Using sustainable materials in the carnival arts

Since 2019 Route Canal Arts and Simon Tipping has been developing a sustainable ethos in the materials, we use to create carnival costume and large processional sculptures.  Mainly looking at the possibilities of eliminating or reducing the amount of petroleum-based materials used in the carnival sector. As most of Route Canal Arts workshops takes place in primary schools and with community groups we are taking a practical look on how this will impacted on activities through developing methods in creativity using sustainable material and whether it will increase the time spent with people, increase preparation time or impact on the quality of work produced or have a substantial effect on groups of special needs.

We believe that climate change and sustainability are manifestations of cultural values. Our vision is contingent on values that recognise our place in the ecosystem.

Our values come from a deep appreciation of the world around us; some understanding of how we affect it; and a commitment to bring to it our very best.’

Julies Bicycle values

Evaluating materials in the creative process

As carnival artists we have tended to use bright colours, fibre rod and lots of shinny stuff using modern materials produced from petroleum, in the classroom they have had the benefit of being quick and easy to use to produce stunning costumes with people of all ages. Many artists are socially responsible sourcing recycled materials to use in their practice and in educational settings but unfortunately most of these are plastics which once altered invariably cannot be recycled and end up in landfill or rivers or oceans. Reducing the amount of plastics has now become a hot topic and we need as a sector to look at the implication and impact it has on our activities.

Sustainable materials are materials used throughout our consumer and industrial economy that can be produced in required volumes without depleting non-renewable resources and without disrupting the established steady-state equilibrium of the environment and key natural resource systems.

Paper, paper pulp, tissue paper and cardboard

Paper and cardboard are cheap and easily accessible materials to obtain and recycle. Idea for making large sculptural and puppet like structures, carnival masks and headdresses

Using a little bit of maths, science and a lot of hard work its possible to make a boat to hold 3 or 4 young out of paper products which will float for up to 40 minutes on water before sinking.

Bamboo cane and poles

Cardboard puppets on bamboo frames and backpacks

Rubber, rubber inner-tube and motorcycle tyres

  • True rubber comes from the rubber plant but can also be made synthetically, rubber inner-tubes can replace cable ties while motorcycle tyres can be cut up and stuck together to make outdoor sculptures

Sustainable glues and tapes

plant and animal based, rubber latex glue, biodegradable PVA, Gluten glues.

Rubber latex glue or Copydex can be used to stick textiles together or lantern making, also it’s biodegradable. It’s possible to make your own glues from food stuff found in the kitchen. (See our blog on How to make glue at home)

A group of people in a park

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Transformers, St Paul’s Secondary School, Parade of Colours, Milton Keynes. Cardboard and paper Mâché costumes

Natural fibres

plant and animal based – Hemp, organic cotton, silks

The process to make natural fibres into usable products is not always environmentally friendly.

Timber

Hardboard, MDF and plywood are manufactured with glues from unsustainable sources

Willow

Baskets, Lantern making and sculptural work. Willow can easily be grown and coppices in backgardens.

Water soluble paint and textile dyes

Bright, shinny, or fluorescent colour is the hardest to reproduce from sustainable sources, but we are working that. Most natural colour is pastel or earthy in tone. Like glue it’s possible to make your own base paint from food stuff found in the kitchen and then add colour. (See our blog on How to make your own paint at Home)

Aluminium and steel

Although aluminium and steel is not grown it’s considered sustainable as it can be melted down and refashioned again and again. Useful in making Bicycle powered vehicles, sculpture, backpacks, wire bending, frames, puppets etc.

A picture containing white, sitting, building, black

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Colourful Aluminium cans can easily be cut with scissors and used in decoration

What sustainable ethical questions should we ask before choosing materials for workshops or art projects?

  1. Are the materials used in carnival arts sustainable and environmentally friendly?
  2. Are materials from sustainable sources biodegradable or recyclable
  3. If materials used need to be from unsustainable sources what is the criteria for using them e.g. artistic merit, weight, longevity, commercial – hired out over a 10 year period.

Other considerations to think about apart from the materials used is the transportation of our King and Queen structures, costumes, masquerades, carnival bands and instruments.

Implications

  1. Will the use of Sustainable materials reduce who we are able to work with in educational environments?
  2. Are the materials easy to use and manipulate?
  3. Will using sustainable materials impact on budgets?
  4. Will using sustainable materials increase preparation and making time?
  5. Will using water-soluble products increase drying time?
Towards a Greener Carnival, 13th & 14th March 2020, a Carnival Network South Conference.

The creative design thinking will require a new dimension where the retrieval, dismantling and reuse of carnival costume and structures will be designed into the product from the beginning.

This project has been supported by Carnival Network South, The Arts Council England and Route Canal Arts.

Please feedback on this article so that we can evolve the use of sustainable materials, costume design and carnival.

A carnival day in school making carnival hats with year 3

Who is Route Canal Arts?

Established 2017

Simon Tipping: Creative Director and Founder of Route canal Arts is passionate about delivering high quality experiences in the indoor and outdoor arts sector, he brings a wealth of experience in engaging the young and the old in creative learning, making art accessible, relevant and participatory for everyone.

Simon loves carnival, having attended the Trinidad, Viareggio and Venice carnivals, participated at the Rio carnival with Paul Davies and his Embaixadores da Alegria, travelled to Bei Jing, China with Ali Pretty’s Kinetika and her Imagination Our Nation project, as well as show casing the work of Festive Road at the Thames festival night time carnival.

Over the past 35 years Simon has worked regularly and extensively across schools and communities including Special Needs, working with inmates at HM Prisons, Adult Learning, Sure Start, Youth Clubs, Events & Festivals in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, London, Northamptonshire, and Somerset as a freelance artist, in partnership with other fellow artists or as Route Canal Arts.

Is art education the glue that holds the school together?

The arts in Schools is often placed outside of the subject areas considered as ‘core academic subjects. As educators and artists, we must use the core subjects of English, maths and science to be able to deliver our creativity with a sprinkling of history and geography. Students taking part in school-based extracurricular art, drama or music activities is, along with feelings of connection to peers, the most important contributor to school engagement.

Walking with Giants carnival parade, Milton Keynes

Whether your project is large or small Route Canal Arts can offer help and advice at every stage.

One of Route Canal Arts specialisation is Project management with a proven record in delivering art projects, workshops, carnivals and lantern parades within cost, schedule, and resource constraints. We have hands-on skills in organising parades, bringing together local communities, recycling, using materials from sustainable sources, funding advice, Health and Safety, Risk assessments, road closure and road management, a network of artists, dancers, and musicians help to ensure that project goals are realised from start to finish.

Creative Partnerships makes a positive difference to how teachers teach, people and students think

Route Canal Arts offers participants including business, a break from their routine to engage in creative Team Building activities which promote the benefits of working in collaboration, unlocks hidden talents and constructively addresses issues.

Workshops are facilitated by expert practitioners who have years of experience creating motivational environments and empowering participants to overcome their inhibitions. Activities are designed to stimulate creative thinking, break down communication barriers and boost confidence, whilst providing valuable opportunities for individual growth.

As visual artists we love Carnival because it involves skilled art forms across music, movement, sculpture, recycling, textiles, and costume. These art forms are not just rooted in the UK but traditions from all around the world. 

Mk Dhol drumming band 2008 to 2017

As a provider of a service to the community, Route Canal Arts accepts the responsibility to promote equal opportunities and challenge discrimination wherever it occurs.

Route Canal Arts values the diversity of the local population. We want our services, facilities and resources to be accessible and useful to every citizen regardless of gender, age, ethnic origin, religious belief, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any other individual characteristic which may unfairly affect a person’s opportunities in life.

Towards a Greener Carnival – Glue Recipes

Since 2019 Route Canal Arts and Simon Tipping has been developing a sustainable ethos in the materials, we use to create carnival costume and large processional sculptures.  Mainly looking at the possibilities of eliminating or reducing the amount of petroleum-based materials used in the carnival sector.

How to make Glue for carnival, lantern making, school and community workshops.

Step away from shop bought glues – lets discover the tradition of easy to make glues for ingredients found in the kitchen with the piece of mind that the glue is safe to use and from sustainable sources.

Sustainable products are those products that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal.

The key to making these resources work for you is approaching them with creativity and openness and using them as tools to suit your own purposes. They do not require artistic expertise just a sense of fun and enthusiasm.

Part 1 – How to Make Glue

Here are several different ways to make homemade glue. The simplest glue is made from a paste of flour and water. You can also make cornstarch paste or milk glue. All are easy, non-toxic, and great for making paper & cardboard crafts including paper-mâché projects. Milk glue is stronger than a flour-based glue and is a fun glue to make because you can hear the chemical reactions happening while you make it! All of these glues are great for making with kids and require little time to complete.

CONTENTS

Recipe 1 – Simple Flour Glue

Recipe 2 – Paper Mache

Recipe 3 – Milk Glue

Recipe 1 – Making a Simple Flour Glue

Ingredients

100g flour

80ml cup water

14g Salt

Gather your ingredients. Measure 100g of flour, 14g Salt and 80ml water in a medium sized bowl. This simple flour glue is great to make if you are making crafts with young children, ideal for paper mache.

  • Mix your flour and water in a bowl with a spoon. Blend the mixture until it as thick as pancake batter. The paste should not be too thick or too drippy.
  • If you need more glue, simply double the recipe.
  • If you need less glue, start with the amount of flour you will use, then add water, a teaspoon at a time, until it reaches the right consistency.
  • Cook the glue paste over medium heat until it boils. Pour your glue paste in a saucepan and stir constantly until the mixture bubbles. Take it off the heat when the paste starts bubbling and wait until the mixture cools before you use it.

Tip; treat mixing and heating the glue like making/cooking a bechamel source

  • Use the glue soon after making it. You can use a brush or your fingers to apply the glue to your crafts. The glue paste can be used to stick paper together for a variety of craft projects and decorations such as making greeting cards and kids projects.

This glue can become mouldy over time. To prevent mould, you should dry your craft project completely over a heater.

  • Store in a refrigerator to reuse later. Keep any unused glue in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. The glue should last a week or two.
  • If the glue gets dry, add a little warm water to reuse it.

Recipe 2 – Making Paper Mache Glue

Ingredients

200g flour

65g sugar

80/100ml water with 1 tsp white vinegar mixed in

  • You can adjust the recipe as needed to make more or less glue. The basic proportions are 3:1 for the flour: sugar mixture. Use one teaspoon of vinegar for every 200g of flour you use. If you want a smoother paste, you can sift the flour before you make your paste.
  • Blend the mix until it is very smooth and lump-free. It will have the consistency of a thick paste. When smooth, whisk in the rest of the water, 80ml to 160ml depending on how runny you want your paste, and mix thoroughly. Blend your ingredients until your glue is smooth and a little runny but not watery. Your paste should not be too thick or too drippy.
  • Cook over medium heat. Pour your mixture in your saucepan and turn on the heat. Stir the mixture constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Once your mixture starts to boil, you can turn off the heat.

Tip; treat mixing and heating the glue like making/cooking a bechamel source

  •  When the mixture has cooled, use it for any craft projects including paper Mâché. Once you have finished, keep any unused glue in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. This glue will keep for 2 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

Make sure to dry thoroughly any of the crafts you make with this glue. If the project stays damp, it may grow mouldy over time. Mould needs water to grow so as long as you pat your products dry or heat them over an oven, you will keep mould away.

Recipe 3 – Making Milk Glue

Ingredients

Baking soda

120ml cup skim milk

Measuring cup/jug

Rubber bands

2 tablespoons white vinegar

Measuring spoons

Paper towels

Combine 120ml skim milk with 2 tablespoons vinegar. Mix ingredients together well in a small bowl and give the mixture 2 minutes to sit. The protein in the milk will clump together into small white lumps. And the chemical reaction will turn the protein of the milk into lumps or curds. The liquid that remains is called whey.

Make a strainer to strain the curds from the whey. Put a paper towel over the top of a cup with a large mouth. Push down the paper towel in the middle so that it caves in. Then take your rubber band and put it around the top of the cup and paper towel to hold your paper towel strainer in place.  

Strain the curds from the whey. Carefully pour the curds and whey on top of the paper towel. The whey will drain into the cup while the curds will stay on the top of the paper towel. Leave the curds and whey on the paper towel strainer for about 5 minutes to give it time to strain.

Scoop the curds off of the top of the strainer and onto two dry paper towels. Press down on the curds so that all the liquid whey is squeezed out. You want to make sure that you get out all the whey to make the glue.

In another small bowl, add the curds, 2 teaspoons of water, and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Stir the mixture together well. You will be able to hear the sound of bubbles popping if you listen closely because the reaction of the baking soda with the curds creates carbon dioxide.

If the mixture does not have the consistency of glue, add more water to the mixture by the teaspoon until it is the correct consistency.

Use this milk glue for any craft projects including lantern making. Once you have finished, keep any unused glue in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. This glue will keep for 2 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

This project has been supported by Carnival Network South, The Arts Council England and Route Canal Arts.

Please feedback on this article so that we can evolve the use of sustainable materials, costume design and carnival.