It’s estimated that only a third of what we recycle actually gets recycled. Plus the majority of paints in craft stores are not sustainably made or eco-friendly. So how can artists make an environmental impact when creating? How can artists access sustainable and affordable supplies? Read on for 4 ways to sustainably and affordably source art supplies.


1. Local Thrift Stores

If you can imagine it, a thrift store near you probably has it. You’d be surprised at the things I’ve seen for sale in thrift stores (I’m looking at you 30-year-old, homemade canned goods).

I’ve successfully found the following gently used and new art supplies at the Goodwills and thrift stores in my area:

      • Canvases
      • Frames
      • Paint brushes
      • Feathers
      • Paint palettes
      • Acrylic paints
      • Stamps
      • Scrapbook materials
      • Fabrics
      • Candle jars
      • Popsicle sticks

And that’s not even the full list. You’re sure to find something whether you’re a casual crafter, a fine artist, or a serial hobbyist.


2. Your Own House

This is probably not the answer you expected. But you know that catch-all “junk” drawer every home has? Sometimes they house real gems! As a mixed media artist, I have a specific drawer in my studio where I put those objects that I hope to someday incorporate into projects: corks, extra-wide sharpies, string, rubber bands, and more.

I’ve even been known to take things from my kitchen and turn them into supplies. Cling wrap? Paint a canvas and place the wrap on top for additional texture. Toothpicks? All you need to do is Google and you’ll find hundreds of crafts for the little ones in your life. Straws? Blowing on wet paint creates unique circular patterns.

Instead of a junk drawer, I now have a cabinet full of endless imagination and possibilities!


3. Outside

Another underestimated answer lies right outside your door. Every time I go for a walk, I find sticks and rocks that can be turned into art. Sometimes I’ll even find and bring home litter, such as broken glass pieces, bottle caps, or plastic forks (seen here), to use in a mixed media collage. 

Some of my favorite artists give new life to the outside through their art! Natalie Ciccoricco uses sticks in her stitching. X paints with acrylics on trash she finds at national parks. Your only limit is the boundary you don’t push.


4. Make Your Own

DIY recipes aren’t only for Animal Crossing. The internet hosts educational “how-to’s” on nearly every topic you could want. This paint recipe uses only flour, salt and water — three ingredients most people keep in their pantry! I’ve made my own stamps out of potatoes and glue from corn starch.

While these examples are fairly elementary, I’ve seen some pretty complex DIYs. If you’re in a pinch or experiencing plain old “writer’s block,” then searching online might be the inspiration you need. I’m always amazed at the ingenuity of creatives.


5. Nashville Bonus: Turnip Green Creative Reuse

If you’re local to Nashville, I highly encourage you to visit Turnip Green Creative Reuse. You can donate your unused materials (i.e. those crochet needles and yarn or candle supplies you haven’t used since quarantine) and purchase their gently used supplies at the affordable cost of “name your own price.” It’s the Progressive of art supplies.


Get Creative!

From donated photos and old cameras to window trim and paint, these tips have led to me finding the art supplies I didn’t know I needed (to which my bank account would agree). Have you found sustainable or affordable materials other than those listed above?

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