Being a Green Goth: Finding the Eco in Papel Picado

Author's photograph of her Papel Picado banner from The ToymakerI happen to like skulls–I’m an existentialist, alright? So just as I used to stock up on black onesies for my babies come October, I tend to utilize Halloween DIY projects as your basic ideas for interior decorating. 

The only hindrance to such madcap skull-crafting is my manifesto, which declares that whenever possible, I utilize recycled materials in my work. Know how many Halloween-ish craft projects there are that purposefully utilize recycled materials? Not many, my friends. That’s why we think outside the box; we take regular craft projects, and we MAKE them be recycled, mwa-ha-ha!

My latest Project O’ Skulls comes from my (healthy) obession with The Toymaker.The Toymaker, or Marilyn Scott-Walters, makes these crazy-awesome things out of cut paper. Cut-paper objects are not only beautiful as objects, but paper as a material is eco-friendly in its bio-degradability, and its fragility and impermanence adds additional depth to its beauty, I think.

But back to the skulls, right? One of the free downloadable objects (for your own personal use, people, NOT for ebay) on The Toymaker’s site is a pattern for four different Papel Picado flags: a cat, an owl, a pumpkin, and, yes, a SKULL. I made this banner straight-up as a Halloween decoration for my girlies, and it came out so awesomely awesome that I started thinking…skulls, huh? I should make a banner just of skulls. And totally hang it in my bedroom. Perhaps over the bed?

Sure, that’s pretty green, I guess–I mean, at least it’s not vinyl skulls that would be off-gassing all over me and my lover as we sleep. But still, do you know what’s way more eco-friendly than nicely biodegradable paper? Yep, RECYCLED paper.

And so the newest decoration crowning the love nest I share with my bemused partner is a banner of skulls cut from an old encyclopedia. What would also be cool to use would be glossy magazine pages, or newspapers. Chinese take-out menus, or your kiddo’s artwork. Recycled wrapping paper. Junk mail.

What unexpected or unusual paper products do you recycle into awesomeness?

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Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life, and my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties.


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  1. the toymaker rocks, and so does this post (and your skull banner). i want to try making some of her other paper toys with an old road atlas we have lying around, some of the little one’s art, etc. thanks for the tips.

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