Woman recycling

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

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Be Innovative
Recycle and reuse materials in artful ways. When my sisters and I were little girls, our mother always covered our schoolbooks with the brown paper bags that groceries were packed in. She carefully cut and turned the bags inside out and then expertly folded the paper around our books. I loved these book covers because they were perfect to draw on. Each was a blank canvas, where markers, pen and even paint glided on the surface with ease. The paper was thick and sturdy, and my books remained covered for most of the year in these personally decorated jackets. Mom also lined the shelves of our pantry with the paper from these bags, crafted costumes out of them by cutting holes in the bottom and sides (for head and arms) and then gave us paint to cover them. She laid them on the floor of the car as mats when our feet were muddy; she cut them into pieces to make bedding for our hamster cage and tore them apart to make papier-mâché material when we needed to craft a volcano for school. In a pinch, she'd use the paper to tie up a package and wrap it up with string. It always reminded me of the lyric "Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things" from the movie The Sound of Music. To this day, I still wrap gifts in brown paper, loving the simplicity and beauty of the finished package.

When I was in college, in art school, I decided to study printmaking. This class required purchasing lots of paper to print on. It was a struggle for me to be able to afford the pieces of handmade, beautiful pulpy papers, as I was a "starving student" and they were expensive. One day at the grocery store, the clerk at the checkout asked, "Paper or plastic?" and it suddenly hit me that here was the paper I could print on! I remembered the books my mom had covered and realized this hardy paper would be perfect for my class. Sure enough, when I got back to my room and painted on the brown paper, I created a patina that I really loved and that was unique to my style. The paper gave my art a touch of age, a bit of a distressed look. Today, I paint all my illustrations on this brown craft paper.

For me, being innovative grew out of the necessity for supplies. Innovation is simply the idea of using things and seeing things in new ways. Each of us can imagine the possibilities in anything and everything.