Working on a Process: Plastic Bag Banners and Such

the banner

Another day spent at 406 Pelissier. Working with these plastic bags is really time consuming, but it will be worth it. The projects we have in mind are taking longer than we may have initially aniticipated, but that’s been the case with everything we’ve ever done.

The banner is growing steadily, but we’re hoping for a final length of somewhere near 18 feet. We’ve also scouted a location, but we’re still working on the message for the banner itself.

Our continuing work with the planters is going well, as we’re about 1/3 of the way to the grand total of planters we’re hoping to make. Also, the test planter is doing well, with some wildflower seeds sprouting already. With the planter being indoors, it has certainly helped to keep the soil moist, but also (and as we had figured long ago), the first and second design iterations of the planters were drying the soil very quickly due to the use of newspapers. With the plastic bags, the soil seems to be holding moisture much better. We’ve been careful to create drainage holes, but we probably need to integrate this into the design more effectively.

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Being Productive Again: Day 1

our sign

Now that Intersession is done, we’ve finally been able to put that downtown space to some use. Cristina and I spent the better part of the day in the space, using it basically as an office, but we’ll be there at least one more day this week and potentially one day on the weekend picking up where we left off on some older projects and inevitably starting some new ones.

On today’s agenda: see the new hybrid buses and look for some Text In-Transit signs (which we found), set up a small work area in the space, make some preliminary decisions about our book so we can get started on it, and photograph a new research site.

Also, we’re looking for any biodegradable plastic bags you may have (hint: Bulk Barn gives out biodegradable bags) for another project. If you have any, please drop them off at 406 Pelissier. We’ll be there Tuesday from 12noon until around 4pm.

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Fusing bags


Justin has some process shots, and those will probably be posted at some point, but I figured I’d go ahead and share the product of five or so hours of ironing inside-out plastic grocery bags. So far, I’ve made some envelopes, a box, and some random swatches to see if leftover scaps can be fused into a solid sheet (they can). Eight layers (four bags or one bag folded on itself twice) yields a stupidly strong, Tyvek-like material that can be fused to itself (that is, you can fuse seams to make envelopes or pouches or fuse multiple, smaller sheets together to make a piece of material any size). Uhm. And you can also weave strips together and fuse that (top left), but that doesn’t really have much in the way of practical applications.

And there’s these guys:


Each pouch is made from a single bag, and the one on the left is actually compostable (if any of you are Bulk Barn shoppers, you should hang onto those). I do ever so wonder what we’ll do with biodegradable plastic (read: mold-proof) pouches with rare earth magnets embedded in the back…

Planters: I have good news, and I have bad news

Good news first!


A plant! In the planter! That’s what they’re there for! Hooray, plants! Hooray, exclamation points! Sorry about the blurry cameraphone picture! You’ll be grateful for that in a minute, however! Since the real action over the weekend wasn’t so much in the planters as… ehr… on them.


Now, plants are not really my forté, but I’m fairly certain that this is… not the desired effect.

Everything was fine when I checked in on things, Saturday. Nothing had dried out terribly, and I hardly added any new water. That nothing had dried out, with hindsight, should have been troubling in and of itself. I didn’t make it in yesterday, but this is what I encountered, today.

Mold isn’t really my forté, either (despite this apparent photographic evidence to the contrary), but I would guess the factors contributing to its… particular success, in this instance would have been these: (1) the planters were packed into a plastic tray quite tightly—this was clearly not the way to do things; (2) my studio has been a veritable sauna for some time, this weekend in particular; (3?) I wasn’t there for this round of planter construction, so I’m not sure if wheat-paste was involved, as it seemed to be in some iterations, but, if it was, I can see how that might have been a virtual signed invitation for any errant spores (and LeBel is teeming with them) to take up residence.

So there’s that. I’ve left them standing apart to dry out, but I’m not sure if that’s going to help much. I’m thinking perhaps it won’t?

Seeds in the Planters, Waiting to Grow

We finished putting soil and seeds into the magnetic planters and set them on a sunny window ledge to start germinating. We figured the planters would stand a better chance at surviving (and staying in place longer than just overnight) if there were some wildflowers starting to grow.

We also went to the downtown space and started brainstorming, but I’ll make another post on that later.

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New Magnetic Planters Field Test

Broken City Lab Magnetic Planters

Friday afternoon turned out to be more productive than I thought it would. We finished embedding all the magnets we have, which means we have 25 planters either done or drying and ended up with 3 installed on various surfaces to see if they survive the rain this weekend.

If they turn out, I’ll order some more magnets, but in the meantime we’re still working on stencils (the BCL stencil above was just a test), and we should be able to get the rest up in the next week!

Owen over at Windsor Visuals also already made a great post on Friday’s Office Hours, and some of his photos are included in this post as well.

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A Mess, But We’re Closer

planters with magnets

Danielle and I spent Wednesday afternoon making some more planters, patching up some of the planters made last Friday, and adding magnets to other planters. Hopefully by Friday these will be dry and ready for departure from my studio.

I’m anxious to see these up (and this project finished, many other things to do!)

Flyer-box planters

I don’t generally have much use for CRAFT: magazine (now relegated strictly to blog-format). Allow me to summarize: “I made a(nother) cake stand! My T-shirt blinks! Who likes cupcakes?! Aprons rule!” But, for all its disingenuous crypto-consumerism and further-watering-down of the Third Wave, they do occasionally link to something interesting.


The flyer-box planter is nice-enough, in and of itself, though it might be even nicer to see retired newspaper veding boxes repurposed in this way. I mean, in the print-to-digital shift, I don’t think anyone much misses the real estate listings (the free weeklies are another matter), but something like this could conceivably work to draw attention to, say, the problematic bloggification of print journalism, in addition to your standard-issue urban blight.

Planters Nearing Completion

making planters

The Magnetic Planters project continues. With Michelle and Danielle away this week, the rest of Broken City Lab had to relearn the process of making paper pulp. It was a good night, though we’re hoping to get this project finished in the next week or so. As Intersession begins, we’ll be shifting our Office Hours to another yet-to-be-determined day, and it might even be biweekly until July. We’ll keep you posted.

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