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June 25, 2014

Summer Craft Project: Marcie Cuff’s Upcycled Plant Markers

Grow your garden and reduce your waste with this kid-friendly craft idea.

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There’s something wonderful about giving new life to old items destined for landfills and storage bins. I’ve transformed burlap sacks into a throw pillows, shipping pallets into shoe racks, dryer lint into modeling clay, newspaper pages into a seedling pot, and road maps into envelopes -- to name a few. A little elbow grease can turn a lifeless object into something truly amazing.

The real challenge is sticking to materials I’ve already got on hand. I try to consider every day what I purchase and throw away. I take note of packaging. I buy in bulk. I try to reduce, reclaim, refurbish, repair, reuse, recycle, and repurpose, and I look to nature as my guide. I think about what happened before I got here and what will happen after I go. The world has thrived on these techniques for millions of years -- in the natural world, nothing is wasted, and upcycling mimics these processes.

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My blog, Mossy, and newly released book, "This Book Was a Tree", are both filled with simple, hands-on projects that inspire us to touch, collect, document, sketch, decode, analyze, experiment, unravel, compare, and reflect. "This Book Was a Tree" is a self-help manual for slowing down, reconnecting with the real world, and focusing on the essentials -- starting with earth- and family-friendly activities like this one.

Handmade Plant Markers

This project requires vintage silverware -- silver-plated flatware works best -- which you can buy inexpensively at flea markets, estate sales, or thrift shops. Spoons and butter knives are perfect for the job, but nonconformists may use forks. (Extras can become gift tags, napkin rings, and funky bracelets).

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Before you begin, consider what text you’d like to display. Start simple: “dill” and “mint” are good. With practice, you’ll soon move up to “catnip” and “rosemary, ” and even phrases like “you are my sunshine,” “meet me in the garden,” or the cheeky anthropomorphic “water me, please.”

Materials

Silver-plated flatware
Sock
Cement floor or steel block
Club hammer or large claw hammer
Black washable marker
Metal letter stamping set (1/8 inch works well)
Rubbing alcohol

Steps

1. Put one piece of flatware inside the sock, and place it facedown on a hard, flat surface (your cement floor or steel block). Starting at the center and working toward the sides, hammer until it is completely flattened.

2. Count the letters in the word or phrase you’d like to display. Using washable marker, place a small dot for each letter to ensure the letters will be centered and evenly spaced.

3. Starting with a middle letter, carefully place your stamp over the corresponding dot. Firmly strike the top of the stamp once with a hammer. Repeat with the remaining letters until your word or phrase is complete.

4. Completely fill in each letter using your marker (no need to stay within the lines). Immediately buff away the excess marker using rubbing alcohol, leaving black within the grooves.

5. Voila! You’re done. Pop the marker into a garden bed or potted plant, or wrap them up to give as gifts.