20 Aug 2014
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Brookfield Students Fashion Their Dream Forest from Bottle Caps

With help from a resident artist, Brookfield Elementary students are creating a mural for the school.

After a year of collecting bottle caps, catching them on their way to the trash and asking friends and relatives to do the same, the students of  are finally using their thousands of caps to construct a mural for their school.

“The excitement has been building for a year,” said Kristen Wolf, art specialist at Brookfield Elementary. “They’ve had their grandparents and neighbors collecting, so they’re so excited to finally be using all of these bottle caps.”

Wolf came up with the idea two years ago, when she Googled “bottle cap art” and found  Michelle Stitzlein, who has been making art from bottle caps since 2004. They decided to have Stitzlein, who lives in Ohio, visit Brookfield for a week as an “artist in residence” to help with the project at Brookfield Elementary. 

Like Stitzlein, Wolf was intrigued by the idea of creating art from recycled materials — especially those, like bottle caps, that can’t be recycled the traditional way.

“The students have learned to save, and that not everything is junk; that it can be made into a work of art,” Wolf said.

Before Stitzlein’s arrival, students submitted drawings of creatures they would like to create in a forest mural, and Wolf enlarged a select few onto five wall-size panels. With her visit funded primarily by the PTA, Stitzlein arrived Tuesday and will leave Friday, hopefully with the mural complete.

Under Stitzlein’s guidance, kids of every grade level are spending their art time this week placing caps on the mural, and screwing them into the boards.

From the 15 13-gallon garbage bags they were stored in, the caps have been sorted by color in tubs lining the walls of Wolf’s art room. They include caps of all sizes and shapes that sometimes stretch the definition of “bottle cap” but fit the bill of reusing materials that can’t be recycled. 

“I like to keep it as loose as possible,” Stitzlein said. “Instead of coloring in a coloring book, you can do whatever you want.”

The mural has already been filled in with colors to guide the students in choosing which caps to use, but they are encouraged to choose their own colors, too. They create feathers by layering long flattened caps, and eyeballs by placing smaller caps in bigger ones.

“The kids keep me fresh,” Stitzlein said. “There are thousands of ways to use the pieces and I try to sit back and learn from them.”

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