Friday, May 20, 2011

4th Grade Bottle Cap Mural

This project seems to be a favorite among students, parents, and blog readers.  This is the third year in a row the 4th grade has created a bottle cap mural for permanent display in the school.  The previous two have gone in separate stairwells, but this mural will be placed in four side-by-side windows in the library.  This year, students decided to make Dr. Seuss characters and spell out the word 'READ' on the mural.

In the past, I've gotten a many questions about how this process is done, so I'll describe it in more detail this year.  Of course, if anyone has questions, please feel free to post a question in the comments area or email me directly.  The work is all inspired by Michelle Stitzlein, a local artist who works with school groups and has quite an impressive collection of her own fine art work.  She focuses on the use of recycled materials in her art.
First, the boards are primed with a latex primer.  The design is then drawn out with sharpie and the whole mural is painted with either latex or acrylic paints.  This gives the mural a base color and allows for some spaces to stand alone without caps if need be.  Sharpie is again used to clean up edges and define colors.  The next part can be done a couple of different ways.  I know some people like to do all the caps at one time and bring in parent volunteers with cordless drills to help out.  I like working on it gradually.  I just have the kids carefully hot glue the caps on the boards then I put screws into the caps later on.  I use these screws.  To give an idea of how many to buy, I used right around 2000 screws for the mural this year.


DellaRae said... [Reply]

This looks great. Do you think tacky glue would work?

Zach Stoller said... [Reply]

Tacky glue could potentially work, but I would bet that it wouldn't hold as a long term solution. Unless the finished work is indoors and completely out of reach of kids, the screws are pretty necessary.

A. Scribner said... [Reply]

HI Zach
Did you paint the mural first or did the kids. I just did a large rainforest one with my students with no painting underneat....just a pencil drawing. I like how it looks with the painting but just wondering if you left this up to the kids. thanks!

Zach Stoller said... [Reply]

I worked with the kids to figure out what we wanted to do, then I drew out the panels. The 4th graders were the ones who actually painted it, though. I like how the color comes through even more with the painted background.

Stephanie Melachrinos said... [Reply]

Thank you for posting about bottlecap murals. I've enjoyed seeing each year's creation!

We started collecting bottlecaps last spring but only assembled our mural a few weeks ago. I just posted pictures on my blog.

Zach Stoller said... [Reply]

Great work, Stephanie! I'm glad the work my kids are doing is inspiring other art teachers.

Anonymous said... [Reply]

Hi Zach!
I was just wondering if you knew off the top of your head approximately how much this project cost to do including the glue, screws, tools, wood, and paint. And do you recommend a certain tool to screw the screws in?
Thanks so much!

Zach Stoller said... [Reply]

This project is a little expensive. I think I average spending a little over $100 on it. My PTO gives me $100 because it is a permanent school installation. I just use a drill with a phillips head bit to put the screws in. If you have any other questions, just let me know.

Anonymous said... [Reply]

Wonderful! Thank you so much! This is my first year teaching and the city's Chamber of Commerce that I live in gives grants up $500 to teachers in the area. I love this idea and want to do something like that to help decorate either the schools in the district or important buildings in the town. Your info will definitely help me write the grant! Thanks again!

Anonymous said... [Reply]

Hi Zach,
Another question- I noticed in your post you say I used these screws but when I try to click on it nothing happens. I don't know if thats my computer not showing a link or what but if you could tell me exactly what kind of screws they are then that would be great! I'm totally clueless on tools and hardware so would a Dewalt 7-amp 3/8" work for drilling in screws?
Thanks again!

Zach Stoller said... [Reply]

Rachel- Here is a link to the screws-->
Cap Screws
If it doesn't work, try to copy and paste in your browser. Any kind of drill with a philips head bit (shaped somewhat like a star) would work fine. If it is cordless, just make sure you have an extra battery charged.

Anonymous said... [Reply]

Thank you for explaining step by step on how to do this. I appreciate it. Sometimes, us teachers simply have 1,000 things going on in our brains at the same time. This is the only place where I finally got good, concrete step by step directions.

I will let you know what we do with our bottle caps. Thanks again

Jenn F said... [Reply]

What kind of wood did you use? And was this suspended? Can you post a link for the hardware used to suspend it? Thanks! Trying to get a grant from my PTO to fund this project. Great job!

Zach Stoller said... [Reply]

Essentially what I do is ask my custodian to have the mural hung over the summer. The first two I did were bolted directly into the wall and this one was mounted inside window frames. Here is a link to the photos of the finished piece-->
The wood is just cheap particle board. It's about $13 for a 4'x8' sheet at Lowe's. Definitely the biggest expense is the screws. I have a link to those a couple comments above this one. Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

Jenn F said... [Reply]

Great! Thanks so much. I actually got a great suggestion to use air compresser stapler to hold the bottle cap on. Its cheaper and a little less time consuming (I hope!)I think it will work well because it is being mounted indoors.
Thanks for your help!

Zach Stoller said... [Reply]

That's a fantastic idea. Please let me know how it works. It would definitely save some time and money.

jen y said... [Reply]

We are trying this as our first all school art project that will be hung outside in our courtyard. We are building a shadow box type of frame with plexiglass. Have you ever hung one outside? I'd love some tips! Thank you for the inspiration.

Zach Stoller said... [Reply]

I have never attempted doing any outdoor cap work, but I would imagine if you used outdoor paint for the background to seal the board you would probably be fine. I would definitely use the screws I mentioned in the post to attach the caps. I really like your idea of using a shadowbox to put them in. I think it will look really cool. Good luck!

Cate said... [Reply]

What type of screws exactly are you using, getting ready to do a mural and I need to know asap, please!

Zach Stoller said... [Reply]
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zach Stoller said... [Reply]

Here are the screws I used-->