

pressed flowers

The judges at Global Canvas have seen some very interesting pieces created over the years, including an origami-like display made from folded pages of outdated books.

dunhurst, bedales
Dunhurst, Bedales

We also know of artist who combs beaches for washed-up plastic to use in their fishy creations. It takes a lot of time and effort, a bit like a puzzle, to make old toothbrushes and flip-flops look like a fish. Sadly, despite the ‘ban the straw movement’ to save the oceans’ sensational sea turtles, single-use plastic is still turning up on our beaches. Brands like Levi Jeans are trying to use recycled plastic bottles in their jean materials to become more sustainable.


Where to find them?

We recommend raiding the recycling bin at school or at home (in lockdown) for anything you might need. Also, pay attention to anything you might be throwing out at home, could it be used somewhere in your display? Even a broken piece of furniture might be worth up-cycling in your group’s display.

How to use recycled materials in art?

Here are FIVE inventive ways to use recycled produced in your artwork just to get you creative juices flowing and your team thinking green.

1. Bottle caps make brilliant snakes when strung up together.

2. Who knew the bottom of plastic containers from supermarkets were so bumpy, textured, ‘liney’ and fill of ridges – just perfect for screen printing? The bottom of a plastic veggie container can be used to make passport-like stamps in your display, giving it a cool texture.

3. Cuttings from old magazines and newspapers make for super collages. Take a look at this Wildlife Artist of the Year entry in 2020, where artist, Violet von Riot, used a 1000 face cutting to create a wasp!

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 competition entry - Wasp Paper Collage
Artwork by Violet von Riot

4. Sardine cans and shoe boxes make superb mini dioramas. If you have a lot of people in your group, remember sometimes entire schools or year groups enter Global Canvas, why not encourage everyone in the team to create their own mini diorama for your display. A diorama, mini set representing an environmental scene.

5. Shredding old, stained, and torn clothing into strips can make great yarn for knitting. Why not try dying the clothing using natural dies like beetroot, red cabbage, turmeric, coffee, tea or jackfruit to get your ideal colour. Don’t forget to ask permission from a parent or guardian first and make sure you protect your clothing and any surfaces.

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