9 Ways to Turn ‘Stuff’ Into Art


There’s no question that art personalizes and adds a level of sophistication to any room. However, finding really cool artwork can sometimes be a pricey proposition. Fortunately there are many clever, easy and inexpensive ways in which to get art up on the walls that will not break the bank. There are plenty of simple and inexpensive projects that add visual interest to a room and be a conversation starter with friends and family. Here are a few:

  1. Children’s Artwork. All parents swoon with delight when their kids come home from school with a finger painting, collage or drawing. Rather than sticking their latest masterpiece on the front of the fridge, choose a few favorites, frame them and hang them in a prominent spot in the house so everyone can appreciate the work of your budding Picasso. Simple frames, which can be purchased inexpensively at local hobby shops and mass-market retailers, will make it all seem very contemporary and a more eclectic look can be achieved by framing the kiddie art in funky mismatched frames bought inexpensively at yard sales and junk shops.
  2. Thrift Stores and Flea Markets. Scour thrift stores and frequent flea markets for quirky old paintings that can often be bought for under ten or twelve bucks. Usually the paintings are already framed and ready to be hung on the wall. Try collecting multiples of different sizes but all in a single theme (i.e. portraits of women or flowers) and group them together to create your own private folk art museum.
  3. Fabric Panels. Head down to the local fabric store and buy a yard or two of fabric in a bold print. Stop off at the art supply store and pick up a stretched canvas in the size and shape that will work best for where the fabric panel will hang. Since the canvas will be completely covered with fabric, buy the least expensive canvas available. Lay the fabric on a flat surface and place the canvas face down on it. Trim the fabric with fabric sheers leaving 4-6” of extra fabric around the canvas. Pull the fabric back over the frame and secure with a staple gun. Voila! Instant modern art.
  4. Calendars, Postcards and Magazines. Trim and frame postcards, calendar art, magazine covers or advertisements in standard size store bought frames. Using vintage materials bought inexpensively at used bookstores, antique shops and online retailers like Paper Boy News will give any room a retro look. Buy a cheesy postcard or two during vacations and weekend trips and frame them to make an idiosyncratic gallery of your travels.
  5. Record Covers. Make use of those of old LPs taking up space in the garage or stashed in the back of the closet. Select a couple of favorite albums, mount them on a thick piece of matting that can be picked up at a frame shop, art supply or hobby shop or purchase record sized frames from a specialized frame retailer like FrameMyRecord.com or My2Buds.com.
  6. Pressed Flowers. A great way to remember a vacation or beloved location is to pick up a few leaves or flowers that can be pressed flat between the pages of a book. There are several methods for pressing and preserving flowers, leaves and herbs. Once the flowers are dried and pressed, arrange and affix them onto a stiff piece of paper or other backing sized to fit into an inexpensive standard sized store bought frame.
  7. Acrylic and Lucite Boxes. Collections are excellent for expressing personal interests and adding art-like elements to a room. Many hobby stores and online retailers such as the Acrylic Display Store sell acrylic and/or Lucite boxes that can be used to make a creative statement when filled with small collectable items like buttons, shells, rocks, matchbooks, bottle caps, dice or any other small thing. Think out of the box when thinking of what to put in your box. For example, try collecting, layering and displaying items by color for a visually unexpected display.
  8. Electrical Tape. Electrical tape comes in a multitude of colors and is perfect for making geometric, retro-feeling and Mondrian-like wall installations. Sketch out a pattern or shape with a pencil using straightedge and a level. Simply affix the tape over the sketched drawing. Colored acetate sheets or personal photos can be incorporated for more complicated installations.
  9. Store Bought. Less creative types in search of immediate art gratification who don’t mind that their neighbor could very well have the exact same drawing in their house are still in luck when it comes to inexpensive options. Major catalog retailers like Ikea and West Elm sell mass produced framed artworks for a fraction of what it costs to buy a something similar in a gallery setting. If you have a few more pennies to spend and want real art, try some of the online art dealers like The Beholder where a hand-stitched gocco print by artist Dana Robson can be purchased for as little as $25.

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