Sunday, 2 April 2017

Junk Modelling

Our children’s primary school runs a community recycling scheme.  It’s called ‘junk modelling’.  You send all your rubbish to school with your children, and then it comes back to you three weeks later, loosely stuck together with masking tape, and with such sentimental value to your children that it never leaves the house again.

My son Jem (age 4) is a particular terror when it comes to this, because not only does he bring home enormous creations and insist on keeping them, but he’s also caught onto the idea at home.  I have to do my recycling in secret now, because if he catches me throwing away, say, a Pringles tub, he pulls it out of the bin again: “Look, Mummy, we could make something out of this!”

We actually have a junk model cupboard in our house.

Sometimes it’s like that with writing, and with God.  Christians are encouraged to hand over our rubbish to God, aren’t we?  I remember Adrian Plass comparing Jesus’ work on the cross to a big skip, clearing away a life’s supply of trash.  

We don’t necessarily expect to see any of that rubbish again, but sometimes it comes back to us, transformed (hopefully) into something rather more useful than a cereal box with a hole cut into it.

On other occasions, we creative types are offered the chance to help with the junk modelling.  That’s what has happened with the book I’m trying (very slowly!) to write at the moment.  It’s as if God has reached into the bin, pulled out a piece of rubbish that I handed to him years ago, and said, “Oh, look!  We could make something out of this.”

And after having the same reaction that I have with Jem, (“No, put that BACK!  I don’t want it in the house!”) I’ve been gently encouraged by God to take the offending thing into my hands, look at it from various angles, and imagine it made into something beautiful and useful.

I know from reading other books, especially by ACW authors, that I’m not alone in this experience.  Our creator God restores, renews, and recycles - and plays with what we thought was worthless.  Just like Jem.  

So, what have you got in your life's recycling bin? What kind of metaphorical masking tape would it take to make that piece of rubbish into something new? And do you have any examples of your own junk modelling in the form of writing?

Amy Robinson is on the ACW committee as publicity officer. She has published three books on puppetry and storytelling with Kevin Mayhew, writes regular scripts and materials for GenR8, and blogs when she can. She has decided that 2017 will be the year of completion for three on-the-go projects, including her first children's novel. This is probably unrealistic.


  1. This made me giggle - it reminded me of when my children were small. Although I probably led them on: when the older two were around 3 and 1, they had hours of fun playing with (and in) an empty food-mixer box I gave them! Thanks, too for the challenge at the end - I think I'm far too good at discarding unused stuff.

  2. I too remember this phase well. John came home with a plant-like papier maché structure with spheres of various colours (red, green and white) hanging from its branches. He then announced, 'It's an alien, but not all of its balls are fermented yet'! The mind boggles... Never say kids on the spectrum have no imagination!

  3. I learned to be careful what I said when mine used to bring these junk models home. 'Oh, what a lovely model of a monster, darling. You've got its ferocious expression just right!And the scaly skin. And those horrid claws.' 'It's not a monster, Mummy. It's you.' Oops.

  4. Going through my third childhood with grand children I squirrel away (maybe) useful junk, wondering what possibilities to create...

    Beautiful image of grief/hard times, re-created, good for/with God.
    More than once I've thought, "Had I not been in a bad place, would I have understood or been able to help."

  5. As a writer, I never throw anything away. All those unused story outlines, those great character names that don't belong to anything I've yet written, those sharp observations and pithy phrases that just need something be fitted to - I keep them all on the back burner. Literally - I have a folder on my hard drive called 'The Back Burner'. Someday, I'll do something with them.