Have you heard of the The Kindness Rocks Project?
Toward the end of 2016, I started seeing friends on Facebook showing off their painted rocks. At first, it made me feel nostalgic; I remember painting rocks as a kids craft, both as a kid, myself, and then later as a babysitter. And then it made me curious. Why the uptick in painted rocks again?
Decorated stones have long been a crafty staple, from hippie rock gardens in the ’60s and ’70s to rainy-day afternoon crafts. They’re used as door stops, signs and markers, and now they’re being created to share inspiration and kindness with friends, neighbors and strangers.
This project has taken root in many communities across America. Instead of watching TV after dinner, families have taken to gathering around the craft table to paint. They take their works of art with them when they run errands or go on walks during the weekends. They hide their messages for others to find and often find messages left by others. Sometimes, this kind of project becomes therapy. Take Kat’s Rocks, for instance. A community came together to honor the memory of a young woman and to try to help others in her situation by sharing positive, encouraging messages.
Of course, there are concerns. Well-shaped rocks are taken from landscaped areas; paints and sealants aren’t environmentally friendly; and rocks are taken (i.e., stolen) from federal or state lands, where people also leave them (i.e., litter the grounds). There are also health concerns when people start leaving rocks near raw foods, like in the produce section of a grocery store or near an open salad bar or restaurant buffet. There are definite drawbacks to decorating rocks and placing them in public areas.
You can argue that the benefits of this movement outweigh any negative consequences, and perhaps you’ve already joined a rock group and have been painting and hiding your artistic stones for months, possibly years! If you’re on the fence, though, and want to participate in this project but are worried about any negative impact it may have in your community, you can do some research, first.
Join a local rock group
Rock groups are often found on Facebook. In the Douglas County and Denver areas, you can find 303Rocks and 5280 Rocks. El Paso County is just south of us and you’ll find their rocks — 719Rocks! — all along the Front Range. Most of these groups have guidelines on how to properly obtain rocks if you don’t have your own (e.g., there are often group members who are redoing their landscaping and giving away river rock for free!); the types of paints and sealants to use; and where you should hide rocks and where you shouldn’t, like in green, grassy areas where the rocks will likely be thrown away because they’re a hazard to lawn care equipment. So join a group and read its guidelines to familiarize yourself with local rock rules.
DIY paint rocks!
Most people paint rocks with acrylics because they stick well and the paint lasts a long time since it’s polymer-based (i.e., plastic). But not everyone is comfortable supporting the petroleum industry, and some don’t like contributing more plastic into the environment, even if it is in small amounts on brightly colored rocks. For those people, there are options, like making your own paints. Douglas County Libraries cardholders have free access to articles through the EBSCOHost database (aka Journals, Magazines and Newspapers on our Research page) on how to do just that. Here are just a couple: “Milk Paint… The Shabby Chic Look” and “Make Safe, Natural PAINT.”
Eco-friendly? Even better!
You don’t have to paint rocks to make them lovely. You can use chalk or make collages from paper scraps or engage in mixed media. You can wind wire and glass beads around rocks or create yarn work for rocks. There are plenty of eco-friendly ways to decorate a rock that don’t involve paint. And we’ve got those resources too.
by Lorie King Kaehler
What could be more wild than chalking rocks? Probably a lot of things, but this book will give you some fun ideas as well as tips and tricks to make decorating your stones a cinch.
by Sue Pelletier
Are you intimidated by paints? Are your drawing skills primitive, at best? Try collage! It’s papercraft that will make you feel like an artist.
by Janice Berkebile
Many of the techniques used for making wire and bead jewelry can be applied to rocks, too! Learn to make intricate wire designs that you can wrap around any shape of stone.
“But what about things that require sealants?” you ask. A quick internet search for “eco-friendly stone sealant” will give you lots of tips on finding products that are “green.” If you’re not comfortable with those results, find a landscaping company you trust and ask for recommendations of stone/masonry/concrete sealants that are the least harmful to the environment. Or, again, skip the sealant and find other ways to decorate your rocks.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — it’s the perfect time to spread love. The point of this project is to share joy, inspiration and kindness, with no expectations, to make the world a more beautiful place. If you want to join the Kindness Rocks movement, find your comfort level and start hiding art in your community!
This handy list of helpful books can help jump-start your artistic rock endeavors!
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Super Librarian Suzanne LaRue for hunting down articles via EBSCOHost.