Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Earth Day Edition

While people differ in their opinions of how best to accomplish it, most folks want their environment to be as clean, healthy, and beautiful as it can be. Whenever possible, we try to make lifestyle choices that work in that direction. Here are ten ideas of ways we clayers can reduce our consumption of raw materials. Many of them have the added benefit of easing the burden on our wallet, too!

Ten on Tuesday: Earth Day Edition

1. Use "cardstock"-style food packaging instead of specially purchased materials. Most boxes that food is packaged in can be used for this purpose-- cereal boxes, the boxes that 12-pack colas come in, etc. Use this cardstock to make accordion-folded bead curing racks, in flat sheets to prevent shiny spots when curing (weigh down the corners to prevent curling), to protect your work surface when painting the clay, etc. (It's best to put raw clay in direct contact with only "unmarked"/uninked paper or cardstock. Clay can sometimes pick up inks, so just use the plain, raw side of the package.)

2. When painting polymer clay, use the lids from old food containers-- yogurt, butter/margarine, sour cream-- as makeshift paint palettes. These lids (and their containers, depending on how much product you need) can also be used when you're mixing or applying glitter to polymer clay-- and in a variety of other situations. Wash them up with a little soap and water, and they can be reused almost indefinitely.

3. Never throw away polymer clay. (It's hard to believe that anyone would, but you never know.) Even scraps and ugly, muddy mixes are valuable. Scraps can be mixed together (with a careful eye) to make very attractive custom blends, and ugly clay can still serve a purpose as bead cores or in other applications where they can't be seen. Not a bead-maker? Use ugly mixes to make homemade texture sheets or stamps-- or as handles for homemade or "found" tools (if you aren't particular about how the tool looks).

There may be hope for even cured clay in projects that didn't quite turn out like you expected. Failed projects can sometimes be used as armatures for another skin of clay. If nothing else, you can use a grater or a craft blade to "shred" the cured clay. Chop (by hand or with a clay-dedicated food chopper) into bits small enough to use as inclusions in raw clay.

4. Use things you'd ordinarily throw away in your clay work. For instance, you can achieve all sorts of interesting effects with inclusions in translucent clay. Here are a few possibilities: dryer lint, past-their-prime (or last bit in the bottle) spices, dried flowers/leaves (when bouquets have finally faded and shriveled), and tiny stubs of crayons (shredded/chopped).

5. Use found/used materials in your work. This can be as simple as turning a used medicine bottle into a Bottle of Hope or covering an emptied eggshell with polymer clay. It can also take polymer clay into the realm of mixed media. Before throwing things away, see if there are ways to incorporate them into a work of art. Mechanical parts/gears, broken china, feathers, a few loose beads, random bits of hardware (nails, screws, washers, nuts, bolts)-- the possibilities are endless.

For a little inspiration, see what you can do with something as simple as a burned out light bulb:
Naama Zamir's light bulb ladies
"colorfull's" Crocodiles/Dinosaurs on Etsy -- Check out the rest of the shop for other cute animals-- lovebirds, octopuses (octopi? (g)), monkeys, and turtles.

6. Store cured beads, buttons, and other little bits and pieces in the reusable plastic containers that so many foods are packaged in. Lidded containers (such as the yogurt, butter, etc. containers mentioned before) are especially good, since they can be closed to keep dust out and to prevent a catastrophic mess, should the container topple over. One of the disadvantages of reusing containers rather than buying them is that old food containers are often opaque. It's a pain opening tub after tub in search of a specific set of beads, but you can fix this problem by labeling containers with a little paper tape and a Sharpie.

7. Use "found" tools as often as possible. They're cheap-- very often free. They'll help make your work unique (because not everyone has access to the same exact "stuff" you do). They make it unnecessary for you to buy as much "stuff" as you might otherwise buy-- and every piece you keep out of the garbage can is one less piece that goes into the landfill.

I've written about this subject before, so see these links for some specific suggestions:
Texturing Tools and other "Found" Goodies
Ten on Tuesday: Places to *Find* "Found" Textures
Links to some interesting related blogs entries

8. Bake "en masse". In other words, if possible, don't run your oven all day long, curing one bead at a time. Instead, try to wait until you amass a number of beads-- a whole sheet or baking rack full, ideally-- then run the oven for a single curing cycle. Electricity costs money and uses up resources, so why use more of it than necessary?

9. Bake at cooler times of the day (in summertime). This may be less of an issue for some people, but where I live, our summers can be brutally hot and humid. Air conditioning makes life so much more livable that I'm not willing to go without it (if I have a choice). However, I do try to keep our electricity consumption (and thus our electric bill) down by setting the temperature at a reasonable level and using fans to circulate the air. Running the oven during the hottest time of the day forces the air conditioner to run more often, thus using more electricity. Putting off curing until the evening (or doing it early the next morning) makes more sense.

10. If you sell and ship your work, try to reuse packing materials, if possible. Save bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts, etc. that you get in the mail and reuse them, rather than buying more. You may even be able to reuse envelopes or small boxes in your packaging. Most buyers are understanding-- even appreciative-- of your efforts to conserve resources, but you may want to mention your packing methods and/or offer the option of nicer packaging for gift items shipped directly to the recipient.

If you have a great idea for claying in Earth-friendly ways, please feel free to share it in the comments section!

Hope everyone's having a great week and a happy spring!


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to post and say I appreciate all your ten for Tuesday ideas and tips!!

Michael said...

Thanks, Kerry! :o)

Cindy Lietz said...

Love all the work you put in this list... Very good ideas! Thanks Michael!