Now dear reader, I wish I could tell you that this project is pure reduce-reuse-recycling genius. The kind of project that gives new life to a doomed piece of rubbish and we all walk away feeling better about our eco-wonderful selves.

But I cannot. No, No.

I love the look of printed cans from international food markets. The colors are splashy, the designs are interesting, and the whole look is accidentally cool. A humble can of bamboo shoots with its Chinese brand name, kitschy pictures, and foreign directives look so exotic and hip to me! I love it!

So this project, instead of being a conservation-minded brainchild, is really a shameless excuse to buy and display foreign food cans. I even had to plan a dinner to justify this silly ingredient that happened to come in the cutest can on the shelf. So: “Enchiladas for dinner!”


Foreign Food Market Lanterns

Materials: printed metal foreign food cans (make sure you get cans with printed metal, not a printed paper label), can opener, hammer, nail, tea lights or votive candles, wire (optional).

1. Open your cans with a can opener, save contents, and rinse thoroughly.

2. Fill with water and freeze.

3. When completely frozen, hammer your design of holes using hammer and nail. I did this on a cutting board and held my can with a kitchen towel. You can make an informal pattern of lines and crosses or you can design a pattern on paper and tape the pattern to the can before hammering. Be careful that your holes do not go too low on the can or else melted wax from a votive could ooze out.

4. For hanging lanterns, cut a length of 18 gauge wire (from the hardware store) and fashion into a handle. Slip each wire handle end into a hold punched near the top and secure ends.

After I finished this project I realized the using a screwdriver instead of a nail would make glorious slit designs a la American punched-tin art. Drat! (Next time . . . !)