Upcycling Crayons

20 years ago, a term was coined that has become a part of our regular dialog.

The expression? UPCYCLINGcrayon

As opposed to recycling everything, which often begins with the destruction (downcycling) of the item,

a German engineer named Reiner Philz proposed in 1994 that

“what we need is upcycling, where old products are given more value, not less.”


Today, you can quickly and easily find a way to use almost anything you formerly would’ve been encouraged or tempted to pitch. (Just one more reason so many people love pinterest and Etsy!)

Upcycled clothing. Upcycled furniture. Upcycled music and art.

I’m not here to advocate holding on to all the “stuff” in your home. In fact, here (08/27/12) is a blog about just the opposite! Remember the questions “is it useful? Is it beautiful?”

However, giving old products more value… making them useful or beautiful… is a great thing!

A while ago, we did just that with our broken, cracked, and half-used-up crayons! If you need a project for a rainy day, you may want to give crayon pointillism art a try.crayon7

Pointillism art is simply a technique in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image. Crayon pointillism art looks like this:





You can find all sorts of instructions and ideas on-line. I’m not going to share those here… just a few pointers for the beginner, from my own experience attempting this form of art with my kids:

  1. This is not a project to suggest to the kids while you finish scrubbing the tub. Adult supervision is required. You’ll definitely want to be involved! (Lit candles… dripping wax…you know.) So make that pot of coffee, if need be, put on some music, and get ready for some family-time!
  2. Make sure to peel the crayons ahead of time (or do this part as a separate project, on another day. Great dexterity work, right?).
  3. I think it works best to choose several shades of the same color for the art work. For example, if making a tree picture, use several browns for the trunk and a number of different greens for the leaves. Then group the colors. The 4 shades of blue in one container, the 3 browns in another. This is part of what makes the pictures so beautiful.
  4. One more crayon tip. For this event, the crayon needs to be fairly long or little fingers will get too close to the flame! Save the stubby crayons for another project (like the one at the bottom of this post!).
  5. Be sure to use a tablecloth that you can throw away OR cover the table with newspapers that can be tossed. Drips of melted crayon DO end up on surfaces other than the intended paper.
  6. Having an idea (or subject) ahead of time is helpful for some. My more naturally creative kids came up with an idea in their mind and just started dropping melted crayon in drips onto the paper, designing it as they went (a sailboat on the water, a nighttime sky). Others – especially the younger ones – preferred a simple pencil-sketched form to fill in (a tree on a hill, a rainbow). crayon2I think even a simple high-quality coloring page would work. You know, the ones that have only a large, happy dog on the page or a single plane in the sky. Not a fast moving Road Runner being chased down the road by the Coyote, smoke at his heals, a cactus bush and cliff looming in the distance… nope, too much detail! Simple is better (in life in general, and in this case!).
  7. If you have a perfectionist, be ready to encounter a bit of frustration if something doesn’t turn out just as they envisioned. Thankfully, this is one form of art where ‘mistakes’ can either be peeled off after they’ve dried a bit OR you can simply place another color ‘drip’ over the top of the ‘mistake’!
  8. Here’s a candle-hint. The longer the wick, the better. And it works best to have either a pillar candle or a tall candle that’s in a candle-holder (not a jar-candle). You want it to be steady! And one candle per person is best. The candles did go out from time to time so have the lighter/matches handy for relighting!
  9. My number eight tip… that should be posted as #1…. is to throw out your expectations and just have fun with it! For quite a while, the children worked so carefully and quietly, and the pictures were coming along beautifully. I was so pleased and impressed! And THEN one of them discovered how much fun it was to, after putting a drip on their page, get down close to the drip and to blooooow and watch it spread/splatter. This became the new technique for a few of them. And THEN the youngest decided that it was easier to just melt the crayon and draw/paint with it in the soft, wet form. And so, the art project continued… for quite a long time! Not necessarily ‘pointillism’, but definitely ART WORK! They had fun. Their pictures really were pretty cool. And, hey, we used up some of those formerly forsaken color-crayons! Score!!!

A quick search on-line with reveal many, many more ideas for those old crayons in your art box. More than you have time or energy to even attempt!

Here’s a project that Grandma worked on with some of the girls.

1. Peel the crayons and cut them into small pieces.crayon6

2. Place the chunks in a mini muffin tin and put them in a warm oven (use a very low temperature).

3. When the crayons have melted, remove the pan from the oven and let the crayons cool (and harden).

4. Remove the “new” crayons from the tin and enjoy!


Upcycling CRAYONS… what’ll we think of next!


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