Creative Reuse—getting your art & craft on

The concept of creative reuse aka upcycling, remaking or repurposing is not new.  According to Grant Johnson, author of “1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse: Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew,” materials reuse has been around since medieval scribes scraped off and reused parchments, and the ancient Greeks melted down older bronze statues to make newer versions. Creative reuse, in its current incarnation, combines artistic expression with ecological responsibility served with a side of thrift.

In the hierarchy of what to do with our stuff, reduce should be the first action—quit buying so much stuff! Reduce means choosing to use or purchase things with care to reduce the amount of waste generated.

reuse pyramid_small

Reuse is different from recycling, where the products are broken down treuse 1o its component parts and re-manufactured into new products. Creative reuse is also different from conventional reuse, where the product is used in its original purpose again.

Recycle means the conversion of a waste to form a new product.

Disposal is the magical ‘disappearance’ of all other trash to the landfill where most of it never, ever really goes away.


So have we piqued your interest to learn more about creative reuse? Wondering how to get started? The San Antonio Public Library is always a good resource for ideas and inspiration. Here’s a list of books complied by one of their helpful librarians.

“Modern upcycling: a user-friendly guide to inspiring and repurposed handicrafts for a trendy home”

“Reclaimed textiles: techniques for paper, stitch, plastic and mixed media”

“Vintage reuse 2made modern: transforming timeworn textiles into treasured heirlooms”

“Creative recycling in embroidery”

“The Salvage Sisters’ guide to finding style in the street and inspiration in the attic”

“Trash formations east”Johnson book

Quoted in the first paragraph, Grant Johnson’s book is full of marvelous art work pictures with corresponding materials list.

Several other hands-on avenues are also available. Leading the charge in San Antonio for creative reuse is spare parts founded by Mary Elizabeth Cantu in 2010. spare parts offers cultural and environmental sustainability, affordability and accessibility to the arts through education. A large variety of workshops and projects at schools and community wide-events are held throughout the year. Attending an event or volunteering with the organization can impart insights and instructions.creative reuse art table

In addition there are many “maker” organizations and events popping up around town. The ‘maker culture’ invites people of all ages to be creative in a plethora of venues including—technology, DIY projects, artistic expression. Many of these projects are creative reuse. “Make San Antonio a creative hub for makers of all ages” is a good example.

Argentinian artist Elisa Insua calls her creative reuse art “immortalizing meaningless trash into works of art.” We agree.Elisa_Insua_-_WS_-_Herospace

Art Explorium merges art, academics & creative reuse

Art lives and breathes inside every segment of education.

It’s aloha again from our colleagues at Hawaii’s Art Explorium. You may remember Heather Williams & Julie Uyeno-Pidot from our previous blog post No Ocean is Wide Enough for spare parts–A Creative Reuse Tale between 2 Cities. We caught up with Heather & staff after reading about their recent Creative Reuse Open House for Teachers.

“By weaving the arts into & through our content in naturally aligned ways, we are providing relevance to student learning, & giving them an opportunity to connect their world to our classrooms,” said Susan Riley in an edutopia blog post.

Believing this approach combined with the creative reuse applications, Art Explorium staff hosted more than 50 teachers at an Open House event in July.

Heather–During the planning phases of this event we meet with other people in the community (educators, people from our local museum & arts organizations, etc.) to discuss what would be most valuable to teachers. We feel that if our projects integrate with critical academic subjects so that they support each other, teachers will be more likely to attend our event, find value in it, & to actually try these projects in their classrooms.

Making the event easy for teachers to attend was one of the most important elements.

Heather–We thought by using an Open House informal format teachers can stay as long or as little as they want. They don’t have to give up an entire day or half a day. Each station was set up with a different academic focus (language arts, science, math). With an arts education expert, teachers learned about two projects that tie in to an academic subject. For example, the science table this year featured Fabric Bowls & Cork Boats as the two projects. Each station also had relevant books set out so teachers could get ideas about other helpful resources. We invited them to bring their children with them. While they were getting materials & talking to resource people & getting project ideas, their kids could do art activities in another area. Teacher resource handout

More than 50 teachers attended, up from only about 10 in 2014, so we have definitely come a long way! Hopefully these teachers will take what they learned & share exponentially with their students.

Heather–Being a new nonprofit, the past three years have been a day-by-day learning experience where we try new things, see how they work, learn from them & move forward from there. We are now starting to see some patterns, & get a better understanding of who we are & what we do.

One of the best parts is that we have built a community around us – in our neighborhood, amongst the families that visit us, amongst teaching artists & other local organizations.

Art Explorium staff plans to participate in creative reuse art activities at some upcoming community events such as a STEAM event at Windward Mall and at the Kaiwi Coast Run/Walk later this month as well. They will do some activities at each event. And, they are presenting at a Preschool Conference in September to share creative reuse ideas with teachers there.

Creative Reuse Lesson Plan Pamphlet

Heather and Julie shared pictures of some of the event’s projects:

Carole with fabric bowl and cork boats

This year I really liked the Fabric Bowls because we have so much donated fabric. They are so cute & kids can really add their own personal touch to them. Carole on the left. She is an artist, an art teacher & a curriculum expert. She is giving ideas to teachers on how to integrate the science projects into their classroom

Janice at science station at workshop

Janice shares some of our favorite classroom resources including the t-shirt apron, robot kit, bottle cap mosaic &felt board.  T-Shirt Apron Directions

The author’s favorite project is the Found Art Collage. 


Laura CarterThe author's favorite project, Found Objects Collage is a writer, blogger, social media maven & nonprofit advocate. A communications professional, she is currently working with Blessed Sacrament Academy on Mission Road developing their communications/development programs. Laura serves on the Advisory Board of spare parts. In addition, she has volunteered all five years with TEDxSanantonio.




5th Annual spare parts Fine Arts Fair – Wonderland of the Americas, San Antonio

Spare Parts Fair 2015-22x28-PRESS
Teachers & Artists – Register by July 24, 2015.
2015 Summer Volunteer Opportunities with spare parts
Volunteer with spare parts at Wonderland of the Americas! Your support will bring supplies to thousands of youth in San Antonio!

spare parts materials donation guide - 2015