Home - T Singapore

How to Turn Your Trash Into Art

By Adriana Balsamo

Junk vessels can be made from a variety of discarded trash, like apple juice bottles, salad containers, pod detergent boxes and more.
 
Hollie Velten-Lattrell
Junk vessels can be made from a variety of discarded trash, like apple juice bottles, salad containers, pod detergent boxes and more.

One question that you’ve most likely asked yourself thanks to spending so much time at home is, “How do I go through so many containers?” Hollie Velten-Lattrell, who runs a creative design studio in New Jersey, can’t exactly answer that. But she does have an innovative way to repurpose your empty cans, toilet paper rolls and old newspapers: by making a “junk vessel.”

Ms. Velten-Lattrell, her husband, who is an animator, and their two young children have made dozens of these vases from assorted trash that is papier-mâchéd and then colourfully painted. Her neighbourhood, perhaps unwittingly, is also in on the act: On a recent walk, Ms. Velten-Lattrell, took a big, plastic detergent container from a neighbour’s bin and turned it into a junk vessel that she now uses to hold feathers.

In an interview, she called this craft “hyper-local” — since it means using readily available materials — and “high-touch.”

While these vases shouldn’t be exposed to water, they are perfect for holding dried flowers or pens, or can stand alone as statement pieces on your bookshelves. Follow these steps to turn your trash into your own artsy junk vessel.

Tony Cenicola
 

1. To start, you’ll need to comb through your trash and recyclables for the makings of a large, sturdy base — a plastic or cardboard box should do the trick. Tissue boxes, cans and oatmeal or bread crumb containers are good circular options. You may have to combine multiple items, like two plastic cups.

2. Then, look for a longer, tubular item — like an empty toilet paper or paper towel roll — to mimic the neck of a traditional vase. To attach this to the junk vessel’s base, use generous amounts of masking tape. Painter’s tape and duct tape also work, as would a hot glue gun.

3. To make your vessel’s form more elaborate, add handles, knobs or flaps by cutting out shapes from any leftover cardboard you might have. You can tape or glue these on.

Tony Cenicola
 

1. You may remember these steps from making your coroñata. Cut or tear your newspaper into strips; make more strips than you think you’ll need.

2. Make your paste: Ms. Velten-Lattrell uses Mod Podge glue and she also recommends wallpaper glue, but most liquid glues should work. Whatever glue you decide to use, start with a ratio of two parts glue to one part water so that it’s viscous.

3. Dip your strips into your glue mixture. Pull the strip between your thumb and forefinger to remove excess globs of paste.

4. Layer the vessel with strips until it is fully covered and let dry completely.

5. Repeat so that your vessel has a minimum of two dried papier-mâché layers.

Tony Cenicola
 

1. Here’s the fun part. Using any paint you have around the house, transform your vessel into a colourful decoration. Ms. Velten-Lattrell, often uses chalk paint, a durable self-priming paint which adheres easily to most surfaces. She said when chalk paint dries, “it almost looks like a terracotta finish.” She has also used kid-friendly washable tempera. Start with a base coat of a colour of your choice.

2. Let the first coat of paint dry completely and assess if it needs a second base coat.

3. Add patterns, stripes, blocks of colour — anything your heart desires. And voilà, you’ve turned your trash into your own treasure.

Tony Cenicola