Making Things Out of Junk

One of our kids returned proudly from pre-school one day holding up a creation made entirely from objects rescued from the recycling bin. If we were unsure what this random glued-together collection of cups and sticks was, exactly, so was she. But it was her creation, and that was enough to call it something like “art”.

Beaming, she said, “Look what I made out of junk!”

One of the important steps in the creative process is to be willing to make things out of junk, even if they start off looking like junk themselves. Anne Lamott calls it “shitty first drafts”, a jumbled-up collection of words strewn on a page. The raw materials out of which something meaningful might one day be constructed. (On a similar vein, Austin Kleon has had me thinking lately about mending.)

I’ve been making things out of junk lately. Saw and screwing together scraps of wood to make something useful.

Exhibit A: mitten drying rack

Inspired by @frostyfacemb, I decided to try my own take on the “how to dry the daily pile of wet mittens and scarves as quickly as possible” problem, faced by every Manitoban all winter long. I decided to make the rack taller and a little wider than the conventional plastic version, trying to keep taller mitts standing upright and giving a little more space between them.

I may or may not have derived inspiration from a pipe organ…

Exhibit B: ski-waxing table

Thanks to a vast search of the internet, I found plenty of inspiration for a contraption to hold skis while waxing them. This is its second iteration, and still awaiting some soft, grippy material on the arms to help keep the skis in place.

I’m calling these things “prototypes” or “experiments”. The fun thing about prototypes is there’s no pressure to get it right the first time. If it doesn’t work, most of the wood can be tossed in the fire pit, no loss but the time I spent scheming. Then I can take everything I learned through the process, and pick up a plastic mitten-drying rack for $11.49 that will mostly solve the problem anyway.

What have you been making out of junk lately?

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