From Lid to Art

Just like her friend, Louise Hardman from The Plastic Collective, Tianne Albrow has found a wonderful way to make something special from plastic. With the help of local school students, she’s creating colourful murals from bottle top lids.

Wandering around Tianne Albrow’s Emerald Beach home feels a little like stepping into an art gallery, albeit a very family friendly one with a dog. Tianne’s portraits and photographs adorn the walls, painted pieces of driftwood rest against the doorway and coloured bottle tops sit next to countless drawings by her children.

Creativity certainly runs in the family.

Tianne’s father is a talented photographer, another family member a professional illustrator. The Albrow household of five (Tianne and husband Marc have a 10-year-old son and 9-year-old twin daughters) is one where music and art are prevalent.

Marc plays the drums, the three kids all play guitar and are natural artists too. Tianne enjoys painting, drawing, pottery and craft but apparently missed out on the musical talent.

“I think I just got the groupie thing instead,” she says with a laugh.

plastic lid mural montage

It’s not just her own kids who take inspiration from Tianne’s artistic ability but many local primary school children too. Perhaps it’s just as well that a desire to see the world interrupted her Creative Arts degree and she became a teacher instead. Even as an outsider, it’s easy to see that teaching is her calling in life.

Tianne loves being a primary teacher. “It means I get to be creative and work with kids too. Every time I walk into the classroom the kids go, ‘Yaayyy, we get to paint or do something fun today.’ It’s fantastic to see students delve into their arty and imaginative sides. I get them all to have a go and always say to them, ‘nothing you do in art is wrong. It’s all great.’ Everyone has potential.”

The whole ‘lid to art’ concept has only come about in the past 18 months.

It was a colleague at Kororo School on the Coffs Coast who saw a bottle top mural on Pinterest and suggested Tianne have a go. With a smile she says, “you shouldn’t suggest I do anything, because I’ll do it.”

As with her other murals (three locals schools now home her work), the first mural was very much a collaborative effort. Students are involved at every step. They bring lids in from home, help sort through the colours and sketch their ideas for the design.

plastic lids sorted into colours

For Tianne, the bottle top art ticks many boxes. “Firstly, I love that kids are learning the importance of recycling and using the lids that would otherwise end up in the bin. I also like showing them that ‘rubbish’ can actually make beautiful, colourful art that will last. The end result is very tactile too and students love to see and touch the finished work. They really interact with it which is great.”

The schools have all been super supportive with the entire school community embracing the concept from the outset. Reminders to bring in lids go in the newsletter and the process begins…Tianne says it helps to be working with coastal schools given all those blue milk bottle lids that are sent in!

Tianne has also taught students whose first language is one other than English and with assistance from the children, she created culturally significant murals as part of their learning journey. A French boy helped create the Eiffel Tower and a young Japanese girl made a beautiful cherry blossom tree.

For the school closest to home, where her three children attend, students submitted their designs with an ocean theme throughout as the students learn about The Solitary Island Marine Park as part of their curriculum. Tianne was sorting through the various drawings while sitting at her local beach one day when she looked out and saw a dolphin jump out of the water. Needless to say, when the dolphin didn’t appear in the designs from the kids, Tianne made an addition of her own.

She also took inspiration from students when it came to the snorkeler in the design. When considering what colour to make the girl’s hair she asked three Year 6 girls helping her that day, for their thoughts. The girls, who all happened to be redheads, were unanimous in their decision!

It’s not surprising that Tianne regularly finds bags of lids sitting at her doorstep, dropped off by locals who appreciate her creations. And now that she has so many lids, she’s ready for the next design.

Amazingly, even with up to 4,000 lids, a mural only takes Tianne a month or so to complete.

And so, where to from here?

Tianne is more than happy to share what’s she learnt and to get people on the bottle top recycling bandwagon, teachers or otherwise. A mum at a nearby school recently got in touch and Tianne talked her through the process and advised her of everything required. That completed mural now hangs on a wall at a local school for children to enjoy.

kids help Tianne make a mural
One of Tianne’s murals, now being enjoyed by students of Sandy Beach Public School

Tianne started up the Facebook group, ‘From Lid to Art’ so anyone can get involved. She did the same on Instagram. For Tianne, the view is certainly the ‘more the merrier’ when it comes to people getting inventive with recyclable materials. “The Facebook Group has support from people all over Australia which I think is awesome.”

As for all those lids sitting at her home just waiting for a second life, she hopes a phone call from a school with hopes of bright, colourful, interesting work for their walls, is just around the corner.

Until then, it’s a safe bet that if teacher Tianne steps into a classroom somewhere on the Coffs Coast anytime soon, the smiles will be wide, and the creative endeavours will be wonderful.

To find out more you can follow Tianne on Instagram @from_lid_to_art

Or join the Facebook group – From Lid to Art Bottle Top Murals