Five-year-old Claire Franzman was hard at work Sunday, strategically arranging bright green bottle caps with her tiny fingers on the floor of a meeting room at Bettendorf Public Library.|
Her siblings, Avery, 8, and Gabe, 6, were quickly sorting the colorful caps in buckets, ensuring the blues remained with the blues, the whites with the whites.
They were three of about 15 kids who came to the library with their families Sunday to build a mural out of bottle caps with visiting artist and "bottle cap lady"Michelle Stitzlein, of Baltimore, Ohio, who specializes in sculptures made from reclaimed materials.
"We're recycling, and we're saving the Earth," Avery said, as she excitedly balled up the sides of her frilly pink skirt in her hands.
She said she was sorting caps and drilling them into place. "It's been really fun."
Library youth services manager Tami Finley was bouncing about the meeting room, helping to give kids direction and chatting with parents.
She said she found the idea for a bottle cap mural on Pinterest,an online bulletin board of sorts where people can "pin" everything from craft and home ideas to recipes and style ideas.
She did a bit of investigating, which led her to Ms. Stitzlein, who had been doing art residencies in schools across the country.
Ms. Finley said she got in contact with Ms. Stitzlein, secured funding for the project through the Waste Commission of Scott County; hooked up with Habitat ReStore in Davenport and Reusable Usables in LeClaire, and started a community-wide collection of bottle caps last April.
Habitat ReStore offered some cabinet doors to use as the base for the bottle cap murals, and Ms. Finley and Ms. Stitzlein hashed out a plan to create a mural of an open book with a river, trees, a fish and an eagle out of bottle caps.
While some kids worked to arrange the caps on the cabinets, others worked with parents and Ms. Stitzlein with hand drills to screw them down to the wood.
Even the kids who were simply sorting the bottle caps were "having a blast," Ms. Finley said.
Ms. Finley said the library is always looking for ways to involve kids in activities, and she loved the display aspect of the mural.
Working with bottle caps also makes for easy craft projects at home, too, she said, "and it doesn't cost anything."
During a quick break from drilling, Ms. Stitzlein said she has been creating sculptures out of recycled materials since 2000. She added bottle caps to her list of materials in 2004 when she was invited to be an artist-in-residence at a school and couldn't bring her beloved rusty metal for the kids to work with.
Ever since, "it's gone viral," she said, "which is great."
She also appreciates that people can "make something beautiful" out of items that otherwise would have been thrown away.
It's "an exercise of thinking outside of the box," she said, which is "good not only for artists but for all careers and vocations."
Like many of the kids at the library Sunday, little Avery was an old pro when it came to building with bottle caps.She said she has created a flower, clock and sun out of bottle caps at school.
AaryaJoshi, 7, of Bettendorf, said she has made a robot out of caps at her school.
Her father, Yogesh, said Aarya was the reason why they were there.
"She wanted to come here badly," he said, adding that his other daughter, Aabha, 11, had helped for a while, too.
"It's really fun," Aarya said,adding that the best part was the drilling.
She enjoyed the recycling aspect of the project, she said, as her family recycles at home.
Brothers Nihar, 10, and Nikhil Behere, 7, were also hard at work, kneeling on the floor and carefully adding bottle caps.
Their father, Neel, sat with the other fathers nearby.
The project was interactive and creative, he said, and "they like it."
Nihar explained that to work on the mural, he would choose bottle caps from nearby buckets, place them on the board, and with an adult's help, drill them down.
"It's cool," Nihar said. "I like recycling."
The completed mural will be on display at the Bettendorf Library and will then make its way to other area libraries as sort of a "traveling display," Ms. Finley said. Its final home will be the Waste Commission of Scott County.