Murals created from colorful bottle caps at Edgerton Elementary

C.T. Kruger
Fifth-grader Ryan Young uses a power drill to secure a plastic cap to a mosaic panel created by the students of Edgerton Elementary School as part of an artist-in-residence program April 16.
Published on: 4/21/2014

Hales Corners —More than 6,000 colorful bottle caps became two community murals at Edgerton Elementary School last week as sculptor Michelle Stitzlein lead students in creating art from reusable materials.

Students saved caps from yogurt, milk, deodorant sticks, butter containers, laundry detergent and more since January to prepare for Stitzlein's artist-in-residence visit Monday, April 14 through Wednesday, April 16. Stitzlein is from Ohio and creates art exclusively from recycled materials.

'I've used everything but the kitchen sink,' Stitzlein said. At least for now.

Nature, environment and growth informed the murals' theme, which tied into Edgerton's Earth day celebrations, Tuesday, April 22. One is 8-by-14 feet; the other is 4-by-8 feet.

Stitzlein has led classrooms across the country in creating bottle cap art since 2003. She also published two books on the concept, 'Bottlecap Little Bottlecap' and 'Cool Caps!' Both have gained international attention.

'The nice thing about the murals is that no two are alike,' said Hailey Dulde, art specialist at Edgerton who coordinated the event with Stitzlein. 'It's kind of a surprise how it's going to turn out.'

K4 through fifth-grade students created the mural by collecting caps and drilling them with screws into the wood base.

'We've got to fill it in like a puzzle,' Dulde instructed students. Dulde painted a bottle cap-friendly stencil for students to fill in based on student art.

Jessica Demien, a parent volunteer, said her family and friends helped save 300 total bottle caps.

Saving caps, instead of throwing them away, helps show students how much is being saved from landfills, Stitzlein said. It also encouraged community participation.

In the spirit of the day, Stitzlein wore a homemade bottle cap necklace and a skirt with bottle cap flowers on it. Her art has incorporated piano keys, garden hoses, paint brushes and more.

Stitzlein said she doesn't think the mural will make a noteworthy environmental impact but its message will resonate so long as it's hung in Edgerton.

'I think the students will understand that you can make something beautiful even if it's from trash,' Stitzlein said. 'They can be resourceful in any area — not just art.'