Early tomorrow morning, I’ll load my trusty etching press into the truck and head out on the first of 19 school visits to do printmaking with students at inner city schools. Over the next few weeks, we’ll save lots of scrap materials from an unhappy fate in the local landfill, and use it to create collographs instead. Bits of fabric, paper, textured vinyl, leftover ribbon… feathers, felt, pieces of worn-out straw hats… anything that can be glued to a cardboard square, rolled with printer’s ink and cranked through the press becomes eligible for a quick reclassification from “unwanted garbage” to “art supplies.”
I need your trash. To be more specific, I need some of your trash, for a very good cause, if you live within a reasonable proximity to Mobile, Alabama.
Bright and early on Jan. 6, Iwill load up my trusty etching press for the first of 19 school visits. As part of a wonderful outreach program sponsored by the Mobile Centre for the Living Arts, I’ll work with 900 third-through-fifth-grade students as they create collograph plates, ink them and pull their own original prints on the press. Young artists learn about printmaking history, explore textures and form… and have lots of inky fun.
The wacky cousin of the block printing family, a collograph can be made by inking and printing practically anything that can be safely glued to a plate and cranked through the press. These things can be cut, torn, and arranged in interesting ways to create unique designs. For our purposes, that means we will need a large pile — a small mountain, really — of the following things:
- textured ribbon scraps, from gift wrap or sewing
- bits of burlap, felt, corduroy or upholstery fabric
- pieces of woven straw hats, straw purses or woven placemats
- textured mat board
- paper doilies or other paper cut-outs
- coins or Mardi Gras doubloons
So, if you live anywhere in the Mobile-to-Pensacola area, and you have household trash that aspires to avoid languishing in the landfill by becoming art materials instead… please email me. Thanks!
I’m not an expert on irrigation, but the cool new rainwater collection system at our local Master Gardeners demonstration plot seems like a no-brainer to me. Worldwide consumption of water is rising fast — twice the rate of the population — but fresh water makes up less than 3 percent of all the planet’s water resources. When a scarce resource falls right out of the sky, it makes sense to harvest it. That’s exactly what the folks at the county demonstration garden are doing.
Rainwater can be collected from any relatively clean surface (rooftops and pool covers, for example) and then used for irrigation, flushing the toilet, washing the car, rinsing garden tools — just don’t drink it.
The system at the demonstration garden uses rain gutters on a small outbuilding to capture water:
The thick, vertical pipe visible at the corner of the red building is the first flush diverter. It’s a simple device that catches the first flush of water during each rain — the rain that rinses off any dirt, bird droppings, acorns or leaves that might have landed on the roof recently. Once the diverter is full, the remaining water passes over it and runs into the storage tank. See the plug at the bottom of the pipe? That’s where the first flush water can be drained, between rains.
Storage tanks can be made from all kinds of clean containers. .. however, the Cooperative Extension folks warn that you need to be very careful about what has been previously stored in them. New or never-previously-used fuel tanks, fiberglass containers or septic tanks are what they recommend for larger capacity. There are also polyethylene tanks manufactured for use in the sugar industry, which are cheap to buy and easy to rinse for repurposing as water storage.
Light colored tanks should be painted dark green or black to prevent light penetration. If you bury your storage tank, color doesn’t matter.
(We’re down here in a subtropical climate zone, so temperature extremes are never a problem. But in colder climates, exposed storage tanks would need to be durable enough to tolerate water freezing and thawing during the winter. The recommendation is high-density polyethylene, and a domed top or overflow pipe to allow expansion.)
The demonstration garden slopes gently away from the water containment tank, so gravity alone was enough to provide pressure for drip irrigation. But it’s a big garden, so last week a small electric pump was installed at the base of the storage tank. Now the Master Gardener volunteers can sprinkle, mist and hose to their hearts’ content. If you don’t have electricity in the vicinity of your water storage, a gasoline pump will work.
I’m intrigued. I think a set of rain barrels and some spiffy new catchment gutters on the art studio might be a good fall project. After patiently answering my many questions, the County Extension agent gave me some sources of additional, more detailed information. I’ve listed them below. Happy harvesting!
Hector & Persephone never expected to find true love in the catnip patch.
I love painting on the backs of old postcards. It’s fun working in a cozy 4×6-inch window, with old stamps and handwritten messages peeking through the color.
This week, I’ll be working on art for my Holiday Open Studio.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, the first of the fall garden broccoli matured. Nothing tastes better than tender, steamed broccoli carried straight from the garden to the stove. The Perfect Man drizzled a bit of lemon butter over the top — ahhhh. Heaven! Next week, the first round of cabbage will be ready. And the kale, sweetened by last week’s freeze, is growing faster than ever. Alas, a couple of 80-degree days last week caused the lettuces to bolt. (If at first you don’t succeed… plant, plant again.) And our cauliflower seems to be sulking, all leaves and no tasty center, while its neighboring veggies are happily producing abundant winter fare. Every gardening season has its little mysteries.