Love, Crafts, and the Fine Art of Dumpster Diving

Two days ago, I noticed a big red Dumpster behind our apartment complex. It looked to be empty.

That’s interesting, I thought.

Yesterday evening, my husband and I were walking Jax when I noticed the Dumpster had been filled to the brim. Looks to me like the apartment management evicted someone, sending their furniture packing as well. A red sofa extended above pieces of wood, paper, and articles you’d have to examine closely to identify.

That made me sad. Once upon a time, a bank threatened to evict my mother, my sisters, and me. I don’t think that any of us will ever forget that bleak period in our lives.

Then it made me wonder. Was there any good that could come out of this ugly situation? While I was pondering this, thinking deep thoughts, David and Jax kept walking. “Honey?” called my husband. “Come on. Leave it alone.”

He knows me too well.

Because by then, I’d decided to investigate. I climbed up on the ledge surrounding the big red trash container. I’m short so I couldn’t look deep inside, but I did see a piece of board sticking out. A big piece of wood.

Big enough to serve as a base for my dollhouse and the potting shed.

Big enough and sturdy enough that I wouldn’t have to go to Home Depot and buy a piece of plywood and pay for them to cut it to size.

Big and free.

Even freer after I tugged it out.

David, I must confess, was mortified. He started walking in the other direction with body language that clearly stated, “I don’t know that woman!”

I tugged and tugged. I had to reach in and move a couple of other boards around. Luckily for me, I’ve kept up with my tetanus shots, because that big piece of wood had nails sticking out. But once I began to extricate it (classy word for trash-picking, eh?), I was determined that it would be MINE.

David didn’t offer to help. Instead, he said, “Oh, honey…” in that tone of voice that means, “I love you, but right now, I would cheerfully pretend we aren’t married.”

So I dragged it home. I do mean drag, because it’s heavy. I put it in the spare bedroom. I waited until today when David’s at work. I hauled it out. Knocked down the nails. Pried off a half dozen small squares of excess wood that served as braces. Put it up on our kitchen island. And started making plans. BIG plans for my dollhouse.

The way I see it, I saved something from the landfill, I saved money, and I’m moving ahead with my crafts. Next time I walk past that Dumpster, I might just vault over the side and poke around a little more.

Have you ever been Dumpster Diving?

How to Make a Hummingbird Feeder — Miniature Tutorial (1:12 scale)

I love using things that would normally hit the trash can. This project reminds me to look at familiar objects with fresh insight. For years I’ve tossed away the lids to the McDonald’s beverages. I was amazed when I looked carefully and noticed the raised icons. I can’t wait to see what I can do next with the other emblems!

SUPPLIES:

Red nail polish or acrylic paint
Yellow nail polish or acrylic paint
Red paper
Length of green floral wire (six inches)
Scissors
A needle or something to poke a small hole with
Circle punch (preferably the same diameter as the straw
Tacky Quick Drying glue
Clear drinking straw
The plastic lid from McDonald’s cold beverage
Either–cardstock or air-dry clay

METHOD:

1. Locate the icon on the beverage that looks like a flower. Press air-dry class (such as DAS) into the icon and let dry. (Alternative: Cut out the flower. Glue it to cardstock. Cut out around it again.)

In the eleven o’clock position on the lid, you can see the flower icon.

 

2. When the icon is dry, paint it bright red. Add yellow dots to the flowers. (Tip: Use the end of a toothpick to make the dots perfect.)

3. Cut a length of the straw, about 1 inch long or so.

4. Cut a thin strip of red paper, about 3/8″ wide and an inch long. Glue it around the top of your length of plastic straw. Let dry.

5. Put out a circle from the red paper with your circle punch. (Alternative: Trace the end of a straw on red paper. Cut out the traced circle.)

6. Put a tiny hole in the middle of the red circle. Enlarge it until the green floral wire will fit inside. Bend the floral wire into an upside down letter “L”. Poke the shortest end into the hole in the red circle. Glue it to the red circle. You now have the cap of the lid and the wire stand.

7. Attach the red circle (cap of the lid and wire stand) to the top of the straw so that it meets the red strip of paper. Glue together. Coat with red nail polish.

8. Glue the flower to the bottom.

How to Make Miniature Mosiacs–Or How to Have Your Egg and Eat It, Too

There are tons of ways to make miniature tiles, usually involving Fimo or paper coated with a thick glossy agent, but I think I’ve stumbled on a method that’s easier and more fun…as long as you’re okay with tiles in random shapes. Best of all, it’s a way to recycle and upcycle common items.

Behold! (Ha, ha.) A protein snack that recycles into a table with mosaic inlays or a birdbath.

SUPPLIES for the MOSAICS:
A hard-boiled egg. (an old one is best, if it float when it’s raw, that’s wonderful because that means the inner shell membrane has pulled away from the shell)

In the upper right, you can see some of the various eggshell pieces that I colored. Don’t despair if you miss a piece or two! A white “tile” here and there will look cool. In the lower left is a finished mosaic table top. By putting big pieces of shell on the glue and then breaking the big pieces and moving them around, you save yourself a lot of aggravation trying to glue down smaller pieces.

Waxed paper.
Acrylic paints(and brush) or markers.

METHOD:
1. Roll your hard-boiled egg on a surface and gently peel away the shell. Set on the waxed paper.
2. Let the shell dry. Check that the membrane is dry.
3. Color the shell with the marker or paints. A variety of shades will work best.
4. Let dry.

Supplies for the birdbath. You can also see the weird little plastic stand that’s supposed to be some sort of a kid’s party favor. (Beats me!) Oh, and you can save the lid. Use the foil side as a mirror somewhere else.)

Blogger won’t let me edit the caption above, but you’ll use the same base as shown there for the mosaic table.

SUPPLIES FOR THE MOSAIC TABLE:
1. Small plastic base. (I used some sort of weird kid’s party favor that came in a bag of six or so from the Dollar Store. I have NO idea what a kid is supposed to do with one of these! If you can’t find these, you could stack beads or use a wooden turning or a spool from thread or even make something out of Fimo.)
2. Emery board.
3. Round disk. (You can use chipboard, foam, or wood.)
4. Tacky glue.
5. Acrylic paint. (White)
6. Glue spreader. (I like coffee stirrers from Starbucks.)
7. Gold nail polish.
8. Clear nail polish.
9. X-acto Knife
10. Gold trim if desired.

METHOD:

1. Chip off that weird half circle loop on the side of your plastic stand. (Save it. It makes a great handle when painted. I used cuticle clippers to cut mine off.)
2. Sand the stand smooth.
3. Paint the one flat surface of the round disk white.
4. Paint the stand, the other flat surface of your disk and the edge of the disk with gold nail polish. (You will probably need to put on two coats, especially on the plastic. Thin coats work best.) You can add gold trim to the outside edge/rim, if desired. (For example, a thin gold braid or cord.)
5. When all parts are dry, smear thin layer of tacky glue on a quarter of the white side of the disk.
6. With tweezers, pick up some of the eggshells. Push them color side up into the glue.
7. With your X-acto knife, press down. This will break apart the shells. Move the pieces far enough apart that you can add pieces of a different color.
8. Repeat with a different color until surface is covered.
9. Let dry.
10. Paint with a thin layer of clear nail polish. Be careful! If you use too much, the colors might run. You are aiming to put down a coating so this won’t happen.
11. Add a thicker layer.
12. Glue the mosaic top to the plastic stand.
13. Admire.

VARIATION FOR BIRDBATH:

ADDITIONAL SUPPLY: Metal jelly or honey tub. (Mine came from a lunch at Cracker Barrel.)

1. Prepare the mosaic tiles as per above.
2. Paint the tub and the stand as per above.
3. Add eggshells as per above, but with this difference–when you get to a curve or an edge, you can put glue on the flat side and glue on the edge, then add a piece of eggshell that OVERLAPS the flat side and smoosh into the edge or curve.
4. Assemble.
5. Admire greatly.

VARIATION FOR SCRAPBOOKERS OR CARDMAKERS:

1. Prepare the mosiacs (colored eggshells) as above.
2. Glue them to chipboard letters or glue them around a mat on a photo.
3. Or glue them to a long strip of paper and use as a decorative border.

This is my FIRST miniatures tutorial. I know it’s a little skimpy on the photos, but otherwise, how did I do?