Friday, September 11, 2009


A few months ago the college kids across the street from my mom moved out and left a bunch of garbage out by the curb. I was over there one day so I wandered across the street to see if they threw anything neat away. There were two boxes with hundreds of bottle caps that it looked like they had saved up and I figured I might be able to make an art project out of them so I took them home and stashed them in my studio.


I wanted to make something similar to my matchbook series art where I cut out pictures and glue them to the inside covers but I knew it would be more difficult to cut out small circles that would fit on the inner or outer side of the bottle caps. At first I thought I could find a circular paper punch and just punch them out that way and I figured that with all the scrapbooking tools they have out there I could find one in the perfect size. My aunt is a big scrapbook/craft person so I asked her first but she didn't have anything to help me. I went to the Hobby Lobby and they had a punch that was almost perfect (a little larger than a nickel) but the only problem was you couldn't see what you were punching out or if things were lined up the way you wanted. Plus, it was almost $9.00 and if I'm going to make artwork out of garbage it doesn't make sense to spend a bunch of money on tools. The last person I asked was my landlord who runs an antique store in the country and has the biggest workshop I've ever seen and about every tool or object you can imagine. He suggested a few metal punches that you hit with a hammer but since I usually use a lot of "retro" images from old magazines and books that it might be a bit of "overkill" for old paper. Finally I decided to bite the bullet and just cut them out with scissors by hand.
When I was a kid I was always spellbound at how a grade school teacher could cut paper with the smoothest precision. I tried so hard when I was young to emulate their craft. Since I am left-handed when it would come time to buy school supplies my mom would always buy me those green handled "lefty" scissors every year but the thing is, my right hand is actually my dominant hand and the one I use for cutting so I'm sure that didn't help. I've spent years since those days perfecting my style so I've mastered the ability. I can cut the smoothest most intricate curves and angles but it still takes time and my original plan was to create 400 perfectly round little images to glue on the pop caps. After that I would mount them on a large board or canvas. Just choosing the images, cleaning the sticky pop caps, finding the right board, and gluing it all together so it would be sturdy was already a large enough task.
I spent quite a few evenings measuring and cutting out the little circles one by one and gluing them in place. By the time I got 60-70 of them done I decided to settle on a more reachable hand-cramping goal of 100.
I did 50 pop caps with the images on the inside of the cap, and 50 with the images on the outside. I also used a variety of different colored caps and matched the color with the pictures. When I got finished with those I got a piece of masonite from my landlord that was the perfect size to mount them. I painted it with a coat of white gesso and used red/blue alternating stripes for a plaid effect to create the squares to place each cap. I alternated the caps face up/down for a checkerboard effect, for the face up caps I cut 50 little cubes out of thick foamboard which I hot-glued into the center of the inside of the caps to secure them without having to glue the thin edges. Once everything dried I used a paintbrush to coat the entire front with Mod Podge making sure to seal up all the spaces between the caps and the board and giving it a neat glossy look. Here are some photos of the finished piece:





The only thing left to do is attach brackets for hanging and sign/date the revese side. This artwork titled "Popcap Series 1" will be up for sale with other works at the S&C Gallery downtown Cedar Falls within the next couple of weeks.


marypotterkenyon said...

That is so cool,Steve!!!

jkramer48 said...

I really like what you did with your caps, and how you mounted them makes the "frame" part of the picture. You are a very talented artist, and I especially like the way you use ordinary objects in a very unique way.
Auntie Joan


My landlord liked it so much he gave me two more pieces of wood and a box full of real antique bottle caps. He wants me to make him one. Thanks guys!