Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories Collage

Inspired by the Small Things

Sara Ottomano

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.

Two images: 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?



Sara smiling in front of Art Studio display.

Sara Ottomano

Art Educator from 2016-2023 at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Sara (she/her) is enthusiastic about helping others approach art through exploration and experimentation.

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