Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thinking Outside the Cereal Box

The holidays always get me in a crafting mood. I think it dates back to my childhood, where we did a lot of crafty activities. I have to give it to my mom, she researched and came up with some great ideas for keeping us busy - especially once vacation started and we needed things to keep our little hands from making mischief.

I find it interesting that crafting has become trendy. I don't mind, as now I don't have to hide my love of it from the world anymore. But even more interesting is how it's a younger generation pushing this craft movement, along with becoming something to make money from (thank you Etsy and BigCartel!), and even pushing the envelope of what we can do in these crafts. Anyone for adding a little electricity or light to your craft project? There's a whole new movement playing with LEDs and conductive thread, things that either never existed before, or would never be associated with sewing and crafts.

But check out the creativity, innovation, and simplicity of this project: "How To: Touch Screen Gloves" over at Craft (image borrowed from their article). You add a tiny bit of conductive thread to the end of your glove finger, and ta-da! You can use your touch-screen phone without having to take your gloves off. Brilliant and useful! I also found it fascinating to learn that touch screens work from how your fingers conduct electricity, not, as I thought, from pressure and heat.

I love this new trend of combining technology with crafts. Those are two of my favorite things, and with as much as you can be creative on the computer, there's still nothing like the tactile experience of feeling the materials in your hands and physically altering them to create something new. Make, Craft's sister (or some might say brother) site has a ton of more "technical" crafts. Also, Instructables can be a bit convoluted, but there are some gems hiding there.

The other big trend in crafting right now is "green" - a word I cringe at because it's so overused and capitalized upon without any specification to what it actually can and cannot be used for, so it just gets applied to everything willy-nilly to make a buck...And in the words of Mike Rowe, shouldn't it be "brown", not "green", anyway? Alright, enough of that rant. On with the show. The trendy word now is "upcycled", not "recycled". No matter how cool the word sounds, it's still something being reused and usually resold.

Not that I have anything against being good to the Earth and taking things that would otherwise be going to a landfill and finding new uses for them. It's just that lots of people have been doing that for years and not seeking out credit and accolades for it. Again, I return to my wonderful mom who needed to find entertainment for 4 children that did not involve hour upon hour of TV (not that we didn't watch TV, it was more like, "turn off the TV and go do something!"). One of her many ideas was to make us building blocks...out of paper milk cartons. In fact, this was before all those plastic milk cartons (I know, way back for some of you).

She cut off the tops, cleaned them out really well, and shoved one into the other till they formed a nice rectangular "block". Take some different sizes and different colors, and lady, you've got some happy kids who can build a city, tear it down, pretend to bowl, careen Matchbox cars into...You name it, we came up with a game for it. And this wasn't just a one-day activity. In fact, these had their own permanent cupboard-home and got pulled out on a regular basis. My mom would even periodically add a new block to the mix. These blocks were a part of my childhood for as long as I can remember. Long enough that I became curious one day when I was old enough, as to what store they had come from, and she described to me how she had made them for us. Now that's a good toy, where you don't even realize what it was to begin with.

Sometimes I think people get overwhelmed by all these labels flying around, and assume you have to have special tools or materials to work with. But that's where the real "upcycling" creativity comes in. It doesn't have to be fancy. Look at something in your house that would normally go into the donation pile or recycle bin, and say, is there something I need or want that I could use that for?

Like cereal boxes or, especially around this time of year, delivery boxes - make your own city
or that magazine holder you've been wanting but don't want to spend $15 on.
Personalize a coffee mug with a porcelain pen (bonus points to those of you who know what video game this image is from!).
Make a bag out of a scarf you don't use by just adding a few well-placed knots (yes, I really did just link to Martha Stewart!).
Take an old book you don't want anymore and make it into a wall organizer
or a wall shelf.
A hot glue gun and Mod Podge can become your new best friends!

Of course, if it really is time to say goodbye, or you need to free yourself of some clutter (as I should really do myself), then pass it along to someone else who can make use of it (Freecycle, anyone?). But don't take things at face value. After all, they started out as something completely different too!

And if you're not of the crafter type (then thank you for making it all the way through this post!), there are lots of craft fairs around this time of year, as well as folks online (Etsy, BigCartel) who would be happy to take your money in return for a handmade treasure. It's a whole new world out there, and we're just getting started!


toothpick said...

I love that you made your blocks! So very cool and even cooler to see that the seeds of creativity and crafting found fertile ground in your life!

Kevin said...

That conductive glove is brilliant! =)

Also really like the floating book shelf thing that is pretty cool.


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