Thursday, March 21, 2013

You Guest It: Sun Porch Studio

On the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month, through a new feature I'm calling "You Guest It", I'm happily sharing this Michele Made Me space with a fellow creative. So if you don't mind, Mary Jo from the lovely and warm Sun Porch Studio will be handling things for today. Oh, here she is now... Welcome Mary Jo!


I have a difficult time wasting things. I consider something being wasted when I carelessly toss it away without taking into consideration what it may have become. Could there be another use for these corks that I pop out of my bottles of cabernet sauvignon? Do you ever save an abundance of something with the hopes of manifesting some creative potential? I have a strong desire to find a new life for the things that get tossed so frequently. Such as paper. How much paper to you drop into the receptacle each day? Oh my!

This is the story of how something as simple as tossed paper can be transformed into something beautiful and celebrated.

I am an artist and an art teacher and began brainstorming the ways I could reuse scrap paper in the art studio. I decided to experiment with seed cakes. If I layed seeds in a cake of wet paper pulp would it dry and hold the seeds inside itself? Could I plant these cakes and grow an actual flower from the seed and have the pulp decompose into the earth? I thought it would be a sweet mothers day gift so I jumped on it with a group of students. I challenged my first graders to save all their scrap paper in a labeled bin in the classroom. After a few months, we used this paper collection to make paper pulp in a blender. We rolled tiny golf ball sizes of pulp in our hands and pressed them down onto blankets of felt making a flat cake. We then pressed seeds into the cake and let them dry on the felt overnight. The next morning I removed them from the felt and decided to stack them on the window sill. An inherent seeker of beauty, I began stacking them in size order and, gasp, discovered how each small stack of concentric circles was a glorious layered flower! I shared this discovery with my students and we decided to make more pulp, this time adding liquid watercolor to the water and omitting the seeds. We made cakes of various sizes, let them dry, assembled them from large to small, added a pin on the back with tacky glue and, wallah, we had our Mother’s Day flower broaches!

I made these again on my own as a bridal shower favor for my best gal. I find that blue and purple dyes come out best.

There are so many creative ways you can use recycled paper pulp, such as handmade papers, beads, sculpture, tree decorations. I have broken down the process for the recycled flower pins below. Please engage your eyes.

Tutorial: Recycled Beauty Paper Flower Pins

You will need:

  • A blender that you don’t use for margaritas (or smoothies, not all of us crave tequila)
  • Lots and lots of recycled paper (white absorbs color better but any type will do)
  • Liquid watercolor or liquid dye, blue, red, and purple work very well (view some at School Specialty or Dick Blick)
  • Broach pins from your local craft supplier
  • Large sheets of felt (color does not matter)
  • Tacky glue or hot glue
  • Water, aqua, H2O
  • Optional: iridescent confetti or flakey glitter
Begin by setting up a workspace that is covered in newspaper or an old tablecloth that will absorb a lot of colored liquid dye. Cut or tear your saved paper into tiny bits no larger than your thumbnail as it tends to clump around the blade of the blender if too large.

Pour a cup of water in a blender with a few drops of liquid watercolor or until you arrive at a desired shade of color. Add your loosely packed pulp to the water using a 1:1 ratio of paper bits to water and don’t forget to place the lid on top!

Blend at low or medium speed until your bits have transformed into a mushy pulp and pour out onto a tray or container that you don’t use for culinary purposes.

Pick up a golf ball size or smaller and squeeze a bit of the water out over the tray. Your hands will be stained by the dye for a day so if you have a black-tie affair that evening I would suggest you wear gloves. But it does feel soooo good to use your hands and feel the cool mush!

Place your mush ball on the felt and, using your flat palm, press down and flatten the ball. The felt will absorb the water and the cake may stick to your palm. If this happens, carefully peel the cake away from your palm and place down onto the felt. The more times you press on a single cake, the more dye will be removed creating a lighter shade.

Let it dry as is or press in some confetti or flakey glitter. I've used crinkled gold flakes before with the blue and purples and found it looks stunning! However, a solid colored flower pin without any glitter is simply divine.

Let your cakes dry overnight. Feel free to feel them after a few hours and, if they feel semi-moist but solid, you can move them to a new dry section of felt to speed up the drying process.

Once your cakes are dry you can experiment with different layers and configurations and begin connecting them from the bottom layer up with your tacky glue.

Layering your flower is a personal process. Some of us like 3 layers, others may want 5. Add a pin to the back and wear one (or two) with pride. FYI flowers can be attached to hair clips, headbands, and even handbags.


Well, I'll be... Aren't these whorled flower pins a delight? So interesting what can be made with a bit of layered, mashed-up paper. Might have to give these a whirl, eh? Thank you Mary Jo for the gorgeous and inspired tutorial!

On her blog Sun Porch Studio, Mary Jo "tells the story of the creative encounters she has with the world around her." A committed teacher and artist who writes lovingly about how to engage the artist in each child, she also shares joyful snippets of her own personal art journey. A few delights I've found on the Sun Porch include:

It's so nice to sit back and be the reader and admirer for a change. Mary Jo, thank you for so skillfully taking care of things on the old blog today. It's been an honest-to-goodness pleasure!


P.S. Have an idea for a lovely eco-type craft? Seeking to widen your audience? Consider submitting a guest-post idea to Michele Made Me's "You Guest It"! Find out how right HERE.


  1. Hello Michele,
    That is a great idea. They look wodnerful. Lovely party favors.
    Big hug,

  2. Fabulous idea!! Something we could all use with our scraps!
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Mary Jo is my kind of hoarder! Those are beautiful, and I'm very intrigued by the seed paper part of the story. What a spectacular gift for a little kid to give mom. Great first guest post, Michele - and thanks, Mary Jo, loved it!

  4. A great idea about using seeds but as a mum, Id be thrilled to reecive either seed or the flower pin! BUT............what about that richly died felt? what have you done with that pray tell? lol

    1. Just rinse in the sink, squeeze and air dry=ready for reuse.

  5. That is great! I was thinking you could even make the pins from seed flowers. Then plant the pin after you are done wearing it! Excellent idea!

  6. Oh, how wonderful! I loved learning how to make this paper pulp. It's so pretty and looks like fun to do! Thank you, Mary Jo & Michele! The story behind your discovery was so fun to read.


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