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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v13n01)
Right in my Own Backyard - Hail to the Brown Paper Bag - by Brandt Carter
posted: Jan. 08, 2016

Right in my Own Backyard header

Hail to the Brown Paper Bag
Simple things in life can bring great pleasures. Take the lowly brown paper bag as a perfect example. It has been my "beast of burden," carrying all kinds of purchases. It's been a waste basket, suitcase, briefcase, storage bin, and organizer. It is the inspiration for many crafts. Oh, such a versatile object!
Thinking back to my early years. I remember making a placemat by cutting a brown grocery bag into two flat pieces, punching holes along the edges, and sewing the sides with yarn. I added flowers with colorful crayons and carefully scribed, "Dear Mom, I Love You."
If you are resourceful and use a bit of imagination, you can make many projects out of brown paper bags. No matter what size, a bag can be decorated as a gift bag or trimmed on all sides to make wrapping paper with an eco-friendly look. Add some stamping or twine ribbon to give a gift stylish appeal.
If you are frugal, you can cut up bags to make notepaper. Fold cut paper bags to make book covers. Kraft paper is great for table runners, placemats, or table covers. Using pinking shears, cut out triangles, fold the wide end over a dowel rod or cord and staple - pesto, pennants to decorate a room. "Happy Birthday" or other special occasion greetings can be lettered on sheets cut from bags to make inexpensive but eye-catching banners.
When I taught school I used free and recycled bags for projects: puppetry, masks, hats, and wigs. Animal characters were my favorite puppets, achieved with lots of colored paper, yarn, glue, buttons, and gems to create cats, dogs, or tigers. The two- and three-dimensional effects were as intricate as the artists could muster. Masks were easy to sculpt from bags; the additions of fabric and ribbons made them more festive.
From simple crowns to elaborate, folded creations, hats can challenge the inspired crafter. If you want to see this art form taken to the next level, check out the Hawaiian artist Moses who created more than 250 hats in a remarkable span that lasted almost 10 years. These exquisite paper sculptures are in the permanent collection of the Mingei International Museum, in San Diego, CA.
Possibilities with the brown paper bag are limitless. I will end with yet one more. I wallpapered a small bathroom with rolls of kraft paper. Then I trimmed 8 1/2x11 sheets from dozens of bags to make computer paper on which I printed quotes about dogs. Using decoupage glue, I affixed them to the kraft wallpaper. Then came hand-drawn paw prints, and one final coat of the glue. The decor has held up well for more than 20 years. You, too, can create a wall or entire room with themes of your choosing, so save those paper bags for winter projects. Here's to creativity!

Brandt Carter, artist, herbalist, and naturalist, owns Backyard Birds at 2374 E. 54th Street. Visit her web site Email your bird questions to
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Brought to you by: Broad Ripple collector pins
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