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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday 10 am - 4 pm
  • Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 5 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Making Art Together

Inspired by the Small Things

While prepping supplies in the Art Studio, there are often a lot of small pieces that are left behind. Small scraps of paper become large piles as we cut and hole punch materials for our Every Day Art Projects. And the more time we spend looking at them, even the smallest scrap becomes inspiration for art-making. This blog post will share some of the scraps we have been saving, and how they can be used for art-making.

 strips of colorful papers paper-clipped together, a bag filled with colorful hole punches.

In one of our recent projects, we hole-punched thousands of paper strips for guests to use in constructing mobiles. This meant there were a lot of left-over holes just waiting to be used for projects!

A small plastic bag and candy container both filled with hole punches.

We added the hole punches into our recycled paper collection using a plastic bag and a repurposed plastic candy container. The benefit to collecting small pieces of paper, is that a lot of material can be contained within a small spot! 

Small cardboard pieces with shaped edges.

When shaping cardboard for a recent painting project, we discovered that there were very interesting cardboard off-cuts left behind.

A box filled with small cardboard pieces with shaped edges.

We stored them in a small cardboard box and added to the collection as we cut more. 

A mountain of collage paper scraps.

We also save the small, scrappy pieces left over from collage projects. While some folks might recycle them, we find that the shapes and vibrant colors are still inspiring to make with despite their small size. We store these papers in plastic bags by scrap size. 

After collecting the materials, we then wait to find a use for them.

Four collages of different animals- a dog, caterpillar, toucan, and angler fish- made from scrap papers.

We have used them in school programs for participants as a warm-up exercise. We provide each student with a small cup of scrap papers and hole punches, and invite them to create a scrap creature without changing the shape of materials. We set a timer for 5 minutes and with that limitation, very quickly every scrap becomes a possibility. As the scraps are arranged together, beaks, antennae, and legs emerge from creatures both real and imagined. 

A nature scene with a sun and flower made from paper scraps and hole punches.

The scraps can also be used to create whole collage pictures, where again each of the pieces comes alive with meaning. 

A bunch of drawings using papers as part of the illustration. For example, a rectangle becomes a robot with some pen drawn arms, legs, and eyes.

The small scraps can also serve as drawing prompts! Much like the scrap creature game, it can be a fun game to decide what each piece of paper or cardboard will become with just a ballpoint pen or drawing tool. 

Two cover images of Christian Robinson?s books When?s My Birthday? and Another.

We hope that this post inspires you to consider using the small scraps that you make during an art project! If you’re looking for picture books inspiration for your artmaking, check out Christian Robinson’s use of hole punches and small cut papers in Another and When’s My Birthday?


by Sara Ottomano

This entry was posted on Monday, January 18th, 2021 at 1:00 pm and is filed under At Home Art Studio, By Sara Ottomano, Collage, Drawing, Our Approach, Paper. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

The space and programming of The Carle Art Studio is supported by a generous annual sponsorship from Penguin Books For Young Readers.

We enjoy exploring materials and ideas in the Art Studio, and we're excited to share our process with you! Please consider the following factors when adapting these posts for your learning environment:

We facilitate a variety of programs within the Art Studio for a wide range of age groups. Please carefully consider the age appropriateness of each individual activity in your own learning environment.

Our projects are always done with adult supervision and proper safety precautions. Be sure all of your projects are overseen by adults who likewise follow proper safety precautions. The adults overseeing your project must also be responsible for handling or assisting with any potentially harmful equipment or materials.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not responsible for any damages, injuries or liabilities that result from any activities contained within this website, and we expressly disclaim any responsibility or liability therefor. From time to time, we reference materials that we have found to be particularly important in our projects. We do not receive any monetary compensation for recommending materials.


Beth Muether
Saturday, February 2, 2021 - 10:31 am
Very creative way of repurposing scrapped paper! I enjoyed looking at the examples of how to use these leftovers for other projects.
Tuesday, April 4, 2021 - 10:32 am
Thank you Beth!

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