Tami Finley, the youth services manager at the Bettendorf Public Library, has been washing plastic bottle caps and lids for months now. She has filled more than 100 gallon-size bags and stashed them away in the library.
On Jan. 27, the caps from bottles, detergent containers and butter tubs will be used by members of the community — adults and children alike — to make a 4- by 6-foot mural on plywood under the direction of visiting Ohio artist/author Michelle Stitzlein.
The “community build” mural project idea originated with Finley as a fun, hands-on activity to do with children.
People showing up for the 1-5 p.m. event at the library will collaborate on a design, which will be sketched on the wood with a kind of “paint-by-numbers” designation for various colors, she explained. Then, participants will attach the caps to the board using cordless drills and self-drilling screws.
Finley is hoping for a river-related theme, something unique to the Quad-City area. Once finished, the work will be displayed at the library, and then it will travel to a Waste Commission of Scott County facility as a visual reminder to promote recycling.
A $3,000 grant from the waste commission is paying for Stitzlein’s three-day visit to the Quad-Cities, which also will include a presentation Jan. 25 at Habitat ReStore in Davenport and a free workshop for art educators Jan. 26 at the library.
Finley encountered Stitzlein’s art on Pinterest, an online project sharing site, as she was looking for ideas. Using recycled items fits in with the library’s winter reading program that carries the theme “Recycle your reading — read, return, repeat,” Finley said.
Stitzlein is an Ohio native who received her bachelor of fine art degree in 1989 from the College of Art and Design in Columbus. She and her husband, Nathaniel, operate Art Grange, creating art and sculpture from found objects and giving demonstrations, lectures and workshops.
She has been specializing in bottle caps since 2004. Inspired by artwork and techniques using metal bottle caps from American “tramp art,” as well as folk art from countries such as Mexico, South Africa and Guatemala, she developed projects for children.
“Bottle caps are simply wonderful art materials ... colorful, free, plentiful and fun for children to work with,” she said in an email.
In the end, “a beautiful final product proves that materials found in the waste stream CAN be successfully utilized and reused with magnificent results,” she added. “Wastefulness is wasteful ... for the earth, our wallet, and our very souls!”
Her ultimate goal is to create work that has the capacity to cause people to pause — without the need for a written statement or verbal description.
“They (the viewer) may have first admired the work for its beauty, only to realize after a few more seconds of study that it is indeed made with landfill material,” she said.