Trash Day: cat food carton

There are eight cats currently in residence here at Chez Magical Realist. Needless to say, they eat a lot. (They also poop a lot, but that’s for another Trash Day post).

They’re on a wet-only diet, so we go through a lot of canned food. And I mean a lot of canned food. In a normal week, the six younger cats will consume 63 cans of it. Once in a while they’ll eat everything in sight for a day or two, so 70 cans in a week is not unheard of. Then there’s the 14 cans of Hill’s k/d for Bob&Elvis* and their failing old-man kidneys, plus a few cans of Fancy Feast to give them a bit of variety…

You get the picture. A lot of canned food.

We have a 64 gallon wheelie bin for recycling, and by the time it gets picked up every other week it’s at least half-full of cat food cans, plus the packaging all those cans come in–which includes these paperboard cartons:

When I picked these for this week’s Trash Day project, I knew exactly what I wanted to make from them.

Cut into shapes, painted, and glued down, this lightweight paperboard seemed like the perfect material for faux mosaics.

Choosing a design was tough because there were so many possibilities. Given the scale of this project and the time I was willing to invest, it couldn’t be too complicated. So while I liked the idea of making a complex image from countless tiny bits, that’ll have to wait.

And while I found plenty of beautiful possibilities in a book of Islamic tile designs, I knew that drawing, cutting, and keeping track of so many precisely-shaped pieces was a headache waiting to happen. However, there was one relatively simple design that caught my eye, utlizing only a hexagon and a six-pointed star. That? That I could do. I drew templates, traced them onto the printed sides of the paperboard, and started cutting out pieces:

If there was going to be a tricky part, I figured, it would be coming up with a convincing “grout,” but I had a few ideas in mind. So all I needed to start was a proper support to glue these mosaic “tiles” to–something that would allow me to display them when finished, but that was also recyclable, just in case the results were disappointing. And what presented itself?

Like I said: a lot of canned food.

I cut away the side flaps of each box, hot-glued the bottoms into stacks, and covered them with a couple of layers of papier-mache, using brown paper grocery bags and white school-grade glue thinned with rubbing alcohol (to speed drying time). I ended up with this:

I then painted the tiles with layers of variegated colors, trying to get at least a passing resemblance to ceramic glazes. I decided to paint all the hexagons a deep cobalt blue, and the stars in yellows, oranges, reds, and maybe a couple of light greens. Here they are, in progress:

I originally intended to paint all the tiles, then glue them down when they were finished. In the interest of completing this project, however, I decided it would be easier to adhere them to the support, then finish painting them, then figure out some sort of “grout.”

Gluing these tiles down? Oh my god. It’s taking forever. It looks amazing so far, and I’m extremely happy with how it’s turning out, but boy howdy, did this one turn out to be a lot more labor-intensive than I expected. It’s almost midnight, I’m still not done, and you know what, kids? I’m fucking beat. So I shall be back tomorrow with an update, and pics of the finished product.

*Yes, Bob&Elvis is one word. They are 18-year-old brothers who are so attached to each other, they might as well be one cat.

One thought on “Trash Day: cat food carton

  1. Hello,
    your post came up when I googled “cat food boxes” I work at an animal shelter and was looking for a picture to put up on a posting indicating to people that we need these kinds of box bottoms. We use them as one time disposable litter boxes for the cats and small animals, as buying real plastic ones are time consuming to clean and they’re expensive to buy in large quantities although we do use these kinds as well. A good use for them if you didn’t know about it, I’m not sure where you’re from but I’m 99% sure a local shelter in your area can use them if you were looking for other uses for them :o)

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