Category Archives: Non-Traditional Materials

Simon Sparrow

r_m1985_49SAAM-2016.38.69_1Simon Sparrow (1925-2000) was a self-taught artist who was born in West Africa and raised in North Carolina. Sparrow moved to Madison, Wisconsin in the 1970s where he was known as a street preacher. Sparrow’s spiritual beliefs crossed over into his artwork. He believed he was guided by “spirit” to create. 

Sparrow used unusual materials to create his mosaic-like art, including: jewelry, plastic figurines (like Star Wars figures), beads, pine cones, glitter, and other found object materials. He even covered his car in glitter and found objects.

Sparrow passed away in 2000. In 2012, he was the recipient of a Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award. His work has been included in several exhibitions and was featured on a 2009 episode of Antiques Roadshow.


We recently worked on a project for kids based on the art of Simon Sparrow. As you can imagine, the kids were excited about using the recycled materials to create their work. We did this project with 6 to 8 year old children, but it can be taught to a range of ages, and the materials can be varied based on skill level. For example, older kids can use hot glue guns. With the younger kids, we used a non-toxic glue, Aleene’s Clear School Tacky Glue. Also, in order to prevent a disastrous glitter mess but still pay tribute to Sparrow’s love of glitter, we used washable glitter pens.

For a full project plan, please click here.

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Bottle Cap Art

 

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Mary Ellen Croteau, Tsunami,©2014, 5’X8′

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Mary Ellen Croteau, Jia, Uppsala ©2015, 29″x39″ framed

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Mary Ellen Croteau, Endless Columns, detail, ©2010 – 2015


Continuing with the theme of recycled and found object art from previous posts, this week’s featured artist is Mary Ellen Croteau of Chicago. She creates art with bottle caps to help bring awareness to the impact of waste on the environment.

Regarding her piece Tsunami (above), Mary Ellen states on her website:

“Tsunami is made mostly of water bottle caps. I personally think that single-serve plastic bottles are a major curse on our environment, and most especially water bottles. Most of us do not need to have bottled water at hand. Getting people used to spending more money for water than they spend for a gallon of gasoline is devious and disastrous for the future of the planet; letting corporations control our water sources is evil.”

I first came across her work in 2012 at Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. Her Endless Columns, inspired by the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi, were vibrant towers amongst the greens of the plants and flowers. My 4-year old was very impressed, and from this, we discovered our love of collaborative art making with bottle caps. We will be posting some ideas for bottle cap art projects for kids soon!

To view more of Mary Ellen’s work, please visit her website at maryellencroteau.net.

Found In Nature

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Continuing with the theme from the previous post, Barry Rosenthal is a Brooklyn based photographer also working with beach plastic. His photo series “Found in Nature” is a collection of discarded objects found on the beaches of New York. The colorful and well-designed artworks make us forget for a moment that the truth behind his work is quite disturbing. Our overuse of plastic has lead to an abundance of waste that keeps going long after its original use. To learn more about Rosenthal’s work, visit his website at www.barryrosenthal.com.

“I am a collector. The beach is my flea market and found objects my inspiration.”

– Barry Rosenthal

 

All Images ©2013 Barry Rosenthal www.barryrosenthal.com

Beach Plastic

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This blog will often feature art made from recycled objects and other non-traditional materials. I was excited to come across the website of artists Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang. Their work is an excellent example of using non-traditional materials.

In 1999, the Langs began to collect plastic debris washed ashore at Kehoe Beach, located in Point Reyes National Seashore in California. They have been visiting the same 1,000 yards of shoreline to gather their materials.

Using the discarded objects, the Langs create art ranging from large-scale sculptures to small jewelry. They even embellished a car with found plastic objects. Their work has been in over 70 exhibitions.

Through their work they hope to bring awareness to plastic pollution and its devastating effect on the environment, while also transforming otherwise useless objects into beautiful and imaginative works of art.

Below is an enjoyable and informative video about their work.

To see more of their artwork, visit their website here.


Image Credits: (top to bottom) Bosky Dell, Shovel Bands, Chroma Purple via the artists’ website:  One Beach Plastic.

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Séraphine

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Séraphine Louis (1864 – 1942), also known as Séraphine de Senlis, was a French self-taught artist. She was from the town of Senlis, north of Paris, and worked as a house cleaner. She struggled with mental illness most of her life and seemed to find solace in her paintings.

She worked in solitude by candlelight, creating colorful and whimsical paintings of flowers and plants based mostly on her imagination. In order to afford paint, she made her own pigments using household and plant items, such as red wine, flowers, and candle wax.

Séraphine was discovered by German art collector Wilhelm Uhde in 1912. He was a collector of Henri Rousseau and Pablo Picasso’s work, among other notable artists of the time. Uhde came across a painting by Seraphine at his neighbor’s home where she worked as a cleaner.  Uhde did his best to support her work as an artist and included her an exhibition held in Paris in 1928, called “Painters of the Sacred Heart,” The other artists included: Henri RousseauAndré Bauchant, and Camille Bombois.

In 2008, a film by Martin Provost was released about Seraphine’s life. You can view the trailer here.


Image Credit: Séraphine Louis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikipedia

The House of Dreams Museum

wright4wrightwright3Stephen Wright is an artist and designer from East Dulwich, an area of south London, England. About 31 years ago, he began transforming his house and garden into the House of Dreams Museum. He was inspired to create the museum after viewing Jarvis Cocker’s documentaries on outsider art, called Journeys into the Outside with Jarvis Cocker (which I highly recommend watching). His museum is full of elaborate mosaics and found object sculptures. It also serves as a shrine for his memories and a tribute to his deceased partner and parents. It was bequeathed to the National Trust and is open to the public. The visiting hours are listed on his website. 


Image Credits: Stephen Wright, www.stephenwrightartist.com

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Bee Habitats as Art

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Greg Corman is a landscape designer and artist living in Tuscon, Arizona. He creates his work from recycled or salvaged wood, found objects, and steel. The above images are examples of his bee habitat sculptures, which are functional forms of art. The sculptures have holes and tunnels drilled into them to provide bees with brood chambers for their babies. He states on his website that these functional artworks are nesting spaces for native pollinator bees and do not attract honey or killer bees.


Artwork Credit: © Greg Corman, cormanart.com

Toothpick Arts & Crafts for Kids

To go along with my recent post about toothpick art, I have found some fun projects for kids.  I love the idea of working with nontraditional art supplies that are either lying around the house or affordable to buy. Toothpicks are definitely easy to come across.  Loosely inspired by the work of artists Scott Weaver and Wayne Kusy, here are a few ideas I came across. (The project credit goes to the links under each photo.)

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Toothpick cacti from Mod Podge Rocks

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Toothpick Toadstools for a fairy garden from Magic Onions

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Cute hedgehog project from Crafts N Coffee

 

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Toothpick Artists

weaver-1weaver-4weaver-2Scott Weaver is a San Francisco-based artist who creates elaborately detailed artwork using only toothpicks and Elmer’s glue. Scott began creating toothpick art in 1968, at the age of 8. His most famous toothpick sculpture is called Rolling Through the Bay, a kinetic sculpture which was constructed using approximately 100,000 toothpicks over the course of 37 years. Scott estimates that it took over 3,000 hours of his time to create the sculpture. The sculpture is 9 feet tall and 7 feet wide.

Wayne Kusy of Chicago is another incredible toothpick artist. I had the honor of meeting him several years ago and helping him with a toothpick art workshop at a Chicago gallery.

Wayne was inspired to start building with toothpicks in fifth grade after completing a school project using his chosen medium. Wayne started small and eventually worked his way up to building toothpick versions of ocean liner models, ranging in length from 4 feet to 25 feet. His largest toothpick sculpture is the 25 foot Queen Mary, which was made using 814,000 toothpicks and 19 gallons of Titebond II.

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Image/Video Credits:
Scott Weaver, Rolling Through the Bay via Tinkering Studio ©
Scott Weaver’s Rolling through the Bay from The Tinkering Studio on Vimeo
Wayne Kusy, Work in progress, via Intuit the Center for Intuitive & Outsider Art
Wayne Kusy, Cutty Sark via Detour Art.

Michelle Stitzlein’s Butterflies & Moths

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moth6webMichelle Stitzlein is an artist from Ohio who works with found and recycled objects. She uses unexpected materials to create her artwork, such as bottle caps, garden hoses, shards of china, old piano keys, and license plates. She has a great sense of color and design and knows how to transform the discarded items into intricate details that make her work come alive. Her butterfly and moth series is striking.

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Michelle is also the author of two art books for children, Bottlecap Little Bottle Cap and Cool Caps! Her website has several great examples of bottle cap art projects.