| Jr. Feature |

Out of the Dumps(ter)  

Transforming old things into new creations is something Tova Paneeri does every day

We’ve all seen them. You know, that project your little sister made out of an old egg carton, or the orange juice carton all the kids in kindergarten transformed into a well for parshas Chayei Sarah. The big kids do it too — just ask a high school girl how they make the props for their plays. Garbage, paint, and a little creativity.

Most people have some fun with garbage when they’re kids, dabble in it in high school, and forget about the whole thing by the time they’ve grown up. After all, who has time to play around with old cartons? Well… this lady in Yerushalayim, actually. She may be a grandmother, but transforming old things into new creations is something she does every day.

Who: Tova Paneeri

What: Creates all sorts of things out of old, discarded items

Where: Mekor Baruch, Yerushalayim

When you walk down the street in Tova Paneeri’s neighborhood, the street feels different than anywhere else in Yerushalayim. That’s because all over the neighborhood are birds, butterflies, flowers, and animals. But not the living kind — here, the wildlife is made out of old bottles, containers, even shoes and fabrics. Tova Paneeri is the mastermind behind these projects.

It all started when she saw that you could make flowers out of old soda bottles. If you cut off the bottom and melted them, the bottom of the bottle looks just like the delicate petals of a flower. And so Tova began to collect soda bottles and transform them into flowers. With a little help from some waterproof paint and a few other supplies, Tova soon had a beautiful collection of big plastic flowers. She showed them to her neighbors who, of course, loved the unusual and pretty design. Tova began to create beautiful things out of junk and gift them to her friends and neighbors. Soon those neighbors started bringing old things to Tova for her to transform. Plastic bottles, sure, but also old shoes and newspapers and blankets. And just like that, a hobby was born.

Keeping Busy

Everyone starts doing what they do for a reason. For Tova, it was because she hates sitting and doing nothing. While some people love to relax on the couch and schmooze on the phone or read a good book, Tova goes crazy if she’s not busy. Her hands need to be moving. Designing and creating new things is the perfect hobby. And using old, discarded items keeps it cheap, exciting, and most of all, stretches the mind. Because you need to see that milk container as a person, before you can go ahead and transform it into one.


How does Tova get her ideas? Well, she says she’s not artistic, but she is very creative. Every single idea comes entirely from her mind — straight from her imagination. You know how sometimes you can look at something and see a face in it? Tova Paneeri’s mind works like that with everything. All that’s left for her to do is paint, melt, cut, or glue the item so that you, too, can see what is in her head. Sometimes she has to stretch her mind to come up with an idea, but other times, the idea just jumps out at her — instead of a newspaper she sees a doll. Tova never asks anyone for help. Because, as she says, you have to be a little crazy to spend so much time making things out of garbage.

Tova is not the only person who does this. There are many people who transform old things into new creations in a similar way. However, most people who do this use only one type of material. They’ll transform bottles. Or they’ll use bottle caps. But Tova will use anything she gets. Her children and grandchildren may think she’s a little nuts, but they bring her garbage to transform all the time.

Can I Try?

I don’t know about you, but seeing Tova’s creations makes me want to try my hand at making some of them. I could see myself making soda bottle flowers for Shavuos or picking a cool project to try over midwinter vacation. And guess what? You don’t have to be an artist to try this out. All you need is a little creativity, and you can make some of these things, too.

For Tova, this little hobby costs about $150 a month, because she buys very expensive waterproof paint so that her creations can last outside for a very long time. If you’re making a vase of flowers for your table or a small doll for the shelf in your room, you don’t need such expensive paint. And I’m sure your parents will be quite happy for you to make good use of the empty soda bottle that they were about to throw away.

Come on over, and check it out:

Do you live in Yerushalayim? Or maybe you’re coming for a visit? If you’re anywhere in the neighborhood, you might want to check out this unusual place. Mrs. Paneeri has had playgroups and kindergarten classes come to see all the different things she’s made. And most of it is outside, in plain sight for all to see. All it takes is a stroll down the block to get your creative juices running!

Let’s take a look at some of the things Tova has designed. Can you guess what they’re made of?

This flower is made of many plastic spoons and a bottlecap in the center.

This man is made of three buckets and has retractable hoses for arms.

Look closely at this assortment of cans and bottles and see how they’ve all been transformed!

This is an art form called quilling. All you need to do is wrap a piece of paper around a stick until it forms a tight spiral, and glue it that way. If you use different color paper — or old newspapers like you see in some of the designs in these pictures — you can get a really pretty design. And did you notice that the table is quilled too?

Check out the flowers made of bottles that have been melted, cut, and painted to create their form.

I’m not sure I’ll ever see a lightbulb or a chocolate milk bottle the same way! And look in the back. Did you notice that fire truck?

Not only does she use the paint, she transforms the paint bottles too!

Can you figure out what she used to make this giraffe? The face is a soda bottle. The neck seems to be a paper towel dowel. And check out the bottom of a water bottle turned into a little hat for that doll. The little doll keychains are made out of aluminum candle holders.

Aluminum pans take on a whole new meaning when you see this, don’t they?

These dolls are all made out of paper folded into long strips, wrapped, and painted. Isn’t it cool what you can do with just paper?

Check out how the bottlecaps create arms and legs that actually move! And the ears of that animal (is it a moose?) — another great use for container covers.

A bottle cap horse. I wonder if you can manipulate it to change positions.

Don’t these pistachio shells make a beautiful peacock?

Check out this collection of animals, each made from a different kind of bottle.

These flowers are so beautiful, and all it takes is a few plastic soda bottles and a little paint. Here, she cut and melted the sides of the bottle to form the petals.

To get you started

Here’s a simple idea to get you started. just please ask you parents before trying it. Take a plastic cup and cut slits down the sides, from the top almost all the way down. Bend the strips downward and melt it in the toaster or microwave. There. Now you have your very first flower to paint and decorate. Take an old soda bottle, cut it in half and turn it into your very own vase. Ta-da! You’ve created your first project.

So next time you’re bored, don’t complain that you have nothing to do. Don’t even take out any store-bought craft supplies. Instead, fish around in the recycling bin and see what you can find. Whether it’s an old bottle or a cream cheese container, the possibilities are endless.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 943)

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