After fielding several reader requests for “those centerpieces you recycle” and “bat mitzvah dog stuff,” I decided a quick rerun was in order. Whatever you’re planning – bar or bat mitzvah, birthday party, wedding or fundraiser – I hope you sweep past the glitter, and find your own reuse/recycle inspiration.
The Center of Everything [originally posted July 2, 2009.]
It’s been a month since Josie’s bat mitzvah, and looking at photos now with a better-rested and less tearful eye, it’s hard to believe we did all that. But we did, and at least one part of it merits a closer how-to look.
Centerpieces. We planned 16 tables of adults at our party (some 60 kids ran loose in the Dogg Pound, see here) and all of them would need centerpieces. We did not want flowers for our dog-themed bash, nor floating candles or exploding fountains. We wanted something funky and handmade that reflected Josie (since we could not stand her atop each table) and was not, in my vague notion, a “regular centerpiece.” I sketched stuff for weeks.
On receipts and memos and envelopes, I sketched centerpiece ideas: dog houses from boxes, with dog photos on sticks, and paw prints, and boingy silver things and metallic shreds. All the ideas seemed to require mass materials – styrofroam blocks, cardboard boxes, spray paints, photographs, disco balls. About two weeks before the party, we thought we had a winner. Me, Greg, and our friend Korrin – an OCD crafter and all-around good sport – huddled at the third floor craft table, each trying to make a prototype work. But they would not work; the boxes were too big, the paper too thin, sticks toppled off. Korrin got a headache, and left. Greg saw something in my eye he’d seen before, and left. Alone at midnight and surrounded by crumpled silver shreds, I had a short but weepy pity party, followed by a hearty round of why-the-hell-am-I-doing-this. Still, I’d made tea and the house was quiet, so I sat down fresh at the table, switched on the HBO show “In Treatment,” and started doodling again. By now I hated the failed ideas – so tacky, overblown, “regular.” Why did we need so much stuff? Could we create something but not take anything home? Forty-five soothing, Gabriel Byrne-filled minutes later, an answer:
We would build a small tower of items from the Lawrence Humane Society’s wish list – pedestrian stuff like paper towels and dog food, but exactly right for Josie, who volunteers there, and reusable to its core. Applying wedding cake logic, I sprayed cardboard cake rounds silver, and used them to separate and stabilize layers. The paper towels were bound, cake-style, with paper and ribbon. We could donate the towel rolls and dog food, recycle the paper and cake boards, and reuse all the ribbons. Only the balloon toppers were a one-night stand – but they were lovely.
Whether you’re throwing a big event or a cozy party, I urge you to try reuse/recycle decorations. Our guests appreciated both their funky “found-art” looks and the care behind them. Plus, you don’t need to be an artist or a serious crafter to pull it off. Can we apply this idea to different events? Here’s a few to start:
Child’s birthday party: even for a small party at home, decorate with short stacks of give-able items, like toy trucks for a truck theme, stuffed animals, etc. Donate to a local homeless shelter, hospital, or social service group.
Garden party: make the stacks from terra cotta pots, seed packets and small plants. All can be given to guests for planting, or donated to a local community garden.
Pizza party: (Josie’s idea!) Use disposable pizza pans to separate “layers,” and stack with flour bags, cans of tomatoes or sauce, onions or canned olives. Top with fresh tomatoes. Donate all to a local shelter that cooks and serves hot meals.
Your ideas? Share them below and craft away.
“The Center of Everything?” The post title references a well-known Lawrence writer who, rather than mess with centerpieces, just produces great books.