Monday 27 September 2021

2021 Topic 12: Sustainable Crafting TOPIC INTRODUCTION

2020 Topic  12 - Sustainable Crafting

Hi everyone, Keren here with a topic that's becoming increasingly relevant and for lots of you reading it, perhaps it's already a way of life. 
But is sustainable crafting more than just using a few more recycled products in your creative time? Is it something that we can all do better ? Thinking about the crafting products that we source - are there more sustainable options? Can the items we purchase, consume and recycle actually reduce our environmental impact ?

My Poppet ( how to make twine from leftover fabric strips)

We'll take an inside peek at PaperArtsy HQ and hear about the reasoning for their original decision to use red rubber and also look at other Creative's projects re-using and up-cycling. We're hoping that this topic will not only inspire us all creatively but that we'll reflect on our own purchasing, usage and disposal decisions and try and do more to preserve the world that we're stewards of.
We would love to hear about positive crafting changes you're making for the environment - do let us know about them in the comments so we can garner ideas from each other.

To start off with, here's PaperArtsy explaining how it all began....
'We chose 20 years ago to produce stamps in rubber primarily because it is a natural, renewable resource. It is also a safer environment for our workers to be in, compared to clear production, which involves a lot of chemical reaction and emissions. The positive features of rubber chimed from the outset with the vintage genre and design style and the benefits were many. We have never regretted this decision to choose to manufacture with a natural resource: rubber.
  • Rubber is durable, produces a crisp image and can handle lots of detail (particularly important for vintage-style stamp imagery). It copes with these challenges significantly better than the chemical polymer or silicone composition that clear stamps are made from. 
  • Rubber can handle extremes of temperature, so it can be stamped into a puddle of molten embossing powders with no detrimental consequences or you can iron other products onto your stamps to melt .... remember the days of ironing velvet onto a rubber stamp or Angelina Fibres??? So rubber is durable, for life, you will not need to dispose of a rubber stamp, you will always be able to gift it to a friend or sell it on secondhand.
  • The depth of an image is sharp and deep which is wonderful for stamping into clay or texture pastes and UTEE as mentioned above. 
  • Rubber accepts and holds all varieties of ink onto the surface more readily than polymersilicone  stamps. This is most noticeable with thinner, non permanent, water-based inks. An archival dye ink has oil in it, and that thicker viscosity helps the ink grab to the image, as do pigment inks, also thicker (so that they stay open longer for you to apply embossing powder). 
  • Solvent inks like StazOn, those are fast drying inks and will not damage a red rubber stamp, but the solvent can eat into polymer stamps if you don't clean up fast. And who likes cleaning up!? 
So for PaperArtsy, and the vintage genre stamps, knee deep into messy crafting, rubber was ticking a lot of boxes offering maximum versatility and durability for the consumer. We like to say a rubber stamp is for keeps.

There are other aspects of working with rubber that appealed to us from a production point of view. For example, a rubber stamp mould is re-useable over and over, we really liked that! We also liked that there are significant rubber recycling initiatives in operation, these are mainly pitched at recycling car tyres, as that is the most common rubber waste. But it is good there are established systems in place to create different products from all waste rubber: playground turf, rubberised asphalt, and all manner of floorings. If you are interested in understanding how rubber is a natural resource see this article and also, this one on how rubber is reused.'
Here at PaperArtsy, as we make everything on site, we have found increased efficiency in that we only need to manufacture what we need for orders. Most of our orders we ship out daily go to the shops we supply. Sure, of course we hold some stock, but generally we manufacture stencils and stamps to order. Infusions and paint we always have plenty in stock, and we bottle up a new batch when the shelf is almost empty. This means we waste less time, energy and product by meeting demand without unnecessary waste. And we do not end up with any 'end of line' stock unsold, as we only press what is required. We just don't have any excess or an oversupply of stock. It is astonishing how many manufacturers will dump stock because they over-ordered, and often they do this into a different territory to their home base. It's almost like they hope people won't notice. We are not outsourcing product, so we do not have any of those air miles, or oversupply issues to contend with, we try to be smart about all aspects of our on site production to be as efficient as we possibly can be."

Leandra continues.. "At PaperArtsy we are in control of all stages of production on site. The rubber is moulded under heat and pressure, in the stamp presses, it then gets trimmed (see above), then the cling-foam liner is peeled off the back and the stamps are arranged on the index sheet which has one side laminated. That means the index/packaging sheet is also a storage sheet for the stamps. The plastic bags are biodegradable, this is a new product that only became available to us in 2021, and we are thrilled to shift to this packaging. We find that many customers like to cut off the 'hanging strip' at the top of the bag, and use the bag itself as the 'pocket' to keep the stamps in, so it can double up as a storage solution too".

As Leandra mentioned, all the PaperArtsy products are produced on site. The infusions are blended, bottled and labelled by hand...

The stencils are cut by laser and packaged on site. There is a small amount of plastic waste in this process. All PaperArtsy waste is sorted into different types of plastic plus rubber, paper, card etc. Once sorted, it is taken to the local commercial recycling centre, where it is all weighed, and they are charged for disposal by weight. Another incentive to repurpose and minimise waste. It is important to PaperArtsy to engage with those local services to ensure waste is dealt with correctly within the local and regional commercial recycling ecosystem.
This is the wonderful Willy Wonka paint bottling machine, it is a bespoke machine made just for PaperArtsy. It drops the right amount of paint into each bottle. It was designed like this to minimise product waste.  Most commercial bottling options you can loose a lot of product in the clean up between colours, and disposing of those fluids is also something that needs planning and thought to ensure it is appropriate for the environment and your specific location. Be it town or country - you can't just dump paint into any water system! At PaperArtsy they developed a machine to get every drop in the bottles with very little waste.

The paint is labelled on site too. No all those caps are not screwed on by hand there is a machine that whizzes the lids on - much easier! They just drop the lids on then zap with the lid whizmo gadget to tighten them!

Unfortunately these infusions lids are a bit too small for the automatic whizzy-lid thing, so they are lovingly applied one by one! And the labels too,  as they are also a bit tiny for the automatic label machine! But these are the lengths team PaperArtsy will go to to make something a bit different and unique.

As far as packaging is concerned, PaperArtsy will re-purpose, reuse and recycle all the packaging that comes their way as much as is possible. In addition to the eco-friendly bags mentioned above, they wrap their products in reusable tissue paper and the free postcard that comes with it can be used as a postcard or as Kate Yetter shows you below, can also become part of your next piece of art.

The latest news is that PA HQ are looking at their outer bags (which have to be tamper proof / waterproof etc.) for a better option and are in the throes of getting small cardboard boxes produced to replace these bags. It's great that you can buy PaperArtsy projects knowing that the company are making decisions about production, packaging and disposal sensitively and with the environmental impact in mind.

So to the wider topic of Sustainability. Where do we begin? There's so much we can say on the topic? Starting with the super basic; nearly every single project I've made has used glue. Have you checked the contents of your bottles recently? Most white glue is non-toxic thankfully but have you ever tried making your own with natural ingredients? Here's 5 natural glue recipes in case you'd like a go (including a lickable envelope glue).

We all know about trying to reuse items we'd normally discard. The dangers of plastic bottles in the oceans is something that the United Nations wanted to highlight so they commissioned this structure made entirely out of plastic bottles.

There are various artists who create in order to start a conversation, some make thought provoking art, and others like Ruth Waldren do all 3; creating structures that are both beautiful and help solve environmental issues. This is definitely a case of sustainable crafting as the woven sculpture is designed to catch fog. Fog harvesting has the potential to provide a valuable source of water in arid mountainous coastal regions.

Queensland College of Art partnered with a neighbouring Flight Centre and produced artwork using the Flight Centre's recyclable waste. Using ordinary 'waste' items not thought of for art pieces can really become something spectacular.

This next project from Etsuko Noguchi uses an old cardboard box, that you'd never guess was so humble in its origin.

But is sustainable crafting simply using leftover items? That's not always practical is it. Surely it's to do with our mindset and decision making and to quote Maya Angelou 'Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better'.
How can we be more sustainable? Is it to do with making choices. What are we to look out for when deciding where to spend our hard earned cash. 

We're coming back to PaperArtsy - because it's lovely to hear about how the products that we know and love are some of the safest in the world.
Did you know that Smoothy Cardstock and the boxes used to ship orders are using paper made from approved managed forest papers and with vegetable dye inks (for the printing on the boxes). When they made Scrapbooking papers back in the day, vegetable inks were used on those too.That was a conscious choice.

If we move to everyone's favourite paint; Fresco Finish Chalk Acrylics, these are 'Low VOC' paints (Volatile Organic Compounds) so no nasty smells and headaches. 

As they are chalk paints they have a shorter drying time anyway but they're not extended artificially by adding more VOCs.  If having a longer (wet) open time is important to you (particularly if you're doing gel printing) you can use PaperArtsy's environmentally friendly Drying Retarder. Just one drip is all you need in a blob of paint.

Small steps like choosing cardstock can be part of the process of thinking more consciously. If you need something other than Smoothy, kraft cardstock is a good option. Miriam Grazier designed this lovely kraft trio with Sara Naumann stamps.

..and Florence Adams who had a ball with kraft card and sewing themed Hot Picks.

Lots of artists love junk journalling and there's so much to be admired by reusing packaging and everyday items. A recent project from Sara Naumann saw here creating a junk journal with serviettes, left over bits and adding in some resin for longevity.

Lucy Edmondson brought joy to her leftover wooden stamp mounts along with other upcycled treasures.

We can take being creatively sustainable in lots of areas of our lives. How about wrapping presents? You can even see a gift wrapped inspired by  the Japanese art of Furoshiki.

There are lots of tips about being environmentally sustainable in our creating. From how much water we use to turning our machines off after using them. From consuming less to reimagining our supplies a little more. 
Could we creatively think about reducing the waste we produce with creating. What do we do with leftover scraps- can we reuse them or transform them into something else?

If you've a box of papers, junk mail, envelopes and scraps of watercolour cardstock etc, why not try making your own paper? Here's a fabulous tutorial complete with a DIY for the mould and deckle frames.

Trying to be sustainable and environmentally conscious also requires some thinking about the issues. I enjoyed reading this article by The Little Castle On Mercury who has started me thinking about the way I'm both choosing to create and purchase.

Hopefully this introduction will begin a conversation. We would love to continue it on PaperArtsy People (our Facebook group for PaperArtsy fans). 

If you want to create along with us while we explore this topic, please share your makes on our social feeds so we can follow along. Instagram @paperartsy or why not join us and post in the PaperArtsy People Group on Facebook. Make sure you tag us in your contributions, we love to see what you get up to in your creative world!



Words and Pictures said...

A really fascinating and thought-provoking article, Keren, thank you. I've opened up lots of those links to follow up on.

It's really great to hear more about the careful thought and environmental concern which goes into the PaperArtsy products and packaging (not that I'd have doubted that).

And all that attention to detail really matters - and needs to be far more widespread in every industry - if we're going to stand a chance of protecting and preserving our planet.
Alison x

Raquel Burillo said...

Oh! I loved the post! Specially the behind scenes and the explanations about your conscious choices on manufacturing and packaging, Leandra. I'm definitely going to try the glue recipes and check a few more links within the post, so interesting, Keren!
Big hug!

Mary in Oregon said...

You have not only a creative company, Leandra, but one who is consciously thinking about doing your part to keep our planet healthy. I will be promoting your business even more after having read your explanations about choosing rubber over resin, your paint-filling machine and tips for us, as well. It was interesting to read that your company has decided to produce what has been ordered rather than stock up a huge inventory that might never be ordered. Oregon was the first state in U.S. to have a bottle recycling program and I grew up with parents who recycled regularly so I appreciate your philosophy. Well done. I am pleased that I have been so enamored with your products but now I know that I have also been helping all of us when I purchase from your suppliers (Topflight stamps)!!!

ionabunny said...

This is a great article. I try and reuse as much as I can. Had pizza yesterday. Once they were in the oven I was checking the boxes to see what colour the card board was. Only grey, but it will still be used. Most of my kraft card I use comes from cereal boxes and other food packaging, most of it offers a good quality card that takes ink, paint and stamping very well. Nice weigh too for mixed media. Regarding the stencil waste. Have you considered including some of it in the stencil packs as extra masks, or mixed media possibilities, or selling it in small bags for small pennies, thereby generating a little income instead of paying for disposal. The larger pieces could be useful me thinks.......... Maybe have a sieve that lets the tiny bits through for disposal but keeps the larger maybe useful pieces. Just a thought.... Thanks for the useful links to interesting ideas. Hugz

craftytrog said...

A very interesting post Keren! Lots of food for thought!

JoAnna said...

Thanks so much for all of the information and for being so thorough! Your work is beautiful, and this is a great article. I'm the author of The Little Castle on Mercury blog, so I also really appreciate the shout-out. It's great to know there are other people out there who are working hard to build sustainability into their everyday lives and hobbies!

Etsuko said...

I think it's a really great topic and article Keren. I thought that PaperArtsy makes many products by itself, but I was very impressed by the fact that almost all of them are made with less loss and the global environment is taken seriously. And I'm very happy to think that using PaperArtsy's products is part of sustainable crafting. xx

SewPaperPaint said...

I enjoyed reading this and learning more about the company I love so much! Thank you for this push to be more mindful in our creative processes.

Keren Baker said...

It’s so good of you to come and comment, thankyou!. You’re so right- we’re all in this together and sustainable loving and crafting are increasingly important for us all x

Lucy Edmondson said...

Great topic! Thank you for featuring one of my oldies! X