Tin Can Art Experiment

I follow a blog called Pittsburgh Orbit. It reports on the quirks of that city. I can’t remember how I stumbled into its world but I am glad I did. I have some connection with Pittsburgh; we visited several times when my son lived there for several years and that is where he met his wife. So it’s a good place.

And it turns out that through the serendipity of the universe, I have another connection to the Orbit through my teacher at the punch needle class I took online earlier in 2021.

I think this could be enough material for a post already, if we were talking about the odd way the world takes a strand and weaves it in and out to make a fabric in which you find that all the elements of your life repeat, like a pattern. But that’s not the purpose. I want to share an art project I did that was inspired by this blog.

I read a post at the Orbit some while back about tin can neighborhood art. You need to stop right now and take a look at the post, because I cannot explain it, you need to experience it. (I’m waiting right here until you finish).

OK. I was inspired to try my version of this art form. I got some tin cans and smashed them with my husband’s sledge hammer. Unlike the originals, I did not want sharp edges – I didn’t know where I would put the items, or even what they would look like, so I thought I’d better think about safety.

I bought some cheap paints meant for multi-surface use. I got some paint markers, too, meant for painting rocks, so I figured they’d work fine (they did). Then I painted my flattened tin cans and put some random sayings on them, too. I sprayed them a few times with some sort of clear stuff that might or might not protect them for any length of time. But I don’t care. These guys are just for fun.

Here are the results.

You may wonder why they have a rounded end, in some cases. Well, did you know that tin cans have two different ends these days – one you open, and the other so that the cans can stack easily? You can’t get this second end to come off with a can opener. Who knew?

I did find one of my group of cans worked the old-fashioned way – that is why it is a rectangle. So when you are shopping for canned goods, now you will think about this innovation in the container world, won’t you?

This little can originally held tomato paste, I think.

Anyway, once done I puched hanging holes in their tops by hammering through them with a nail. Lay the can on the ground, take the nail, hammer hard, and when the nail goes though it just heads into the ground. Pick it up and extract the nail. Done.

You see the hole now, don’t you, up at the top of the can? By the way this one has an odd top because I managed to get some of the second end removed and then was stymied. Never mind, the sledge hammer took care of it, too, just like the others.

I strung a wire on each one. Now I think I will leave them in the park, or else give them away, or both.

Thank you, Pittsburgh Orbit.

23 thoughts on “Tin Can Art Experiment

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I enjoyed doing these. I just wish the can opener could open the bottom of the cans, I wonder when they started making them like this (I am sure it is so they can stack better but still…)

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you, that means a lot coming from you who put me on to the originals. I’m not sure how these would hold up in the weather but I guess it doesn’t really matter, it’s the making of them that is the point (for me, anyway). In my suburban community nailing them to poles is not going to work so I put hangers on them and plan to leave them in parks. Or, maybe just give them to people who ask for them. Anything so that they might get a chance to get out in the world. I have made small paintings along these lines in the past – https://claudiamcgillart.wordpress.com/2018/06/24/do-you-remember-the-ogre-babies/ and I still have quite a few of them, maybe I should include them? Hmmm…Anyway, thank you for taking a look at these.

  1. Laura (PA Pict)

    I did as you instructed and paused reading your post in order to visit the linked post and read about your inspiration. I had two thoughts as I read that post: 1) This is such a Claudia project and 2) Those edges look really sharp. I am glad, therefore, that you found a way to resolve the second problem and it is indeed the case that this methodology really suits your artistic style but also your love of sending your art out into the world to be found by others.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. The sharp edge thing was the first thing I thought of when I decided to try this. Because I knew people would handle them whatever I end up doing with them and then of course me and my ability to cut myself on anything… I think you’d like the orbit blog, it’s truly original in its perspective, and…they love cemeteries and have lots of posts on them.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Well, I can’t take credit for the idea, the anonymous artist in Pittsburgh started things off for me, but I adapted the cans to fit my needs and I enjoyed that. I’ve used tin cans for other projects (I know a nice one for making little lanterns) and I want to try some more things. I wonder why I like cans so much but I do.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I only know Pittsburgh from the last ten years or so, but I like the city very much, and it is definietly a different place and going in a dfferent direction from its pat, while honoring it and building off it.

  2. Pittsburgh Orbit

    Claudia, If you’re serious about “Anything so that they might get a chance to get out in the world.” I can certainly offer to distribute any you’d like in Pittsburgh! I think they’d look great hung from tree branches–or, of course, nailed to utility poles.

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