Maybe you've been reading life hack listicles on how to reuse mint containers and cereal boxes. Maybe you've saved a lot of Pinterest links to DIY tin can tea light lanterns and desk organizers. It happens. I've been there. But, really, who has the time? Or, actually, who has the use? Is it really upcycling if you're saving garbage to make something that serves no purpose in your actual life? What happens to your carbon footprint if you decide the cereal box magazine holder, that you decoupaged with specialty foil paper and rhinestones, is the epitome of tacky and chuck it out with the regular trash when you could've recycled Snap, Crackle and Pop in the first place? The temptation to hold onto soup cans and coffee sleeves and tissue boxes is strong if you're frugal and crafty, but eventually you wind up with a room full of junk and a feeling of twice-over failure.
My biggest garbage vice is saving jars. Jars are pretty great. You can store food and doodads in them, then wash 'em and put different doodads and food in them. You can decorate them or strip off the labels and let the contents serve as decor. With all the dry goods we pick up from bulk food stores, it’s nice to have glass containers around to transfer to from the plastic bags. The plastic bags are perfect for used kitty litter. The twist ties multiply in a kitchen drawer for a time when I find a useful Buzzfeed listicle for ways we never thought to use twist ties. At least they don't take up a lot of space, right?
For a long time, I stored my crafting supplies in boxes. This turned out to be a mistake as I forgot what I had, would never use things, and just crammed stuff into random boxes instead of following my own organization system. Not checking the boxes before starting project led to doubling up on tools and materials. A few years ago, I picked up the terrible habit of drinking instant coffee in the afternoon. I quickly amassed a collection of empty coffee jars, which is not the worst habit to form in our recycle/reuse culture niche. In an effort to use my arts and crafts materials more often—and stop unnecessary purchases—I moved stuff into the coffee jars. Now I can see all the stuff I'm not using. Who knew I had so many craft knifes?
During one of my infinite Tumblr scrolls, I happened onto Eric Barclay’s transformation of used condiment containers. Brilliant. Of course I came down with a case of the Icandothats. So I took a couple of my coffee jars and painted them up.
For my first attempt, I came up with the owl/bird-like creature to paint on the jar surface. I used shoe whitener as a primer because that’s what I had on hand at the time. The shoe whitener had a built-in sponge applicator, making for quick and easy priming. After the primer, I drew on my character design with a light pencil. The trouble with drawing on oddly shaped surfaces means the design can go a bit wonky, but with an original creation, who can tell if it's wrong or an artistic choice? Once I had my design sketched on, I used some tiny brushes to apply ordinary acrylic craft paint, drew over the paint borders with Sharpie and covered the whole thing in a coat or two of gloss Mod Podge to protect from light scratches and the elements.
Barclay’s coffee mates reminded me so much of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore that I decided to transform jars into their Pete & Dud characters. When I realized that I didn’t document the process for the owl jars, I snapped a few crappy low light shots of my Pete & Dud process.
You can find tons more inspiration for painting any kind of jar on your favourite image searching platform. The great thing about painted jars is being able to store secrets or valuables or other garbage like dead batteries and ballpoint pens with one scribble left. If you can't resist the temptation to resurrect garbage, glass jars are your best bet for easy repurposing.
[Fuck mason jars, though. Mason jars used to be for jams and sweet tea and now they've been spoiled by twee hipster eateries and country-chic weddings. Now mason jars with Edison lightbulbs illuminate gourmet grilled cheese sandwich shops and barnyard wedding receptions in all the trend-following metropolises.]