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Project 1 – paper envelopes (March 16)

March 15, 2020

Security envelopes

Paper Envelopes

[Suggested Instagram tags: @beyondgarbageproject, #beyondgarbageproject, #paperenvelopes, #recycledart, #reducereuserecycle, #spreadartnotfear]

The first material for the Beyond Garbage reboot is paper envelopes. I thought I’d start here because many people are used to thinking of paper as an art material. But used envelopes will limit your options a bit. Try to use that to your advantage!

Take a moment to explore what makes an envelope an envelope, How are they made? Why are they the certain sizes? Why are they paper (and what other materials are they made of)? What qualities does paper have that make them ideal as envelopes (or not)?

Before you start making, think about how you can use the rough deconstructed edges, security windows, rounded edges, color, stamps, etc., to make your work.

Try not to paint or draw on the surface – use what the envelopes offer instead of treating the paper as a surface to embellish. As pictured above, security envelopes give you a printed pattern to incorporate into your work. Of course, you are welcome to go ahead and make collages with glue and draw or paint all over the surface, but let yourself be challenged for a bit before you jump into what may feel like a more familiar use of paper.

Try to use only the envelopes – no glue or tape. Opportunity! If you have any return envelopes from mail you received, they have unused gummed flaps that you can use that as an adhesive without adding glue to your project.

Don’t forget that paper is a material, not just a surface – what happens when you wet it? Etc.

Can you find a way to add a quality of movement to what you make?

What happens if you make multiples of a simple simple form?


bend, cut, fold, fly, hide, hole, layer, opaque, pattern, rattle, rip, rustle, shadow, surprise, symmetry, transform, translucent, transparent, weave, wet, wrinkle


Reused materials: envelope, toilet paper roll, postcard, packing paper, tissue paper, found wire. Additional materials: tape and glue

This bird is one of my recycled birds that I make for the Material World Studio site.  I offer it here as an example of something that reuses many other materials (you see – even I don’t always follow the “rules”!), but takes advantage of special qualities of fancy envelopes – edges, interior vs exterior, etc.


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