Maker Stories

Mother’s Day Gift: Retro-inspired Garden Art

May 5, 2011

Whether Mom loves gardening, has an impeccable yard filled with great decorations or just loves colorful art, Reclaimed Record Pinwheels make a great Mother’s Day gift. And if Mom’s a music lover, well that’s an added bonus!

Since she began painting in 1994, artist Christine Claringbold has embraced the use of reclaimed and recycled materials in her work. Her reclaimed record mandalas, the basis of these pinwheels, are now her signature design.

Christine took a break from painting her vibrant mandalas to tell us more about her process.

I was delighted to be asked by UncommonGoods to write a guest blog describing my process of creating the Mandala Pinwheels! This story will be mostly told in photos. Without giving away ALL of my secrets, here’s how it’s done.

I start with 12″ recycled/reclaimed vinyl records. People tend to give me boxes and boxes of records all the time – most notably, I scored an entire CAR LOAD from a local record store that went out of business last year.

The records I use are generally a bit scratched up, old, dusty, and neglected. While my husband and I do own a turntable and enjoy spinning discs at home, there is such a huge surplus of unplayable and/or uninteresting “junk” records in this world that I am always coming up with new ideas and uses for them in my art.

The first batch of pinwheels was designed for Live Debris 2009, a traveling series of events and installations dedicated to sharing and establishing new reuse traditions as a way of reducing stigmas around garbage, poverty and street culture. (More info at

The Mandala Pinwheels for Live Debris were originally created in collaboration with my friend and fellow Trillium Artisans member Anitra Cameron of Coffee Pot People.

For years, I had envisioned creating some sort of spinning garden art item out of vinyl records. Artists participating in Live Debris were asked to collaborate with another artist, and I immediately thought of Anitra, who had experience creating garden art. Anitra provided metal stakes, a collection of vintage radio knobs (which I used to adorn the centers of the pinwheels) and bits of this and that which were used to put it all together, as well as the basic idea for creating the pinwheel shapes. (Thanks for your help, Anitra!)

These first pinwheels were installed on the Eastbank Esplanade along the Willamette River waterfront in Portland, OR for the Live Debris event, as you can see in this photo:

See my blog for the whole story, and more photos of the Live Debris installation.

When I was contacted by UncommonGoods, I knew I needed to step the product up a notch in order to make them spin the way that I wanted them to spin. So I started working with my husband’s old friend Mark “Mad Dog” Danielson, who modified the design with new moving parts for the best quality spinning action. The addition of a precision bearing mounted at the pinwheel center has done wonders to improve product longevity, ease of rotation and smoother operation of wheel.

Mad Dog continues to help me produce the pinwheels. He does material rough fabrication, bearing mounting and some limited pre-painting.

My basic process for creating the pinwheels, once Mad Dog installs the bearing in the center of the record, is:

1.) Prime the record to create a smooth, white surface.
2.) Draw the design with an oil-based paint pen (each piece is drawn freehand).
3.) Paint the record with washes of acrylic paint mixed with a blending medium so that colors can be blended before they dry.
4.) Cut, bend and shape each record to form them into pinwheels.

I also protect both the front and back of each finished record with a coat of polyurethane. I leave the original record labels showing on the back so you can see which record it was. Here are photos showing these steps:

The pinwheels are shipped unassembled with a few bits of hardware to help you put them together, including little wooden knobs that cap the end of the metal stake and give your pinwheel a nice finished look (I discovered that vintage radio knobs, while really cool, were not easy to come by). I paint the knobs by sticking them onto the eraser end of pencils – they fit perfectly, as you can see in this photo:

Here’s a video of the pinwheels spinning away (music by Dartgun and the Vignettes – that’s the band I am in!).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into my process. Click here to get your own Reclaimed Record Pinwheel from UncommonGoods (as featured on The Daily Green.)

Thank you!

Remember, there’s still time to get your uncommon gift to your mama by Sunday!

1 Comment

  • Reply Jean Feiner August 12, 2013 at 11:38 am

    I have recently started a blog, and the information you offer on this website has helped me tremendously. Thanx for all of your time & work.

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