Creativity Inspiring Conservation: A Recycled Sculpture Workshop for High School Students at the Seattle Aquarium

CIC-2015-recruitment-posterI am expecting a baby in about 7 weeks.  As I’m making decisions like whether to use cloth or disposable diapers, I’ve been considering the impact of one person’s actions on our planet, which, multiplied by entire communities turn into global issues like overflowing landfills, fracking fields, suburban sprawl, deforestation, and polluted oceans. THIS is what I’m talking about.

I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate this message into my work as a teaching artist.  The Creativity Inspiring Conservation program at the Seattle Aquarium was the perfect opportunity to teach students about the consequences of our collective actions on a global scale, and to link this message with visual art.     096

Starting with salvaged cardboard boxes, students chose a sea creature to create in a 3-d sculpture.  We cut the cardboard into strips, and created an internal frame for our sculptural form.  This was the hardest part of the project – to translate a 2-d sketch into a 3-d framework that would eventually evolve into a sea otter, a nautilus, a penguin, a sea turtle, an angler fish, etc.

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The students covered the framework with thin cardboard and brown paper, up-cycled from food cartons and packing materials, with the brown paper side out so that it would be an easier surface to paint.

098  099  102 Choosing from a wide assortment of salvaged and re-purposed materials, students then had the opportunity to add textural and decorative elements to their work. For example, the tentacles of this nautilus are created from stripped plastic bags, bubble wrap, food wrappers, old fishing nets pulled from Puget Sound, etc.

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The results are large, stunning representations of the amazing creatures that live in our oceans.  These sculptures will be on display in the Seattle Aquarium galleries in the month of  August, 2015.  114119Needless to say, I’ve decided to go with reusable cloth diapers because I can’t in good conscience make the seals swim with more plastic, single-use diapers.  The seals don’t have a choice.  I do.



Kent Kids Art Day is Saturday, March 7!

What could be better than making stuff out of junk and duct tape?


Bring the kiddos and make some art with us THIS SATURDAY at Kent Kids Art Day!  $10 gets you in the door and kids get to make a bunch of cool and different art projects.

A huge thank you to Ballard Reuse for the generous support of recycled community arts programs for kids.







garden of light

A thing of wonder at West Woodland Elementary.  Can you tell what it’s made of?*WP_000864

The artist at West Woodland had this piece installed high above the entry, in a bright window.  It catches sunbeams and casts coloful shadow patterns like Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures.


(*Plastic water bottles!)  What a beautiful use of recycled materials.

Recycled robots at Kent Kids Art Day 2013

robot2What could be better than making stuff out of junk and duct tape?

Dumpster diving divas Nadine and Nicole were back at Kent Kids Art Day with Recycled Robots, and we brought everything AND the kitchen sink ….




Every child left with a unique work of art.


Thank you to the City of Kent for sponsoring public art in the community, and to ReStore and Earthwise Architectural Salvage for the hook ups!

duct tape suitcases


Duct tape luggage, as part of our Winter Travel ART series with Nadine Smith and KidsCreate.  Students in our after school programs are creating travel journals, luggage, time travel passports, 3-d maps, and more.

luggagetagMixed media opens up a WORLD of posssibilities!

Photo credit: Amrita Huja


For more information, please visit

how altering books keeps me from burning my canvases

My altered books are a springboard to greater projects.  I don’t know how many books I’m working on at any given time.  I don’t know if/when they are finished.  I just know that they are an essential part of my artistic process.  Art journaling is my unleashing activity, my creative catalyst.

A canvas, however, feels riskier.  It’s on an easel.  It’s white.  Or even if it’s not white, I paid money for it, and it has a certain intimidating stature.  It probably has a deadline attached to it, will require a title and a dreaded artist statement to be written about it, and all that pressure is a certain way to shut down the creative process.

In contrast, the art book was free.  It is not for exhibit, not for sale, not under time constraints, unhindered by theme, and so the work comes entirely from the heart and the creative soul.  It needs no title or artist statement.  I can burn it if I want to.  But usually, the altered books turn out wonderfully, and it is the canvas that I want to burn.

Here are a few recent altered book layouts …

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You are seeing them in-progress, as I will add more color to this one, and a bit of fabric to that one, paint over the top of another, and so on.  Mixed media is an ever-evolving artistic process that wanders and weaves its’ way through.  My job as artist is to keep pushing and challenging myself until I see something wonderful and amazing start to happen.  Half the art is the making; the other half is knowing when to stop.

Now back to those canvases …


Wax painting

Another successful community push toward recycled art!  THANK YOU to everyone who contributed crayons.  We collected about 25 lbs. of old, beat-up crayons for this project.  TWO of my favorite things – UPcycling, that is, diverting items from the landfill to use in artworks, and collaboration, that is, folks coming together for the sake of art in the community.

Our theme for this visual art series was the Circus.  Inspired by old-time circus posters, we created accordion-style books from mat board scraps, newspaper, black tempera paint, duct tape, and crayons melted into liquid wax form.

Students discovered that the process of starting with a newspaper background, and sketching with a fat paintbrush with black paint led to a loose, painterly underpainting.  Then they gooped on layers of melted wax to create a deeply textured surface, which could be carved into and manipulated in an almost sculptural way.  The wax cooled quickly so we had to work fast.

Details may have been a bit elusive with this medium, but that places the burden of emphasis on your composition and form, or in layman’s terms, it forces you to focus on the big picture instead of getting lost in the small details.  Art presents many profound lessons for life.