Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tin Can Alley

I have a hard time throwing things away. I collect all sorts of weird “stuff”. Ask my husband. Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I tend not to collect things of value. I’m drawn to those interesting things used for one purpose which are then discarded.

I can tell you about my collection of staples – used staples. I’ve saved them for 15 years, removing them and dropping them into a beer mug. The mug is full. I still faithfully remove staples from paper before shredding it or throwing it away.

I save those weird plastic net bags onions or garlic comes in these days. I stretched one over a ho-hum vase & jazzed it up. Stupid vase gets lots of comments! Been saving those bags ever since. Don’t ask why.

I began saving soda can pop tabs 15 years ago. I don’t even remember why; there once was a reason. I don’t know it anymore. My current excuse is, “I use them in my art.” Yep, used them in exactly two pieces years ago. I still save the tabs. They look kind of cool, though, in that huge glass vase. Nice conversation piece. Art.

Looking back over what I’ve written thus far, I sound like a nut case even to myself! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have rooms in the house that are stuffed with crap to the point you can’t open the door. There’s medication for this, no? It’s not THAT bad. My weird collections fit in regular ol’ boxes on the shelf in my studio. And I purge it once in a while. I saved wine corks for years until I had two photocopy boxes full. I tossed them. Those, I should have kept!

Four or five years ago, I bought a new can opener; one of those new kind that remove the lid without producing sharp edges. The first time I removed that pristine disk of tin, I fell in love with them! “I should be able to use these somehow!” I’ve been saving them ever since.

This winter, I finally got my outdoor shower installed outside my studio. Seemed every house on the block has one except ours. Got one now! The shower is on the back corner of the studio, ten feet from the wall & hedge separating us from our neighbors, @TheDeeView and family.

Great neighbors! Small children. Their playhouse, swing set, slide combo thingie is in their back corner just on the other side of the hedge from my new shower. A privacy screen of some sort was called for. I began deliberating on this puzzle from the day I began planning that shower. I thought of erecting a lattice of some sort. I thought about planting more hedge but they grow too slowly. I wanted something “artistic” and it had to be portable for the few times it would need to be moved. I finally hit on the perfect solution! Tin can lids!

I drug (dragged?) out my 5 year collection of tin can lids. I needed to know how many I had. I felt like Ol’ King Cole counting out his money. In my case it was tin can lids. Turns out, I had quite a few! I sorted them into stacks by size: 80 of this size, 250 of that size, 100 of another and a whole bunch of odd sizes. I had plenty for a project.

Next, I had to figure out how to attach them to one another. It takes a lot of tin can lids to make a shower screen. Whatever the method, it needed to be easy and labor efficient. I decided to connect them together with connectors of some sort. I should be able to figure this out! I’m an artist! I headed off to my favorite True Value Hardware store.

I was telling the salesmen about what I wanted. He said two words. Hog Rings. I had no idea what he was referring to! Hog rings? Pigs wear jewelry? They do, actually. Sort of. These are the rings farmers stick in the hog’s nose or ear for tags. Enough said: too much info. They come in boxes of 100 and are reasonably priced. AND they make the coolest triangular ring! Perfect!

The next task was to drill holes in several hundred tin can lids. The holes needed to be in the four corners - 12 o’clock, 3, 6 & 9 o’clock - the four corners. I didn’t want absolute perfection but they needed to be close enough to match up. These are tin can lids for crying out loud, they are hard to disguise as anything else. I purchased a drill and was able to drill 8 or 10 lids stacked up at a time. That was my most difficult task.

Then the fun began! I laid them out in to see what short of pattern I could make and went for simple. Again, these are tin can lids, not precious materials here. Pattern identified, I began hooking them together with the hog rings. It went relatively quickly and produced a nice crop of blisters on my ring-crimping hand.

Several day later, it was done, I had to figure out how to hang the screen. I used coat hanger wire and a copper pipe. I want this thing to rust and patina. I hung the screen and it looks marvelous! I’ve been showing it to all my artist fiends and it’s getting good reviews. I may move it to a more “showy” spot and use it as ART instead of a lowly screen. Until then, I can enjoy my recycling efforts every time I shower.

My shower screen is not for sale. However, you can see all of my artwork that IS for sale on my website at . If you want more information on any of my artwork or make a purchase, you can contact me by replying to this blog, e-mail me at or telephone my studio at 760.992.3157.

Thank you for listening

Jerry L. Hanson


  1. Jerry, I adore your shower screen,you never know when your collected bits and bobs will inspire you to make such a unique masterpiece!That's the mind of an artist though...the ability to see the beauty in even the most mundane and seemingly worthless minutia of daily life. Years ago, I saved many many colored glass booze bottles, then I got in a fit of cleaning & threw them away, I could just KICK myself!! What every artist needs is a humungous storage locker!! Cheers ;-)

  2. Love that you have finally put them to good use...see, Les, they DID come in handy!

  3. i love what you did with the can lids! i was smiling the whole time reading this blog because i collect funny things too :)
    maybe i will blog about it soon and post pics since i've everything organized now ;)

    i enjoyed listening :)

  4. fantastic idea - and completes a cool outdoor shower area!