Friday, September 18, 2009

5,500 Bottle Caps, 5,500 Bottle Caps -- Sepember 20, 2009

I can finally share with everyone what we have been up to this summer and why I have been missing from my blog. No, I haven't been stitching. :-)

Our daughter spent the summer working on her last big service project before heading off for college. Early in the summer she met with our local library staff to develop a large service project. After reviewing several different ideas, she volunteered to make a 6' x 12' mural of Vincent van Gogh's Starry Nights out of bottle caps. Yep, bottle caps! The library thought this would be a great example of recyclable art to share with the community and our daughter loved the idea.

The inspiration for this project was a book written by Michelle Stitzlein called "Bottlecap little Bottlecap". Ms. Stitzlein was very supportive of the project and gave the library and our daughter some very helpful suggestions.

While our daughter was waiting for final approval of her project, the library began collecting bottle caps.

My mother works part-time at another county's public library. When she told them about the project, they decided that they wanted to support our library and they began a bottle collection campaign of their own for this project.

As word spread, family and friends began collecting bottle caps. She also received bottle cap from the volunteers at a local Day Camp where she volunteers

After receiving approval of her project, our daughter began the planning and construction phase of the project. With the help of family and volunteers, the base of the mural was made from three 6' x 4' plywood panels with 2" x 2" supporting rails on the top and on the bottom of the back of each panel. The rails were pre-drilled prior to attaching to the plywood so that they could be used to hang the mural. Once the rails were added, each panel was painted with a white primer. Once this was dry, each panel was then framed with molding that had been stained a dark walnut. The molding was added to the top and bottom of the center section and to three sides on the two end pieces.

Meanwhile, the bottle caps started pouring in and she had a lot of bottle caps to sort and clean. After some trial and error she discovered that the easiest way to clean that many bottle caps was in the washing machine. Yes, our washing machine! After collecting the bottle caps she sorted them in the garage by removing any that could not be used. She then placed the bottle caps in lingerie bags, zipped the bags, and then used rubber bands to tie the tops of the lingerie bags. The rubber bands kept the zippers from coming loose and spilling all of the bottle caps into the washer. You can imagine how we found out that this can happen, and DH was not pleased. LOL!

The bottle caps in the lingerie bags were then placed in the washing machine with several towels as the challenge with washing the bottle caps was to make sure that the load was balanced. Though, several times one of us would have to go running to "save" the washing machine as it started walking across the floor. :-)

Once the bottle caps were washed, they were then sorted again by removing those that could not be cleaned or could not be used. They were then placed on paper towels in several layers to dry. Once the bottle caps were dry, they were then sorted again by color into shopping bags.

With the help of family and volunteers, our daughter began designing the mural. The library had asked for some additions to "Starry Nights" that would reflect the local community so with their approval our daughter added a raven, a barn, and a wagon with a horse. Let me tell you, designing the horse took a while and the raven wasn't easy either! LOL! With the help of a volunteer who is an artist and with lot's of other helpful and sometimes not so helpful suggestions we finally had a recognizable horse and raven. :-)

As each motif was designed, the bottle caps were temporarily attached to the mural using glue dots. Then each bottle cap was screwed down. Once all of the motifs were designed and attached, she started filling in the background

Our daughter found that the best way to attach the bottle caps was to have one person hold the bottle cap in place using a needle nose pliers while the other person used the drill to attach the bottle cap.

Okay, this sounds easy and we thought that she could work on the mural every day when she came home from her summer college class with the help of her brother. Yes, easy until you realize that some of those bottle caps are really thick and our daughter and our son did not have the leverage or upper arm strength to do many bottle caps at a time. So with lots of help from family and friends, and after many, many, hours of work, all of the bottle caps were finally attached.

We cleaned out our local big box hardware store and several not so local big box hardware stores of the screws that were needed. We also bought out our local craft stores of glue dots several times. We were wondering what the inventory/ordering people were thinking! LOL!!!

After several weeks of hard work the mural was completed. Now the next challenge was how was she going to deliver the mural to the library? She measured the back of our van and each panel would fit. Thank goodness, as she did not have the cost of hiring a moving van in her project budget. :-)

It took three trips but finally all three pieces of the mural were delivered. It took several weeks for the library staff to figure out the best way to hang it as it is fairly heavy. The mural is now on permanent display!

Our daughter also made a smaller mural which contains the symbol of the library (a stylized light bulb) on a much smaller piece of plywood (2' x 18"). The smaller mural can be easily carried by one person for when the library staff visits schools and day cares. She also created an informational pamphlet for the library.

The library staff were thrilled with their new mural!

This was a lot of fun and a lot of work for everyone especially our daughter. She was amazed at how absolutely wonderful everyone was and how many bottle caps were donated. She was concerned that they might not be able to collect enough bottle caps. The library had people mailing bottle caps to them from across the state!

Hope you enjoy seeing our summer project and thanks for stopping by to visit!

Windy Meadow