Sunday, January 22, 2006

Altered Art

By Christina VanGinkel

Creating altered art is a great way to use up miscellaneous items you have around the house. By miscellaneous items, I mean anything and everything you can find that you no longer need for its original purpose. Old CD's and DVD's, buttons, unused game pieces, playing cards, tins from mints, leftover fibers, old keys, paper clips, old books (children's books and old hard covers are personal favorites), and band aid tins, paint cans, and more. If it is lying around your house, it can most likely be used in an altered art project.

So popular is the craft that some of these items are even being sold as new to be transformed into altered art. The main one that comes to mind is paint cans. By the time the average home user empties a paint can, it is not good for much beyond placing it in the garbage. Some studious people will argue the point and say that they can be washed clean, and they can, but most paint stores will sell you empty cans, clean empty cans, for just a dollar or two. These are one of my favorite objects to alter.

When choosing an item to alter, consider how it will work as a blank canvas ready for you to use up all those other goodies you have uncovered. Some of my favorite items for altering include paint cans, clipboards, small tins (they make great little mini sized photo albums), boxes, recipe files, notebooks, and books. Any item you can think of another use for though, can realistically be altered. For the altering part itself, besides using up found items, which provide the unique quality that is the big draw of this art, scrapbook, and other art supplies can fill in any needed gaps.

The Actual Altering

Once you have chosen an item to alter, be it an empty paint can, an old book, a tin, what have you, each person will progress from this point on in his or her own way, continuing the unique aspect of this craft. Some people will choose a theme to work from, while others will literally sit down and let the assortment of found items they have collected draw the course for them. Most fall somewhere between the two, choosing a theme, but not really having a course of action for the finished item until the last piece is in place, letting the art come together piece by piece. For my first project, an altered can, I found it easiest to choose a theme, my love of crochet, and bought a paint can to alter. My goal was to make a container to store my hooks in that I could leave out in the living room when I was not using them, and at the same time, it would be a pleasing little piece of art tucked into the corner. I covered the can with old pages from a magazine about crochet, and added small items pertaining to my love of crochet and needle works in general, including a hook that I no longer used because it had a rough spot that caught the yarn, and another hook that had a bit of rust on it, but I was reluctant to toss because it had been my mothers. I also used threads to decorate the edges, a small pair of scissors that no longer cut well, no matter how many times I tried to sharpen them, and then some fun die cuts that I cut out on my Wishblade cutter.

The one downfall of creating altered art is that even though you suddenly have a use, or potential use for all those items filling up your junk drawer, you will suddenly find it very difficult to toss anything. Each item that is headed for the trash will now need to be examined and you will often discover that maybe you could use it for this project or that. Your grandmother's supply of old buttons will become something that you covet, and your mother's habit of saving old cards, both Christmas and everyday, will all of a sudden make perfect sense and you will be questioning yourself on all the good things you have tossed over the years. Creating altered art will give you a very different perception of what exactly junk is and is not!

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