Art @ Home: Make a Recycled Boat

“For me, a ship is a vessel to carry you on a journey, to carry you from a place of conflict to a place of safety, or from the past into the future. It involves trade, it’s about a hope for a better life. It’s a container for the soul.” – Hew Locke

Create your own boat, inspired by the Armada installation in Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing, using recycled materials from your house, yard, or things you find on a walk. 

Before you get started, gather all the tools you can findscissors, tape, glue, staplers, pencils, colored pencils, markers, string, twisty bread ties, and rulers, to name a few. If you have fancier art materials like mod podge for collage, watercolors, paint, wood scraps, yarn, ribbon, or tissue paper, pull those out, too. 

If you’re working on a table where your family and friends eat, be sure to put some paper down to protect itold newspapers or paper grocery bags work great for this.

Now think about what kind of boat you want to make and what you can use to build your boat. Do you want to make a great big cargo ship or a tiny canoe? Will your boat have masts and sails like a schooner or will it be motor-powered or human-powered? Hew Locke included all kinds of boats in his Armada, even rickety wooden life rafts. 

For the main body of your boat, the hulllook for old food boxes. A macaroni box could make a nice flat barge or a raft. Use old seltzer or soda boxes to create a colorful canoe. Cut up cereal boxes and bend the cardboard to create the boat shapestaplers and tape will probably work better than glue to keep things together. If you want to make colorful stripes and you don’t have paint, you can tape on colored pieces of paper or glue on yarn or ribbon trim. Add birchbark or other textures to the outside to make it look more authentic.

You can create a sailboat mast from rolled up pieces of paper, an old pencil, or chopstickssomething that is strong. Add a sail by using old envelopes or the cover of a magazineyou may need to experiment to see if it works better with a heavier paper or if it needs to be thinner, like newsprint. If you decide to draw figures and images on your sails as Hew Locke often does, it will be easier to do the drawing before you attach it to your mast.

Hew Locke also placed a lot of cargo and materials on his boatsgreenery, bamboo pieces, and what look like sacks of food. Grocery sacks that you crumple up and then straighten out again will look like cloth if you want to create little bags filled with grain. Old canning jar lids could become piles of tires. Maybe you have some little toys or figurines you’d like to put on your boat. You can look for things outside, like stones, pinecones, acorns, leaves, or pieces of bark. Just make sure the things you choose already on the ground so you don’t harm any living trees or other plants. 

Your boat does not have to look perfect. In fact, Hew Locke makes sure his vessels look as if they are a little ragged and timeworn, a process he calls “dirtying them down.” Take a look at the gallery below for inspiration. 

Have fun being creativewe can’t wait to see how Hew Locke’s art inspires you! Have a parent tag @ColbyMuseum on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtags #ArtAtHome and #HewLocke, and we might share your creation with our followers.

Inspiration and photos by Colby Museum teaching artist Carrie Haberstock.