Transforming Rain Barrels Into Works of Art

Like all good rags-to-riches stories, or before-and-after shows, it‘s the pictures that tell the story!

In advance of Great Swamp Watershed Association’s When It Rains It Stores rain barrel workshop on July 15, we took early delivery of three plain, unassuming barrels with an eye toward transforming them into show-stoppers. We really wanted to highlight that rain barrels don’t need to be hidden in dark corners or out of the way places. They can take their place as artworks in the garden!

Five college-sophomore interns and three of their experienced staff mentors from New York City accepted the challenge during a recent corporate volunteer workday event at GSWA’s headquarters on Tempe Wick Road in Morristown. We think our artists rose to the challenge, especially since they only had five hours to complete the task. Their designs and painting on all three barrels turned out brilliantly, and here’s a photo to prove it!

Credit: H. England/GSWA

Volunteers at one of GSWA’s recent corporate workday events designed and painted the images seen on these three functional rain barrels. Credit: H. England/GSWA

The plastic barrels — simple grey or black originally — were used in their past lives to store food-grade oils and products for transport, but they were in need of some spa treatment before beginning their transformation into stunning, barrel beauties. The first step, as it would be at any good spa, was a bubble bath and scrub to remove dirt and impurities that could interfere with the painting process. Then, the barrels were sprayed with a fast-drying paint specially formulated to stick to plastic. In terms of color options, both Krylon and Rustoleum come in a dazzling array of hues, so there was no real challenge finding subtle shades capable of blending in with a garden’s foundation plantings, or finding stunning, vibrant shades capable of making a real statement.

Our volunteers chose a range of bold colors as backdrop to their work of art. And the designers among them sought inspiration from the Internet before deciding on three very different scenes to depict: one capturing the peaceful spirit of Great Swamp and contrasting it with the busyness of nearby New York City, one highlighting a rain barrel’s potential role as the water supply for a beautiful garden, and one getting us up-close-and-personal with a quirky, friendly, garden-bug festival.

While the base-coat paint dried, each group discussed ideas and sketched designs on butcher paper. (There was a lot of laughing over potential color schemes and subjects!) Once the base coat was dry, the painted detail designs were applied. The groups worked using acrylic paints and a variety of applicators; everything from square tipped brushes, rags, leaves, and even finger tips were fair game as long as they achieved the desired effect. Our intrepid volunteers barely stopped to eat lunch before pressing on to finish their task  in time to return home.

Credit: H. England/GSWA

Volunteers at one of GSWA’s recent corporate workday events are hard at work painting flowers on one of our new rain barrels. Credit: H. England/GSWA

We think you’ll agree that the finished products here could grace the patios, driveways, or yards of even the most discerning homeowners or schools.

If our photos and our story have inspired you, there’s still time to seize the day a secure a spot of your own at GSWA’s rain barrel workshop on July 15. Let us show you how to make a barrel that you can take home and decorate to your own tastes. Here’s some information on how to join us —

Click here for more information about GSWA’s July 15 rain barrel workshop!


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