7 ways to remember and repurpose children's artwork

Gigi with artwork With the school year wrapping up, it seemed appropriate to bring back and update this post from 2011. On Thursday I will be collecting Gigi's artwork from her learning center, and we now officially have three little artists in our family creating works of art on a regular basis... and boy do they produce.

Between school masterpieces, Sunday school and Community Bible Study take-home coloring pages/crafts, and spontaneous artwork done at home, we are full to the brim.

We employ a few common techniques for reducing art waste and preserving the best artwork without getting buried alive under all the paper, but we also try to repurpose some of it as well.

7 ways to remember and repurpose children's artwork

Read on to see what works for us, and to see my current favorite way to repurpose several pieces of art.

Simplify what is saved

 

Much of our artwork gets recycled after it has lived its brief life of fame. Here's a few other ways we remember or "use" our kids' artwork.

  • 1. Save a few favorites in a portfolio- I have a couple of relatively flat boxes from Ikea for each of the kids. I plan to save a couple pieces of the best of the best per year for each kid in these boxes (thanks to Tsh for this idea!).
  • 2. Photograph artwork- Photographing artwork is such a great way to preserve it without actually keeping it. I import my kids' artwork photos into an Evernote notebook for safe keeping, or I snap a photo of them with the Artkive app where I can categorize them by artist, date, grade, etc. Someday it'd be fun to print out an Artkive book of their artwork. This is a great way to preserve received artwork/cards as well! Then I recycle it or...
  • 3. Hang it up- A few prized pieces hang in our home-- right now we have a closet door that we decorate with artwork, hung up with colorful washi tape.
  • 4. Gift it- Gigi loves to give away artwork. Grandparents, friends, you name it. When she creates art at home it almost always has a designated recipient, probably because she knows we won't have anywhere at home to keep it!

Repurpose art into something new

 

gigi painting

What about the creations we don't save, hang or give away? Sometimes, we can find a creative way to give new life to artwork that is otherwise destined for the recycle bin.

5.  Of course, there is the old stand-by of wrapping gifts with artwork. I love this. I can't remember the last time I bought wrapping paper, because I have a very eager artist ready to make a custom version instead. We always have a sheet of butcher paper on the Ikea easel and the more scribbles of color the better wrapping paper it makes.

6. We have a nice collection of white paper bags that Gigi used to bring home from her Community Bible Study class each week, that make a great palate for painting or decorating and then get reused as a gift bag. Sometimes I'll also bring out brown paper bags as art "canvases" that make perfect gift bags, too.

Don't be afraid to cut it up!

7. Cut up art ---> new art!  This is exactly what we did when Gigi and I made the watercolor bunting last Christmas. She painted, then I traced a pennant shape over her watercolor art for us to cut out.

My inspiration from writing this post actually came from a beautiful piece of artwork Gigi's preschool class made years ago. The crunchy mama in me smiled with delight when her teacher told me the idea was actually my daughter's!

Here's how to make a beautiful piece of art similar to this one. 

  1. Collect various paintings, drawings etc.
  2. Have child (or mom) cut out shapes from each piece of art.
  3. Paint/decorate a canvas or large piece of paper/cardboard/etc.
  4. Glue down cutouts from various pieces of art to canvas.
  5. If so desired, modge podge over the whole thing to seal it.
  6. Enjoy a new, unique piece of art worthy of a frame or place of honor on the wall, that showcases several of your child's smaller masterpieces.

What's your favorite way to remember and/or repurpose children's artwork?