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February 2010 – Foam Packing Materials

This page and a similarly titled Submissions sub-page will show the experiments, thoughts, and final submissions using foam packing materials, including styrofoam and cornstarch peanuts. Please submit projects by February 28.  We plan to post submissions within the first week of March.
This is a fairly wide category of materials.  Some are recyclable, some are not.  Foam packing materials come in many densities and sizes.  Please remember that you should only reuse materials – do not go to the Container Store and buy packing peanuts, for example. And please do recycle any materials that your jurisdiction accepts.  Because some of the foam is not recyclable, the preference for avoiding other materials (paint, glue, etc.) is not such a big deal, but let’s try to be community-minded about using volatile and/or toxic/dangerous adhesives and processes.

If you don’t usually collect packing materials and didn’t save them from all of those online purchases from the end of last year, you probably won’t have too hard a time finding them.  Offices and stores unpack mailed deliveries daily and may be happy to give some to you.

A few notes –

Packing peanuts come in at least two varieties.  If you didn’t know that the ones that look like Cheese Doodles (with the same softer squishiness) are made of cornstarch, you are in for some fun.  This is a relatively new “greener” packing peanut and can be dissolved in water and poured down the drain safely.  However, you can also simply dampen areas of the peanuts and the wet spots become gluey and stick to each other immediately and fairly strongly – imagine the sculptural possibilities!

Black Sheep by Carol Gellner Levin

I am eager to see whether anyone comes up with something interesting to do with the non-cornstarch peanuts.  Carol Gellner Levin has used them on her sculptural animals.  Does anyone else out there use them as the main body of pieces, rather than as decoration?

The thicker, spongey, less earth-friendly stuff usually comes in larger pieces and is great to carve up with Xacto knives and matte knives.  It is quite strong, so you could even build furniture with it, if you have enough material.

And of course, there is always the old white harder material that crumbles into tiny white pellets charged with static electricity.

No challenge this month, unless someone else writes in with one.


Here are some verbs that may be helpful to you as you start to play with the material and explore its possibilities:

cut, crumble, squash, stack, break, join, incise, melt, glue…


You may add comments here about the material (frustrations, triumphs, specific resources, etc.) all month long as you experiment, or you may wait until the end of the month.  Text-only comments about working with newspaper can be added at the very bottom of THIS PAGE.  If you have commented on this blog before, your comment will be posted immediately.  If you are new to the blog, your comment will go through the Administrator for approval.
If you wish to submit a final project or summarizing comment (especially if you want to include images or links), we suggest that you do it in the form of a post on the sub-page, since those posts (unlike the more simply formatted comments on this page) can contain links and/or images.  If you wish to add a post, please contact the Administrator through the contact form immediately below and we will tell you what to do to get your post published.

Contact form for posting images and links about foam packing materials:

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