Friday, May 29, 2009

Green Art

I am delighted to welcome my real life friend, Jessica, for a guest post. Jess is greener than she realizes and takes the most beautiful, thoughtful photos I've seen. Check out her blog, Sweet Eventide, to see her wonderful pictures and to read her inner thoughts.

Good morning! My name is Jessica and I'm a mama, writer and photographer normally waxing on about how dusk inspires me over at Sweet Eventide. When Green Bean asked me to do a guest post here at the Green Phone Booth, I was honored but a bit stumped. I mean, I care deeply about being green but I am not sure I am actually very green. So I've been going in mental circles comparing myself to others and where does that ever lead me? There will always be someone doing better and always someone doing worse. So it's far better to avoid the fruitless chase and focus on myself.

In my circular thoughts though, I did notice a theme for myself: I am the greenest at the cash register. I am a fairly conscientious shopper and I do most of my shopping at the grocery store. I have noticed a lot of changes there in the past six years since I became a mother and more often than not, I can find an organic version of a product I grew up with, like sprinkles for my frozen yogurt or taco sauce for my Noodle's quesadillas. I started years ago by switching to organic produce, then dairy, then meat. Now I've got bread and crackers covered and skin care too.

I am always learning more and today it occurred to me that I haven't turned my attention to something quite near and dear to my heart: art. I love me some art supplies and I work really hard as a mom to encourage creativity and artistic pursuits for me and my son. This afternoon I felt a surge of creativity so we headed off to the local art supply store (vs. a big box store, although I have been known to go there too). I know there are greener choices as far as paper is concerned, as I've been buying Strathmore's Windpower paper for a couple of years now at least.

Today I wanted to know about paint and ink. A manager was called over. "No," he said, "lots of chemicals involved there, especially with oil paints." I waited for more. "I haven't seen any green options yet," he summarized. I searched the store myself but it was clear, at least from reading the packaging, there wasn't a lot of choices. So I bought a few things because by now, my son was fired up to do some painting and let's face it, I was too. We got two canvases, some tubes of acrylic paint (note to self: do not use a brand new blanket at your next outdoor, mother & child painting party!) and a couple of brushes. But I don't give up that easily and now that I am aware that I haven't greened up my art supplies, you can bet the process is in motion.

The key word in the conversation was "yet" and already a few Google searches have turned up some options like Alease Michelle's list of eco-friendly art supply companies. That list led me straight to the green section at Rex Art, an independently-owned company in the Southeast. I also found Eco Art Supplies which is in California and thereby scores me a local (these days) source.

From Eco Art, I know that the next time I shop for acrylic paints, I will go for Golden, which I noticed is carried at the store I visited today. Golden has an extensive area of their website devoted to safety and the environment. I read their article about cleanup and think it's a good thing I started this post before attacking my afternoon art mess. Now I know to wipe off the paint on our palette before rinsing because it is better to dispose of solid materials, even with water-based paints. There is also an article about children using their products and a company who isn't putting sales above safety is a company I am going to support at the cash register.

All in all, this is how I go about being green. Circular surfing on the web is much better than my circular, judgmental thinking because I can't do it all at once or all the time. But I am seeking out alternative options for whatever it is I am buying or using. I wouldn't call today a success, but it wasn't a failure either. I learned some things that I will apply the next time, and the time after that. I will revamp my art cabinet as time and my budget allow. In fact, I am totally inspired by my new mission and will report an update as soon as the Noodle and I use up all the current supplies. I see a lot of painting picnics in our summer plans.


organicneedle said...

Thank you so much for this post!!!! Art is one of my biggest "green" struggles as a mama and for my own use. As I have been doing my spring cleaning and cleaning out the boys art closet...yes we have an entire walk-in closet of art supplies plus stashes in every nook and cranny of the apartment...I was really disappointed in the waste of used up markers and paint sets. So much plastic and so many chemicals! I can't wait to check out all the links. This was perfect timing.

Green Bean said...

Ahh, I've struggled with this one too. Especially last Christmas when I was looking for art supplies for my little illustrator. We tend to save every little piece of everything in a big art supply box. It's great for reuse and we also invest in recycled paper but that still leaves me with the markers, paint, and whatnot. I found Stubby Pencil Studio which sells green art supplies for kids. Now I have to go check out your links. Thanks for posting on this!

JessTrev said...

Thank you for your post. I love encouraging my kids (ok and my own) creativity but agree that the materials sometimes leave something to be desired. There seem to be lots of crayon, colored pencil, and paper options, but you're right, it's the paints I'm most curious about. We do a lot of upcycling of book jackets and wrapping paper for collages but I'd love to hear more about safe and natural pigments. Great post!

Billie said...

I just discovered modelling beeswax. We are buying it for my stepson for his birthday because it never goes hard and supposedly doesn't flake leaving ground in bits in our carpet like playdoh does.

I think the ingredients are beeswax, oil and pigment for colour.

Jamie Watson said...

Wow, what an impressive post. As an artist myself, I had not done this type of research but thanks to you - it's now on my radar and will ask my suppliers these types of questions. Well done! And I hope you and the Noodle have fun painting!!

Alison said...

Again, great post! My son is still scribbling with a crayon, but I recently found an out of print book on Amazon, also called Eco Art that you might want to check out. The author has several different books, and the one I received has awesome ideas on using bits of nature for projects. The odd thing is the book is from the 90s, she was way ahead of the game!

Green Fundraising said...

Thanks - great tips on the supplies. For kids, check out Eco-kids fingerpaint and playdough. (We sell it on our site.) Good stuff.

I think paper is the easiest, but it is a struggle to find others so very good tips! thanks again!


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