Ideas for back-to-school art and craft

Do you have a box of junk you use for art materials or creative projects? Congratulations if the answer is yes. Here are some thoughts about how to make use of broken china – and end up getting it displayed in the Tate.  For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

Broken crockery transformed - though not by me. This was an exhibit at the British Folk art exhibition at Tate Britain.

Broken crockery transformed – though not by me. This was an exhibit at the British Folk art exhibition at Tate Britain (summer 2014). The doll in the centre gives it a strange 3D feel. Can you recognise any of the china?

In the 1880s dialect researcher, Oliver Heslop, noted that Durham children had a word for the broken bits of pot and earthenware they used to decorate their play homes and toys – “boudy”. I have a pile of broken china bowls and plates under my hedge, just in case I think of a use for it, ideas include making a mural.

Chaos before the washing up is done sometimes leads to breakages. Sorry I mean, art materials.

Chaos before the washing up is done sometimes leads to breakages. Sorry I mean, art materials.

The growing pile of breakages – blame the fact that we wash up by hand – is so colourful and has so much potential… even if I haven’t got around to using it yet.

Junk art
In the just-about-to close exhibition at Tate Britain of British Folk Art, lots of scraps – material, straw, old bones – are used to create significant objects. Some have practical use, like the quilts, others are just time-killers, such as the cockerel made from bones salvaged from the kitchen by a Napoleonic Prisoner of War. There’s a review of the show, here.

But what I liked best was a 19th century tray covered in bits of broken china with a china doll’s head in the centre. It is completely impractical but such a lovely piece of creativity. Making those bits of china fit must have been taxing. I’m not sure if it was done by a child, but I can imagine it would have been fun to do.

And I name this... trudy.

And I name this… trudy (inspired by an art show).

And for a modern child it’s a fascinating history lesson in slow-changing sideplate fashion. Nell, 13, was able to recognise the black and white Napoleon china she’d last seen in a market in Belgium as well as the ever-popular blue-and-white Willow pattern. Amused by the way broken bits had their own name back in the 1800s, she decided to call our own pile ‘Trudy’.

My husband still calls it rubbish though.

Creativity with items on their way out

Utter junk becomes an arty dalek cage.

Utter junk becomes an arty dalek cage.

My house is filled with worn out things that I’ve repaired to make them useable again (eg, cushion covers, curtains, rugs and sofa throws). How much more exciting for a child/teen to find broken treasures and use them to make something unique and new. I helped my kids do a lot of junk art when they were very little – it’s fun helping a toddler make a robot using a cereal box and the paper cores from a toilet roll. It’s even more fun making something a bit more edgy.

Assuming you have some bits and bobs around your home maybe you’ll be inspired to do a last bit of art before the schools go back, using items that are either destined for the bin, recycling or the charity shop. You never know what masterpiece you or the kids may create.

Over to you
Do share some ideas or pix of cool things you’ve done with junk items. Thank you.

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