Last week, instead of teaching something specific, I let my upcycling students “shop” from what I’ve collected in the Creative Reuse Center and come up with their own projects.
The creativity and chaos that followed drew some attention from students passing by our room on their way to other classes. A few lingered in the doorway, so they could get a better look. One dubbed it “the treasure room” and convinced me to let her come inside and choose something she could take home, which somehow turned into six somethings, and would have been more, but her hands were full (and I fibbed and told her I didn’t have any bags).
I did my best to discourage the onlookers, so they wouldn’t be late for their classes, but it’s next to impossible for me to say “no” (and they could tell that), because I recognize the joy they find in the kinds of random and unusual objects I collect.
When I was their age, I had drawers and boxes, and even little vignettes, composed of the pretties I’d saved over the years. Broken costume jewelry, a fancy tin that originally held mixed nuts, postcards and pretty note paper. Even today, I have a box on my desk at home where I keep odds and ends I want to use someday, but don’t want to put away, in case I forget I have them. Some have been there for years, occasionally covered in unpaid bills and report cards, forcing me to sort that quasi-inbox at least quarterly. Once the papers are put away, those objects remain, bringing me joy every time I re-discover them.
Remember the wish list of creative reuse staples I shared in school newsletters? I’m happy to report it’s getting some attention. Today someone donated an entire box of keys. Skeleton keys, vintage car keys, music box keys. So. Many. Glorious. Keys! Can you imagine the stories behind each of these?
Oh! Wouldn’t that be a fun exercise? A cross-content project, part language arts and part art project. Give everyone a different key and ask them to imagine and write its backstory? Then they could design a mini-shadow box to hold the key, based on the story they told.
You, know, those keys weren’t discarded in a day. Nor are they the ones you find in a kitchen junk drawer. Someone (or several someones) saved those over time, taking joy in them and seeing the potential each one held. And what I tell donors – especially ones handing over objects that obviously had sentimental value for someone – is these objects will now bring joy to someone else and live on as art or an upcycled creation of some kind. Even if their next destination is a drawer in a child’s bedroom (or the inbox on an art teacher’s desk), they will be someone’s treasure and inspiration.