Craftivism

Published on May 27th, 2009 | by Becky Striepe

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Crafty Reuse: Your Guide to Junk Mail Crafts + Art


Rather than toss all those catalogs and offers into the recycle bin, you may as well take advantage of the free craft supplies!

Despite our best efforts to stop marketers from sending us junk mail, the stuff still seems to find its way into our mailbox. We use some of it for things like grocery lists and keeping score when playing Scrabble, but what to do with the rest? Here are some project ideas and junk mail art inspiration.

Be a Star
I am totally digging on this star (pictured above) made from catalog pages by This Recycled Life! She provides a pdf pattern so that you can make your very own. To save even more paper, you can even print the pattern onto the back of some junk mail!

Dress It Up
Feeling ambitious? Work that junk mail into an arty garment! Check out this magazine pages dress by Jules Beth. You could totally do a take on this with catalog pages or maybe even junk mail envelopes! And of course, you can’t talk junk mail clothing without a shout out to Nancy Judd’s fantastical Fan Mail Dress.

Get Bejeweled
There was a great tutorial last week over at CRAFT on making your own paper bead bracelet. This is a perfect way to use up all of those old credit card offers! If you want your beads to be colorful like the ones CRAFT made out of magazine pages, just color on your paper before cutting out the strips. For another rolled paper bead method, you might also check out Juliet’s tutorial on junk mail beads, along with some awesome sellers offering beads made from their own junk mail.

Cut Out + Keep has another take on junk mail beads. Jeniffer P. shows you how to use your decoupage skills to make a lovely junk mail necklace!

Card It Up
Junk Mail Gems has a tutorial on making a pop up card out of junk mail. OK, I know this is actually a tutorial for Christmas cards, but you could easily make these for any occasion! Check out these simple pop up how-to’s from Robert Sabuda for some ideas.

Get Arty With It
Juliet has some great examples of junk mail art to get you inspired! I’m also basically in love with these little junk mail art kits by Jim Doran (pictured to the right). Also check out his Pablo Picasso Art History Lesson constructed all from junk mail. Susi Watson’s piece New Life is another awesome piece junk mail art inspiration!

Junk mail in the U.S. accounts for over 100 million trees every year. That’s almost too much paper for me to fathom! Artist Barbara Hashimoto decided to collect hers for an entire year to see just how much junk ended up in her postbox. Her installation piece, The Junk Mail Experiment, is a mountain of that year’s worth of hand-shredded mail. That’s right: she shredded it all by hand! At the experiment’s end, she’d collected over 3,000 cubic feet of shredded junk. Check out this video of the installation to get an idea of just how much paper that really is:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/SHCiFn9lC9E&hl=en&fs=1]

Whether you use your junk mail in functional crafts or to make a larger artistic statement, good on you for keeping all that perfectly usable material out of the waste stream!

Image Credits:
+ Junk Mail Star by This Recycled Life
+ Mad Mad Monkey Mask. Creative Commons photo by Jim Doran

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • April

    I use my catalogs as pattern paper. I just remove the staples, cut the patterns out and pin them to the fabric. I especially like the really big catalogs (11″ x 14″) because it just takes a few sheets to tape together instead of the standard sizes.

  • http://extremecards.blogspot.com Carol

    I love the idea of using junkmail for pop up cards. I’m off to pull some stuff out of my recycling pile and cut a few origamic architecture patterns. Plain white paper is the traditional medium so you can appreciate the sculptural qualities of the work. But *I* like a little color and pattern in my paperwork.

  • http://extremecards.blogspot.com Carol

    Sorry for the double comment. I forgot to add…
    magazine cover are great for “gum wrapper chain” crafts. Like purses.

    http://extremecards.blogspot.com/2008/12/gum-wrapper-chain-purse.html

  • http://www.buttaflyunltd.com Kissa

    I love this site. I come here from time to time and you always present the coolest ideas. I will be incorporating the recycled concept in my collection this year. I can’t wait to see what I come up with. Thanks for making an awesome site.

  • KC

    Mulch! In My garden. Especially old bills and tax forms ( over 10 yrs old) I had tons. I shredded it and laid it in the garden to act as mulch to keep the wweds at bay. A Good idea in theory but the weeds grew over them.

  • ester

    How did you miss the junk mail art of Sandhi Schimmel Gold?
    Amazing fine art from junk mail – http://www.schimmelart.com

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the ability to look for stores that carry apparel not quilt
    shops. I don’t quilt and really love quotes, really could use apparel fabric.

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