Art Elements April Theme Challenge Reveal – Repurposing

I’m particularly delighted to be hosting this months challenge as I’ve become more and more alarmed about the way humanity wastes it’s precious resources (and I’ve not always been as careful as I should be so I’m not about to preach) and it seems never a week goes by without some story in the press that points to damage we’re doing. You can see an example of this in a post I wrote for Earth Day on the Art Elements blog earlier this month. So repurposing seemed like a pretty good way to do a little bit for the environment while having some fun at the same time. I can’t wait to see how the participants have been inspired by the repurposing challenge…I know I could have gone on for a long time with this one.

My first piece continues a theme I started a few months ago using embroidery to revamp old powder compacts as mini art pieces. When I began doing this, team mate Caroline sent me a compact that had belonged to her Gran and I promised I would do something with it and return it her and, since she celebrates her birthday at the beginning of April this was the perfect time to do it.

Caroline lives near the city of Manchester which has as its emblem the worker bee. In the 1800s Manchester was awash with textile mills that were commonly described as ‘hives of activity’ and the workers inside them compared to bees. I know that Caroline is very fond of bees (and if you follow her you’ll know that ‘hive of activity ‘ is also a very good description of what goes on in her creative studio) so I decided to use a bee for her compact. I wanted to use the black and yellow colours of the bee without making it too fussy so I decided to use a yellow linen fabric and to just embroider in black thread. I used a simple stitches throughout and added some flowers to set off the bee and this is how it turned out…Thankfully Caroline seemed to like it.

One of the things I love about working with compacts is the way you get a double image that can create a little art installation. Jenny was also kind enough to send me a couple of compacts so I decided to tackle a second one but this time, with a tiny diorama because it was less well used and the hinge was still tight enough to hold the lid open.

My plan was to use this little pewter hare to create a scene where he can see his reflection in the moon…

I started by painting out part of the mirror to give the impression of a starry night sky and a full moon…

Then I used some green felt and pea shingle to create a little landscape putting some of the shingle under the felt to create earth mounds and added a smattering of flowers in the grass. Finally I set the hare to sit amid the ‘rocks’ gazing up at himself in the moon. I apologise for the slightly odd angle of the images but it was very difficult to photograph this without getting myself reflected in the mirror.

Next up some textile recycling with a tote bag out made from an old deck chair seat, a pillow case and some cotton webbing that came tied round a bale of towels.

The deck chair fabric was very faded on one side where it had been exposed to the sun but being a thick cotton canvas (ideal for a tote) the other side was still very vibrant. The width of the fabric was perfect as it was but I had to trim a little from the length and rather than waste it I used it to make a pocket on the front.

Then it was just a case of whizzing up the sides with a sewing machine. I could have left it like this but I prefer a gusset on my totes so to achieve this I stitched across the bottom corners and secured the point into the seams.

I used an old pillow case of my grandmother’s that I’d held onto because it was edged with some of her crochet work. After taking the trim off all I had to do was seam up one side to get it the same size as the main bag and turn the corners in the same way.

The lining is then fitted inside the canvas and the top raw edges turned in and pinned. I added the cotton webbing to create the handles and stitched around the top, adding extra stitching around the handles for strength. I also found a scrap of linen tape and a wooden button to create a closure and that was it – shopping bag, beach bag, project bag…lots of uses but minimal cost.

When I came up with this challenge I was quite keen to try and do something with the waste that I produce during my creative process. Taking painting as an example, the paints and papers I use can be quite expensive and unfortunately not every project can be a masterpiece or even competent. When things don’t go to plan this paper gets dumped in my scrap basket and often gets used when I’m testing colours or brush strokes so I can end up with a basket full of interesting paper…what to do with this?

After rummaging through the basket I pulled out a sheet of tests I’d done using acrylic ink into water pools. I’m quite into monotone and limited palettes at the moment so I was thinking of cutting around the blots and making some stylised flowers. Then I remembered that during my recent studio clear out I’d found some paper cutters hidden away that would make the job quicker…they were just about strong enough for the heavy watercolour paper.

I cut out a circle of clean scrap paper, trimmed it to look like a vase and used a fine liner pen to give the impression of a crackle glaze before gluing it onto black paper. I added a collage of the flowers and used a while paint pen to mark in the stems and the result is a very quick and easy piece all made from scraps and finished off with a mount it looks lovely.

I did some more of this collaging with coloured paper to create some cute greetings cards. This would be a great project to do with kids and a lovely way to personalise gifts…you don’t need cutters and can use any design you fancy.

Then we come to my last project which I have to say was very experimental. While I was cleaning up after a painting session I noticed how pretty and colourful some of the paper towels I had used for wipe ups were but was there really anything I could do with such thin, screwed up paper…decoupage maybe?

I had a cute little round card soap box that I’d been given for Christmas and it still smelt lovely so I decided to see if I could transform it.

The paper towel was two ply so I separated the sheets and tore it into irregular pieces. I painted the box with PVA glue and started applying the paper with brush, overlapping each piece and brushing more PVA over it as I went. It worked a treat…as the paper is so light and soft, as it become wet it was easy to mould it into the rim of the box and around the curves with a brush. I wasn’t too concerned about it being a bit uneven as I like a bit of texture. After making sure it was fully covered with paper I went over it with a final layer of glue and left it to dry. When I came back to it the colours were still vibrant and the PVA had turned it into a pretty strong little box – perfect as a trinket or gift box. I will definitely be hanging on to pretty painted paper towels and any interesting boxes that come my way in future.

So those are my small efforts to help conserve the worlds resources by way of this challenge and I am feeling inspired to be more aware in future. I’m now very excited to see what everyone else has come out with and I hope you’ll join me on out blog hop using the links below.

Thanks for visiting.




Evie & Beth









AE Team










17 thoughts on “Art Elements April Theme Challenge Reveal – Repurposing

  1. love that idea with the little box, I have plenty of little boxes and I too think the bits of paper towel I throw away could be reused, I will start saving mine!

  2. I love each and every one of your little creations! The hare and Moon are my faves. Your tote looks like it’s well made too. You’ve been a very busy little bee this month 🙂

  3. I could easily wrote an entire blog post about everything I love in your post. The little rabbit diorama is utterly charming and the simplicity of the bee in the compact is perfect. That bag is completely awesome and the flower collages are wonderful. Using the paper towels to cover the box is sheer genius.

  4. Absolutely love my bee… it’s my definite favourite, but I love all of your ideas for the challenge, especially the cards. They’re a great idea to use up your samples and look fantastic!

    Thanks for a brilliant theme this month, it’s been great fun to take part 🙂

  5. I love every single one of your projects, the result is always full of surprises! Thank you for choosing this theme and sharing your inspiration.

  6. I love what you did with the old compacts! The little hare diorama is adorable. I love your tote also but I think my favorite is the repurposed paint samples into the beautiful floral collage. That crackle vase is just fabulous too. I am a big fan of reusing paint & dye saturated paper towels. The box is beautiful and functional!

  7. Lesley, thank you for hosting a theme that inspired us to think about wastage and repurposing. Your bee embroidery is really cute, and the hare in the moon is just brilliant and so creative! I like the tote bag – functional creativity is always a big hit in our household! 🙂 Your repurposing of your test papers is inspiring – I have quite a few of those from gel print experiments too, and a collage is a wonderful idea. The little trinket box is a cute one, and the texture on it looks great!

  8. Thanks for hosting a really fun theme. Maybe it should be the monthly theme for a year, instead picking out a specific material to repurpose. It could get really crazy… I love the simplicity of the bee embroidery in the compact, the hare diorama is just too cute for words. I love how you repurposed the fabric into a tote and clearly gusset is the word I was searching for on my blog post instead of perpendicular triangle or whatever it was I ended up saying. That striped fabric is gorgeous. Covering the box in the paper towel is genius! I can’t believe how good it looks like that.

  9. The compacts came out lovely! I think your stitching and diorama combinations are great. The tote? Beyond amazing. Completely professional. Your collaged cards feel very related to your watercolor cards. So even though you were experimenting – your style is evident. The paper mache box is a gem, those jewel tones! Now I am starting to see paper mache boxes collages like that COMBINED with your stitched dioramas….

  10. Lesley, First up, thank you for an awesome theme for this month. I had fun with it despite only getting one project complete.
    As for your projects – I am in awe. Those compact transformations are beautiful. That little hare is adorable! I LOVE that beach tote. What a wonderful way to reuse old chair fabric. And your black and white flower upcycle is so stunning! Who knew that could be done with scraps? YOU! It was you that knew that!

  11. Thanks once again for sharing your creativity; I too have scads of watercolor paper test scraps and have been saving my paper towels for awhile too… now, to add those projects to my ever-present list of UFO’s!

  12. Lesley thank you so much for this wonderful challenge, I have really enjoyed it and it has made me think alot! I love your beach bag it turned out great and your art work is amazing, I really enjoyed reading your post and all your designs turned out fab, I especially enjoyed the flower cards I shall have to see if my children will give that a go!

  13. The powder compacts are little works of art! Love the tote, too! The cards are so fancy and so is the little box!

  14. Thanks for the inspiring challenge, Lesley! You were a busy bee! I’m loving your little works of art in compacts… so unique. All of your projects are so very interesting and so well done. I’m impressed by your tote bag and just love the black and white vase of flowers.

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