Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What are you going to do with that?

I am happiest when I have a project.  Even better when it requires me to cut, glue, sew, rip, screw, paint, or nail.  I don't usually need directions; I probably won't follow them anyway.  I seem to get better results when I just let the process work itself out.

Just this past weekend I picked up a Samsonite briefcase at "The Digs" for just $4.99.  It really was in great condition once I gave it a good scrubbing.  I set it down by our old church pew, and I just looked at it.  My imagination began to play with ideas.  Paint "Boxers" on one side and "Briefs" on the other?  (I'll let you ponder that for a minute of two.)  Paint one side with chalkboard paint? Cover one side with fabric? Upon checking my craft supply cupboard I quickly realized I could do none of my proposed projects for lack of paint and fabric. Ooooo, now what's that I spy?  A bottle of Mod Podge?  I grabbed it, a paintbrush, and the pages from an old book I'd used on a book purse project.  In no time at all I was ripping, dripping, pasting, gluing.  Knee-deep in scraps of paper with skins of glue all over my fingers.  And I was happy.  I just gave in to the process of creating and the end result?...a very funky decoupaged laptop case.

When I picked up this old multiple pants hanger a few weeks ago, I really had no idea how, or for what, I'd use it.  It just "spoke to me," so I took it home.  Then I took it to the library.  There it sat.  During a testing week I needed to let my students know that I'd have to close the library.  Just as I was about to tape a Sharpie-written paper note to the door, I looked at my desk and there sat the pants hanger.  It had clamps.  It could be hung...from a door!  I quickly typed up the information I wanted to post, and voila! a door sign was born.  Now how cute is that!

I've collected license plates for awhile now.  I never really had any plan for how I'd use them. The stack just kept getting taller, and I really couldn't see them all so... "When in doubt, nail 'em on a fence," I always say.  And so I did.  A friend back home saw them in a picture and called it Texas garland.  I liked that.  So, here's some Texas garland nailed to a fence, the perfect backdrop for pictures of junk finds.

I work in a large public school library, and there's not much of a budget for decorating.  As it is with teachers everywhere, I pay for non-essentials myself.  I must be frugal. But, because I'm a junker decorating doesn't have to look cheap or ugly.  It can be interesting and visually appealing with awesome junk finds.  Everything I used to decorate the library was purchased at junk and thrift stores except for the fabric.  I'm a quilter; I'll pay for good fabric.


So what all did I use?  Vintage records (LPs, 45s, and the covers), license plates, game boards, golf clubs, tennis rackets, riding helmets, movie reels, croquet mallets, trophies, outdated encyclopedias, a pool cue and rack, a guitar, one megaphone, one metal roller skate, and a marching hat. The signs designating the library sections are just stenciled, untreated wooden fence planks.  I know that sounds like a lot of JUNK! and it is, but it doesn't look messy.  Really. Students and parents have given lots of positive comments.

I've had some gracious and generous parents and co-workers who have donated items to the collection.  This old trunk, clock, and set of suitcases were donated by a teacher.  They belonged to her grandfather.  She didn't have a place for them at home, but just couldn't part with them.  Donating them to the library was a perfect solution. When she brought them in, she set them here in the entryway.  All I did was push them over to the wall.  I added the globe which we had in the library; the telescope stand was a junk find, and the quilt was one I'd made but didn't have a place to display at home.  Individually the pieces might be viewed as insignificant, odd, unusable.  But together they work beautifully; here they belong.

Because of the sincere interest in some of the junk pieces displayed permanently, I've used items from my personal collection to create temporary displays that I hope will ignite curiosity.  It seems to work.  Students stand in front of the display case and guess what each piece is and how it was once used.  When I put the old typewriter out, the students just can't keep their hands off.  They'll type their names or little messages, "Marcus is the coolest," and inevitably they'll ask, "Hey, how do I delete?"  I had a student once tell me on his way out the door, "Mrs. Rodriguez, I left you a text message." I'd never given him my cell phone number; he'd left a message on the typewriter.


I let junk inspire me. I hope you will let it inspire you, too.  A great junk find could become the perfect decorating accessory in your family room, a muse for a creative project, or it might just ignite curiosity and wonder about the past in a thirteen-year-old kid.

All photos taken by Paulette Rodriguez

1 comment:

  1. Susie KralovanskyJune 3, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    I love the modpodged briefcase. I had planned on doing the same thing with my magazine storage boxes, but couldn't see it working. Thanks to you, I'm dragging the whole mess back out!


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