Secret confession time: I subscribe to over 20 magazines. (It was extremely dangerous for me to learn that you can get ultra-cheap subscriptions to popular mags through Ebay.) When I’m done with them, most go to a second reader that I found through Freecycle and then hopefully go on to recycling. But with that many magazines passing through my hands each month, I’m always interested in creative uses for the magazines themselves.
Enter magazine bowls! I’m far from the first person to have discovered these bowls. I learned to make them through a tutorial over on Craftster. But even that tutorial was inspired by products that have been sold in stores for a long time. Generally, artists in developing nations use traditional bamboo-weaving techniques with recycled newspapers to create bowls like the spare black-and-white newspaper beauties from Hip & Zen or this more colorful “Confetti” version from The Friends of the Seattle Public Library:
I’m also rather enamored with a confetti paper frame I recently came across in an online store called Zanisa:
A version of these items can be created from magazine pages at home. It’s a time-consuming process, but quite easy and relaxing to work on while you’re watching TV. There are four basic steps.
1. First, gather lots of colorful magazine pages! You’ll be folding the pages into strips, so you’re really only interested in the strip of color that will end up showing — roughly two inches on the clean (as opposed to torn) edge of the page. I tend to make my bowls along color lines (browns, reds, black-and-white, etc.), while other people believe the more colors, the better!
2. Second, fold each page horizontally into roughly equal strips. I usually fold the strips about 1 1/2” wide. I use a glue stick to attach the outside edge of the strip so that the strip is compact and easier to work with later in the process. (This is either a brilliant development on my part or an enormous waste of time and energy; I haven’t been able to figure that one out.) There’s a lot of variation in this process between different crafters. Some people roll diagonally, as I believe was described in the original Craftster tutorial linked above. Others cut their strips to equal widths rather than folding. I chose my process because I believe that folding horizontally is easiest, and I’m all about the easy. Here’s what a small stack of finished strips looks like:
3. When you’ve got dozens of finished strips, start rolling them into a coil. I usually glue-stick my first 4 or 5 strips for extra stability because you want them to stay in a tight, smooth roll. (But, again, maybe I just need to justify my purchase of that 12-pack of glue sticks!) After that, you’ll start in with the Scotch tape. Use a piece of clear tape to attach each strip to the next in one long “snake.” Note that, once you have your base started, I find it’s often easiest to make a long snake of 10-12 strips in your lap and then add them to the coil all at once, rather than adding each strip to the coil as you go. It’s easier to work in a strip than on a round surface. Meanwhile I keep a rubber band around the coil to ensure it’s tightly rolled even when I’m not working with it. Your coil will end up looking like a big coaster or trivet:
4. To make your big coil into a 3-dimensional bowl or pot, place your thumbs into the center of the coil, and pull upward on the sides with your fingers. The sides will “telescope” upwards until you wind up with a pot shape. This part is fun! You can keep sliding the slats around until you find what works best for you. I often require quite a bit of arranging and rearranging until I find a shape that’s not lopsided but not too boringly perfect…. Sometimes it helps to use an existing pot or bowl as a guide. This particular magazine bowl is intended as a new home for a fake plant with a broken pot, so I popped the plant inside to be sure it would fit — not something you want to find out afterward!
Once you find the shape you like, pull out your trusty ModPodge and give the pot a few coats to keep it intact and give it strength. And you’re done! Here’s my new pot, still held together with its rubber band, waiting for ModPodge. It’s being kept company by a couple of completed pots destined as a gift for a friend. The pots make great gifts because they’re natural containers for chocolate or cookies or beauty products, baby gifts, or whatnot….
My favorite part of magazine bowls is always the view from the top: