Studio Bootprint

Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to reduce my carbon footprint. I’d like to adopt recycling habits in the studio that have become second nature in the kitchen.

It all started in a recent class with book artist Suzanne Moore. She lives on an island in Washington state and is concerned about what is being dumped in the ocean. During the class, she peppered her teaching with environmental tips, encouraging us to:

  1. use every drop of media in our palettes before washing them
  2. use dirty rinse water for lettering—great for tonal value
  3. use good paper as a background sheet (surprising marks might emerge that could be useful in the final product)
  4. leave tools dirty until we’re completely finished using them
  5. keep a wet rag handy for fingertip clean-up to conserve paper towels—and accidentally “fingerprinting” our masterpiece
  6. use small pieces of toilet paper instead of paper towel to dab, push paint around, etc.
  7. clean threaded paint tubes before capping for a snug fit
  8. be fastidious about recapping fluid media to keep it from spilling or drying out

Inspired by these tips, I’m looking for additional ways to minimize art waste released into the environment.

Back home, while clearing basement clutter, I uncovered some treasures, like the cotton dyed at an indigo workshop at the Colour Vie studio several years ago. I stashed it away, intending to sew table linens on a rainy day.

Indigo-dyed tableware: placemats and runner

It’s been years since I’ve sewn anything; the simple placemats and table runner were not likely to win any accolades. However, I could count on them as a conversation starter at the next dinner party.

While tidying up afterwards, I stood over the trash bin holding the leftover pieces in my hand. I didn’t have the heart to toss the dyed scraps. Granted, they were small. However, I did spend two workshop days dipping, swishing, wringing and repeating to achieve the perfect shade of indigo. How could I let them go?

Google always has an answer! A search turned up patterns for quilted mug rugs. I had never heard of a mug rug, but surely my mug needed a rug. Especially a quilted one. In indigo.

As a paper artist, I always enjoy experimenting with pattern and colour. I discovered there’s an up side to working with fabric—no stained hands and no wet tools to scrub afterwards. I could see the advantages of quilting over wet media. This could be a new creative addiction…

My thanks to quilter Jeni Baker for sharing her free Scrappy Stack Mug Rug tutorial. Although her instructions were straightforward, it still took several tries for this novice quilter to square up the pieces. I sewed two mug rugs using every scrap of lovingly dyed cotton—without adding to my stash of clutter nor sending something beautiful to the scrap heap.

Indigo-inspired mug rug

I’m congratulating my environmentally-conscious self while enjoying a cuppa, coastered by an indigo-inspired mug rug.

I believe my environmental bootprint got a little smaller this past month.

Have you found creative ways to reduce your footprint in the studio?

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3 thoughts on “Studio Bootprint

  1. I’ve thought a lot about quilting in an environmentally friendly way, and have written about it. What we do has an impact, no doubt about it. Commercially dyed and printed fabrics, the cotton production process, transportation of supplies, creation of quilt batting regardless of type… The best we can do, from an environmental standpoint, probably is to reuse. Reuse clothing for fabric source, reuse old blankets as batting, etc. Frankly, I’m probably not going to do that at this point in my work. However, I am careful how I buy, so I don’t buy notions and gadgets or even much fabric I won’t use; most of the books I buy are used; I dispose of unwanted books and fabric thoughtfully; and I try to put more good into the world than I take. It’s not much.

    • I believe every effort counts, Melanie. Repeated small actions multiplied by many can lead to major impact. Your comments about reusing materials reminded me of my mother’s efforts to recycle wool from knitted sweaters. As my sister and I grew out of our childhood sweaters, she would unravel them and add new wool to make larger sweaters. A labour of love and creativity born out of frugality no doubt, but with environmental benefits! Having recently purged our basement, I am much more conscious about what I buy too. Like those who “eat out out of their freezers”, I am attempting to “create out of my studio”. It’s a challenge that calls for another layer of creativity. As for books, I am borrowing more from the library. Besides we’ve run out of bookshelves…Thanks for adding food for thought.

  2. Pingback: Indigo | Design Quest

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