What’s in a vase? : Learning how to make art out of recycled materials

Authored by:
Sabine Williams

Sabine Williams

Today, our schedule says we have a workshop on recycling cardboard – not the most exciting description, particularly given that we had to leave a particularly exciting basketball game and where I also twisted my ankle (I’m fine, and thankfully none of the CIEE students suffered the same fate).  When we arrive at the workshop space, we are greeted by an elegant woman dressed to the nines ; she’s wearing white linen pants, a green flowy blouse, some funky geometric heeled clogs, a geometric necklace, earrings, a ring, and bracelets, none of which match but all of which seamlessly go together.

“Hola, me llamo Brigida Sosa y soy una profesora de diseño y manualidades” (Hello, my name is Brigida Sosa and I am a design and crafts teacher).  “Hoy, les voy a enseñar cómo crear arte utilizando basura” (Today, I am going to teach you how to create art from trash), she says gesturing to a table behind her. On top of the table sit some beautiful decorative vases with a black, brown, and gold color palette.  Some are ornated with gems, others are draped with material.  Next to them, we see what look like a small wooden bench and table, a birdcage, a sculpture.

“All of these items are made of cardboard” she says as she passes the look-alike wooden bench around; it is very light and when we look underneath, we can see the logos and brand names that so often come on cardboard boxes.  Señora Sosa explains that she has been making art using recycled materials since she was a child, and that she seeks to make luxury items out of the discarded trash she finds in the street.  The vases described above are made of cardboard, the draping is an old t-shirt, the sculpture a spray-painted towel, and the handles on these decorative items are old Christmas tree decorations.

Señora Sosa demonstrates how to make a simple vase out of cardboard boxes, tracing out the templates, cutting them out carefully, and putting them together with great patience and attention to detail.  She then covers the outside of the vase with pieces of newspaper and glue, paper mâché style. “Now it’s your turn”.

We divide into groups, one cutting, one paint-gluing, and make three more vases.  While we wait for our peers to finish and for the glue to dry, Señora Sosa sits next to us, asking our names and where we are from. The vase-making is a calm and meditative process, in contrast to our high-energy basketball game, and shows us how eco-solutions and sustainability can apply to many different areas in our daily life, including but not limited to interior design and art.

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