This year’s recycled art project involved smashing soda cans, reusing cardboard boxes and transforming the combined pieces into a unique work of art. Students explored the contemporary work of French artist Didier Triglia, before coming up with their own original designs based on his style and techniques.


Lots of sketchbook work and planning helped students to envision how they might transform the irregular 3-dimensional form of a crushed soda can into something new. Next came their favorite part of smashing the cans! After my first period made a noisy racket, I got smart and required that students do the smashing part outside.


Some students chose to reveal parts of the original can label within their design, while others covered up all the aluminum with acrylic paint. Do you see where the can is in each composition?


The background of each artwork includes heavy pattern, outlines and borders. Many students also incorporated extra can tabs, bottle caps and other recycled material.


An article titled 11 Artists Doing Amazing Things With Recycled Materials by Jill Harness complemented this lesson by exposing students to other styles, materials, and ideas.


Finally, we looked at portraiture from one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century- Pablo Picasso. Students readily identified stylistic comparisons between Didier Triglia’s “can heads” and Picasso’s stylized and abstract faces.


By Julia

31 thoughts on “Creative Crushed Can Creations”
  1. LOVE THIS! What kind of glue did you use to attach the cans to the cardboard? Hot Glue?? Also, what age level did you use this with? please email me if you can!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Hi Crystal,
    Thank you for your comment! We started off with a generous amount of regular white glue to attach the can, and left them over night to dry. This worked for most students, but I also hot glued a couple that came loose as a quick fix. I have mixed classes that include 6th, 7th and 8th graders (10-13 yr olds). Hope this helps!

  3. I love how detailed they are and I also love how it has a 3-D effect.
    What I hope to learn in Mrs. Sanderl’s is how to draw portraits and draw new things.

  4. Something interesting about this project that caught my attention was the cool way to use a smashed can in art work. I really liked the art work by the last name Abergas. Her project was the one of the robot that included my favorite color grey and she also incorporated some very nice bright colors.

    This year I hope to learn how to work with clay and I hope to also do the can artwork. Another project that caught my attention that I would very much like to do is the tile project.

  5. I really enjoyed this project last year because it was very enjoyable to paint and design the can. I really liked how the colors used in this project blended in with each other. And I also liked how creative you can get with the can’s crushed shape- crushed into an oval make a colorful cow, crushed into a round shape make a cute little penguin.

  6. What I would really like to learn in this class is to draw people. I already drew a couple people, but I want to be amazing at it.

  7. I like the castle project. I like to form objects into something awesome like the castle and the tikis. I like working with clay. Working with clay was one of my favorite things to learn. I would like to build tikis like I did in sixth grade. I had a lot of fun.

  8. I think that the one with the two pandas is really cute and creative. Also I enjoyed the ones with acrylic paint!! And also the clay castles are very pretty and colorful. I also hope to learn how to make those clay castels and how to do pottery.

  9. I really liked all of the creative crushed can creations. I enjoyed doing them last year. I hope we get to do them again this year. Thank you.

  10. I liked the ones that used bottle caps because it was recycling and I think it just looks cool.

  11. I like how the colors jump out at you. The most amazing work of art is the owl because it actually spooked me! I would like to meet the artist who made the owl design because it’s so inspiring to me. I would like to learn how to make a can sculpture like this so others will be inspired by me some day! When I was in this class last year, the clay castle and tile were hard but I tried my best to get my projects turned in time. Thanks to all the artists that who made these projects to inspire us.

  12. I like the one were the artist made the can into a pig and the background was a barn.

  13. I think that this project is cool because it is very colorful and it is creative.
    This year I really just want to work with clay, but I am not sure exactly what we should make.

  14. I like the octopus because its creative and colorful.
    I want to learn how to draw like that!

  15. The creative crushed can project captured my attention. I liked the lion one especially because it looks super cool!
    I also like it because it has bright colors and the caps for the hair (mane) looks really neat.

    This year I hope to improve my drawing skills and I want to learn how to cooperate with clay. 🙂

  16. I like the panda picture because it is really nice and I love pandas 🙂 Whoever did that picture did a good job! I really like this kind of art because its very creative and fun to look at!

  17. I thought it was really creative using the can as the dolphin’s eye. I also liked how the dolphin is in space. 😀

  18. I loved this mainly because of the abstractness… And it feels one actually made a joke on it by having a dolphin with a… I’ll just say it “Blunt” because many of them look like you have just done some crazy stuff! And also that one was my favorite.

    I really hope to work with… Well nothing specific comes to mind but I guess it would have to be with clay because of how enjoyable that was last year. And I’m looking straight towards the rest of a (hopefully) awesome school year.

    410H4 (Aloha)
    Micah Miller.

  19. I really like the can project because it shows a lot of creativity and color. My favorite was the cat because the can was crushed perfectly and because the colors picked for the can was a relaxing one to me.

    What I really want to learn this year is to be able to make two drawings combine together.

  20. Hi Julia,

    I’m going into my 34th year of teaching and still feel like I’m a beginner sometimes. I am so impressed with your site, student work, and dynamic approach. Your students are so fortunate to have you for their teacher. In setting out to reinvent and energize my program, yours strikes me as one that has the characteristics of what I’d like to strive towards. Do you have any recommendations for curriculum/art materials that stand out as exemplary to you?

    Thank you, Julia, and keep up your amazing work!

    Ken W.

  21. Hi Ken,
    Thank you for such positive feedback! Like you, I find that teaching is a continuous journey for improvement and I’m always searching for ways to make lessons better every year. It’s inspiring and refreshing to hear from a 34-year veteran who is still motivated to improve his practice… Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher as well!
    As far as curriculum, I tend to “reinvent the wheel” year after year changing projects and materials to keep returning students (and myself) challenged and interested. For middle schoolers I emphasize the variety of mediums and styles that can be expressed through art and try to give them a taste of as many different things as possible. Many projects are adapted from things that I find online or ideas I’ve borrowed from other art teachers.
    If there is one material that stands out the most for me, it’s clay. It’s by far my students’ favorite project every year, and they especially love the pottery wheel. Maybe it’s because it’s my favorite medium too.
    Good luck with your program and all the best to you and your students!

  22. Julia
    Thank you so much for sharing your ideas. You are a true inspiration and your students are fortunate to have such a creative and dedicated art leader. Like Ken – I have been teaching art for longer that I care to remember and it is sometimes difficult to keep things fresh. Looking at your website has been a tonic!

  23. Thank you, Camilla! It’s feedback like yours that motivates me to continue posting work. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts and for “keeping things fresh”!!! 😉

  24. Hi Julia
    I made a few practice samples this weekend as I’d like to do a similar project with my 7th graders soon. As I was painted I noticed that the wet paint easily wiped away so I had to apply carefully. I noticed now that it’s dry, some of the acrylic paint is wiping off. Did you have that problem at all? Did you spray with any fixitive? Thanks so much! The projects look great.

  25. I dont think my question went thru-I was making a few samples this weekend in prep for my 7th graders who I’d like to do this project with. I found I needed to paint carefully or I was wiping the first coat right off. Later when the paint was dry, a bit of it flaked off with just a gentle touch. Did you encounter either of these issues? If so, do you have any solutions? Thanks!!

  26. Hi Lori,
    The trick is to use an acrylic gesso coat first. It’s basically a primer that will make the acrylic colors cover better, and also stick. Just be careful to avoid parts of the can that you want to show. Good luck with your project!

  27. Hello Julia!

    I have just seen the child labor with cans it always pleases me to see that my work on cans gone round the world I voulai to make an article on my page Facebook which speaks about it with your agreement…. You are in what a country!!!
    Thank you and happy New Year!!!

  28. Bonjour Didier,

    Merci pour ton message. J’enseigne l’art dans une école secondaire à Hawaii sur l’île de Kauai. Mon mari parle un peu français et contribue écrire cet email.

    Je serais honoré d’avoir le travail de mes élèves partagée sur votre page Facebook. Merci pour l’inspiration, à cause de toi , cet art est devenu une réalité.

    Bonne année,

  29. Hi Julia,
    This project looks amazing. Do you by chance have a lesson plan for this?

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